You imagine yourself in Finland: forests as far as the eye can see, with an estate or a horse meadow here and there. The concrete Belvedere towers high above the Frisian Woods. And then the landscape starts to sing. An invisible women’s choir weaves its way through the view. The Soprano Panorama by composer duo Strijbos & Van Rijswijk is literally a highlight of the Oranjewoud Festival, which took place in recent days in the park landscape of the same name near Heerenveen.
Originally, the festival was planned for early June. The decision to resist turned out well: in exchange for a test or vaccination certificate, visitors received a bracelet with which they could park the corona measures for the duration of their stay. It was nowhere too busy, but the time of one and a half meter concerts suddenly seemed far away.
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Musical landscape art was a main ingredient of the programme. For example, violinist and composer Diamanda Dramm created a ‘call horn concert’ for eight young singers, who stood on a sunken stage in the Grand Canal behind Estate Oranjewoud. No shouting: the calling horns were golden megaphones gleaming in the sun. Their atmospheric song conducted an imaginary dialogue with the invisible speakers of the Soprano Panorama, a few miles away.
The way in
Walking long distances is part of the Oranjewoud festival experience. Those who wanted even more exercise could join the ‘musical walk’ Pilgrim by composer-saxophonist Lotte Pen. With headphones on, you walked through the woods for over an hour, during which you were allowed to write down your reflections in a ‘pilgrim’s passport’: ‘take the step outside, find the way in’, was the tagline. The walk culminated in a live performance by Pen in a clearing in the woods.
Also read: Even the birds sing along at the classic Oranjewoud festival
You could sit still in De Salon, where radio presenter Lex Bohlmeijer had entertaining conversations with musicians and other guests. Tineke Steenbrink of Holland Baroque described Bachs The Art of Fugue like ‘a bottomless pit’ that gradually drives you mad – you never know enough. Psychiatrist Damiaan Denys was able to reassure her somewhat in a conversation about the state of mental health care: suffering is part of life, the longing for permanent happiness plays tricks on us. Piano quartet Corneille provided the musical accompaniment, including an inspired performance by Faurés First Piano Quartet. And Bohlmeijer revealed that he will stop his daily program against his will Passaggio on NPO Radio4.
In the evening the emphasis shifted to ‘classical’ ensembles that behave like pop bands: loose presentation, energetic performance, direct contact with the audience. In the freely accessible ‘Hut on chicken legs’, Ikarai presented the program Murakami, with music by composer and double bassist Camiel Jansen and short text vignettes by Frank Siera. Singer Sanne Huijbregts stood in for colleague Sanne Rambags, with whom Ikarai made the program. The eating and drinking audience created an old-fashioned festival vibe: a lot of buzz and little attention. But the raw and energetic playing Ikarai thrived, while stylistically it went in all directions. ‘Mother Nature’ was a great lingering soul ballad, sung by Huijbregts and with a viola solo by Yanna Pelser for which they would tap the brim of their hats in Nashville.
Stargaze is another elusive ensemble. With singer Pitou, the group released the new song cycle High Dive by composer and horn player Morris Kliphuis and lyricist Lucky Fonz III, who previously wrote the successful The secret diary of Nora Plain with Nora Fischer. With Pitou as an engaging predecessor, and supported by the rhythm section of master drummer Mischa Porte and bassist Jasja Offermans, High Dive a colorful sound trip. They put together ingenious counter-rhythms and shifting time signatures like clockwork. But the most beautiful thing was the a cappella congregational singing under the night sky. That’s how it became High Dive a little landscape art.