English language news for the Dutch-American community

Dutch street organ in New Jersey

How a Dutch immigrant brought European music and style to New Jersey.

Johanna Vander Heijden.Many Dutch immigrants to the United States bring with them memories and items from home. Few will bring a 2,600 pound, car-sized street organ, as Johanna Vander Heijden did. Here is her story.

Dutch immigrants

In the Netherlands Mrs. Vander Heijden and her husband Ton lived on a farmhouse from the 1780’s in Pijnacker and they shared a love for antiques. Pijnacker is a town near Delft, in Zuid-Holland. Mrs. Vander Heijden: “This is Holland at its best, between the two major cities The Hague and Rotterdam. I still miss it!” They collected many French antiques and decorated their home with them.

Mr. Vander Heijden, an engineer, worked for an American company and in 1984 they moved with their daughter Monique to the United States. “I had said I would follow him wherever, but I didn’t realize he was serious about moving to the States”. After they arrived in the U.S. they lived in Parsipany, NJ for two years. When they moved to Buttzville, New Jersey two year later, Mrs. Vander Heijden opened her boutique Showtime in Belvidere, NJ. They transported their French antiques for their home and the boutique and decorated the interiors in a beautiful style.

Music and a meatball with a slice of white bread

“My family played the button accordion (“knopjes accordeon”) in cafe’s at the Noordplein in Rotterdam: my grandfather before World War II and my sister Cobie until the late 1960s. When she was a kid she would play on Sunday afternoon in cafe’s in Rotterdam. The payment was a meatball with a slice of white bread. I was too little to join, but nowadays I frequently play at events. And of course, on request I’ll play in Showtime when we have an event, for example the French musette.” Mrs. Vander Heijden’s daughter Monique continues the musical tradition and is a music manager for songwriter Gar Francis.

“There was always music in my family, and we had to learn the accordeon. I’m still grateful to my grandfather (opa) that he took the time and patience to teach his granddaughters that very difficult instrument. When I play ‘De Kast’ at Showtimes’ events I always think of that.” Mrs. Vander Heijden: “A button accordion is totally different than a piano keyboard. The buttons on both sides makes it very hard to learn. The sound of an accordion is very similar to a street organ, which is one of the reasons we bought one.”

In 1993 Vander Heijden went looking to purchase a street organ in Holland as a birthday present for her husband, who loved the “big organ sound”. They met Gerhardt Roos, a craftsman who had restored an old street organ.

Mrs. Vander Heijden: “During World War II there were no street organs at all. The Nazi’s were confiscating them so the Dutch people took them apart and hid them. After the war, people knew the war was over because the street organs came back onto the streets.” Violanta, however, became the “forgotten street organ” and remained in various hiding places for 35 years before Mr. Roos found it and started working on it. “It took him many years to find all the pieces and put them together,” Mrs. Vander Heijden explained.

After long negotiations, Mr. Roos agreed to sell the organ to the Vander Heijden’s when he found out it would go to the United States. The couple had the delicate piece crated and shipped by boat to Philadelphia.

Draaiorgel in New Jersey

A typical street organ in Holland is mounted on a cart and pushed through the city streets where the operator stops and plays for donations. Vander Heijden’s street organ, called Violanta, which means “little powerful”, was built in 1920. The large organ was originally used to play music at summer festivals and was pushed along streets in the spring, fall and wintertime. “Every town had a street organ. It was very fashionable,” Mrs. Vander Heijden explained. “They would push it through the streets.”

The organ has 68 wooden pipes, drums, cymbals, violins, flutes, large bellows, and castanets. The exterior is decorated a scene depicting Holland’s green pastures and lakes. Two beautiful gypsy girls look out at listeners from either side. Dominating the center of the piece is a mechanical conductor whose arms move up and down in time to the music. Traditionally vendors would manually crank the organs for hours on end but the Violanta’s music is run mechanically with a motor.

The books of music are “read” by the organ like a player piano and range in pieces from American to classical and European. Since each street organ is different, books are made to order. A few months ago Mrs. Vander Heijden was in the Netherlands and had a new book made, “Painted Black” by the Rolling Stones.

The Violanta is often on the road, for example at the annual Belvidere Victorian Days and the Sinterklaas celebration at the Van Wickle House in Somerset, New Jersey. Johanna loves to play music: “Children dance, and adults are emotionally touched. I always see a smile on people’s faces when they stop to admire the organ. It’s really quite something.”

The Violanta even made Dutch national TV when the Mrs. Vander Heijden was on Wall Street when a major bank went public in 1997 and she rang the bell. Recently the street organ participated in the NY400 celebrations in New York City. Two CDs with the street organ were created as well, “Street Organ, The Violanta”, each over 60 minutes of great recordings of songs such as “Amsterdam Medley”, “Klein Cafe” and “Greeting to Breda”.

