Looking at the music of Dutch rock band Focus, started in the late sixties by Thijs Van Leer (b /31/03/48) with Jan Akkerman (b 24/12/46). Van Leer still performs and records under the name today (official site here). Akkerman's site here.




Track by track 44e Hamburger Concerto Part 5 (Well done)

Archive number: 44e
Title: Hamburger Concerto (Part 5 Well done)
Main Album: Hamburger Concerto
Track number: 5c
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental (Symphonic)
Studio: Olympic Studios 'B', 117 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 9HL
Length: 3' 26” (20' 15” the whole)
Composer: Thijs van Leer, Joost van den Vondel, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric Guitars (Fenders); Thijs van Leer – Hammond organ, ARP Synthesiser, Voices; Bert Ruiter - Bass; Colin Allen – Drums, Wood block
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Bob Hall
Label: Polydor, Atco, EMI, Red Bullet, JVC, JVC Victor
Date of recording/release: January/March 1974; April 1974. CD – 1998, 2001, 2001, 2002, 2006
Notes: Hands are clapped three times (15:31) before van Leer sings two verses of the traditional Dutch Christmas Hymn O, Kerstnacht schoner dan de dagen. It is from Joost Van Den Vondel's 1623 drama De Gijsbrecht van Aemstel. The music appears to be by Cornelis Padbrué and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck though Jan Van Biezen's 19th Century version is preferred today (15:33-16:50). The voice is multi-tracked (tenor and bass on verse 1 then tenor, bass and descant on the second verse) and is accompanied by organ. The words are

O, Kerstnacht schoner dan de dagen
Hoe kan Herodes het licht verdragen
Dat in Uw duisternisse blinkt
En wordt gevierd en aangebeden
Zijn hoogmoed luistert naar geen reden
Hoe schel die in zijn oren klinkt?

Hij tracht d' onnozelen te vernielen
Door doden van onnozele zielen
En wekt een stad en landgeschrei
In Bethlehem en op den akker
En maakt den geest van Rachel wakker
Die waren gaat door beemd en wei

[O, Christmas Eve more beautiful than the days
How can Herod bear the light
That blinks in your darkness
And is celebrated and worshipped
His pride listens to no reason
How noisily it sounds to his ears.

He tries to destroy the untaught ones
By killing untaught souls
And raises a crying in town and country
In Bethlehem and in the field
And awakes the spirit of Rachel
So that it starts haunting field and meadow.]

A drum roll then announces the whole band - guitars, organ, piano, mellotron choir, synthesisers (16:51-18:57). This builds and builds along with a beautiful melody to prepare for a mighty climax.
Note on van den Vondel (from Wikipedia)
A writer and playwright born 1587 in Cologne to Mennonite parents from Antwerp. In 1595 they fled to Utrecht then Amsterdam in the newly formed Dutch Republic (probably because of religious conviction). He married at 23 and had 4 children (2 survived). After his father's death (1608) he managed the family silk shop. Meantime, he began to learn Latin and got to know famous poets such as Visscher. Around 1641 he became a Catholic - a shock to most of his fellow countrymen - it is unclear why, though love for a Catholic lady may have played a role (his wife had died 1635). In Calvinist Holland Catholicism, Anabaptism and Arminianism were officially forbidden though there was no direct persecution. In his lifetime he became a strong advocate for religious tolerance and wrote many satires criticising the Calvinists. This, with his new faith, made him unpopular with them. He died (1679) a bitter man - though honoured by many fellow poets. Amsterdam's biggest park, the Vondelpark, bears his name. There is a statue in the northern part of the park. The Dutch five guilder banknote bore his portrait 1950-1990.

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