February 8 to 14, 1999
How did it start?
As a boy I was a member of a Roman Catholic church choir where I got a very basic musical education. The Gregorian plainsong was very important, but we sang Renaissance polyphony as well. Of course when my voice changed I had to leave and then there were no musical activities for years, until I was invited to help to establish a new Schola Cantorum (a church choir only for Gregorian music), which I accepted. This group was conducted by a very enthusiastic musician, who played also organ, piano and flute. He lent me a flute and Whamm!
How it went on
Eventually I bought it and then looked for a teacher. This turned out to be difficult, for the flute was a simple system flute: a wooden body and foot, and a nickel head joint with a so called reform embouchure. At the time (about 1960) there were no teachers who taught other than Boehm flutes. But I found one, named Benny Ludemann (who is a famous guitarist now). We agreed that I would figure out the fingerings myself (I got a fingering chart), and he would teach me breathing, tone and so on. Well, it was not as easy as I thought.... After half a year or so he convinced me that I'd better buy a Boehm flute, but as a poor student I could not afford it. Fortunately I studied Economics, and this subject required the purchase of rather precious books, for which you got an extra (modest) allowance from the government. So guess what? I illegally used the allowance to finance the purchase of a new flute, but I had to sell the simple system flute as well in order to make the financing complete. I borrowed the books from the library by the way. But I got my first Boehm flute: a German brand, Kohlert, silver plated; the silver wore off very soon. And I made progress!
After about one year I joined the Breda Chamber Orchestra as the second flutist. This amateur orchestra was at the time accompanying a choir, that sang parts of the Johannes Passion by Bach. I was only allowed to join in at the Chorals. There I learned that the most difficult things in orchestral playing were not the notes but the rests.
Then I moved to Tilburg: I graduated, married Els - short for Elisabeth - got a job at a research institute and had children, so the flute lessons were neglected, Yes I have to confess. But I remained a member of the Breda Chamber Orchestra, improved gradually and eventually grew to become a small symphonic orchestra. Then I took lessons again, this time from Lucius Voorhorst. He was a very good teacher and I learned very much. Upon his advice I bought a Muramatsu flute in 1969: a remarkable instrument that was made of German silver, not plated. After half a year its appearance was awful, but it had a nice tone. Then I started writing my Ph. D. thesis and this took so much time, that I again neglected the lessons. When Lucius Voorhorst was appointed as a teacher at the conservatorium and had to give up teaching amateurs, I stopped taking lessons. In 1977 I had the opportunity to buy a Haynes flute, that I still play now (but with a head joint by Jan Hoving, Amsterdam). I still regret the sale of my first simple system flute.
At the end of each season members of the Breda Chamber Orchestra used to form small chamber ensembles and play for relatives and the like. That activity grew to the establishment of the Baronie Blaas Quintet in 1979. This wind quintet still exists; it practices each Wednesday. We are now studying Quintet No 1. by Gordon Jacob. Afterwards we enjoy the Dutch gin (jonge klare).
As a second hobby I collect old flutes (but no museum pieces up to now) and books on music, particularly on instruments. Occasionally I play in an ad hoc pit orchestra playing operettas. This is really difficult! You have to comply with the soloists who usually are less than accurate regarding tempo, number of bars and the like. I remember sweating a lot when I had to play the birds in "Der Vogelhaendler" by Milloecker or operettas by Offenbach. Sometimes I play the piccolo, but I'm not such a good piccoloist. I am still a member of the Breda Chamber Orchestra ( In The Netherlands we say that you gradually become a part of the furniture: you remain unnoticed until you leave...), the Baronie Blaas Quintet and a member of the Flute List, where I can give rein to my own self-conceitedness.
My wife plays the piano, but we never play together. That's one reason that our marriage still lasts after 32 years, and we like to keep it this way...
Someone once said that an amateur is a person that plays to enjoy himself and to annoy the neighbours. Fortunately I have good neighbours. But I should take lessons...
Wim van Hulst