Violanta, Inc.,
472 Rt. 46 West
Belvidere NJ 07823
Telephone: 908-453-3111
Violanta: http://www.myspace.com/violantastreetorgan
Showtime: http://www.myspace.com/showtime46

Excavated Dutch artifacts on display

The New York Transit Museum is opening an exhibit featuring many Dutch artifacts dating back to the 1600s. The exhibit entitled “Where New York Began: Archeology at the South Ferry Terminal” will be on public display in the museum’s Annex in Grand Central Terminal from March 18, 2010 through July 5, 2010.

“This exhibition is an exciting opportunity for the Museum to bring the early city alive through small fragments illustrating color and textures of the New Amsterdam”, says Mrs. Amash, curator of the museum. “It is especially interesting during the period after the Dutch had lost control of the city to the British, but New York’s ‘Dutchness’ remained evident physically and culturally.”

Before constructing the new South Ferry subway station an extensive archeological dig was conducted on the site, and two 18th century city landmarks - four sections of the Battery Wall and portions of Whitehall Slip - were uncovered, along with 65,000 artifacts. This exhibit in mid-town Manhattan will feature over 100 artifacts, documents and images of these discoveries, including many with a Dutch history.

“A big exhibit for us”

Ms. Robertson, Director, Special Projects of the museum: “This is a big exhibit for us. Very rarely do we get to experience or present exhibits with a strong international tie-in.” Among the most important finds of the excavation were pieces of two 18th century landmarks— the Battery Wall and Whitehall Slip. Stones from the Wall are on view, as are photographs of a section of the Wall that was reinstalled in the new South Ferry station.

Pipes from Amsterdam and Gouda

Many of the 17th century pipes found on the site can be traced to manufacturers in Amsterdam and Gouda based on their makers’ marks. Three lettered initials were common marks used on early Dutch pipes. Research from other New York digs suggests that “MTS” was owned by English-born Matthias Stafford working in Amsterdam. Some marks were passed down through generations of a family, such as the “hand” mark on a pipe here that was passed down through various De Vriendt family members for 63 years. Other marks were bought and sold or rented by local pipemakers, such as the three-leaf clover mark exchanged between dozens of pipemakers between 1660 and 1840.

More than 1,470 fragments of clay tobacco pipes were found on the project site. Though pipes are utilitarian objects, their design, decoration, and makers’ marks can be seen as icons for the brief period of time in which each was manufactured and used. Many of the pipes uncovered at South Ferry were English or Dutch made and showed signs of use. These often intricately decorated pieces are very small, making their discovery during a large dig all the more remarkable.

Personal items

Scattered among the thousands of objects in the landfill deposits are a handful that are clearly personal. A small glass bottle seal with the (possible) arms of Governor Benjamin Fletcher (circa 1690-1700) is the only object that can be attributed to a specific individual. The wine bottle seal’s motif suggests it belonged to Fletcher, New York’s governor from 1692-1697. A medal commemorating the taking of the Fortress of Louisbourg by the British in 1758 is a shoddily made copy of one commemorating the July 1758 British capture of the French Fortress of Louisbourg on Nova Scotia. Shoe buckles made of copper alloy from the 1700s, buttons from Revolutionary War-era uniforms, and the inner and outer layers of 18th century shoe soles are also on view.

Where New York Began: Archeology at the South Ferry Terminal
March 18, 2010 through July 5, 2010.
New York Transit Museum’s Annex, Grand Central Terminal, NYC
http://mta.info/mta/museum/index.html

U.S. Census 2010 starting soon

Dutch Gids voor Taalhulp for the U.S. Census 2010.Census forms will be sent to every household the United States in the next weeks. Unlike previous years there will be no separate questions on language or heritage, so there’s no opportunity to mark “Dutch” on the form for those Dutch-Americans eager to indicate their heritage.

The 2010 Census aims to count all U.S. residents — citizens and non-citizens alike. It helps to determine how more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year is spent on infrastructure and services.

In 2000 there were two forms, a short form and a longer form that one in every 6 households would receive. This is no longer the case; the long form has been replaced by the continuous American Community Survey. In 2004 this survey found that an estimated 5 million people in the U.S. are of Dutch descent. Incidentally, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) estimates that more than 31,000 Americans live in the Netherlands.

The 2010 census has a Dutch translation of the 10 questions on the form in a Gids voor Taalhulp (Language Assistance Guide).

Dutch Art Now 2010, pictures

Dutch Art Now 2010, picturesAs we wrote earlier, this week is the Dutch Art Now art fair in New York City. On Friday evening there was a party at the National Arts Club which drew a large crowd of art lovers.

Click on ‘Read more’ for pictures of the evening.

New book: Observations of a Celebration NL & NY 2009

From our correspondent in the Netherlands, Jaap Bosman.

Observations of a Celebration NL and NY 2009.Observations of a Celebration NL & NY 2009 is a newly released book with interesting observations on the NY400 celebrations. The Dutch government organized many festivities in New York City last year to commemorate the arrival of Henry Hudson in 1609 in New York. Mrs. Pel, the author, wanted to see the events and get an idea how the Netherlands was represented in New York.

In her book, which is in English, Mrs. Pel provides clever observations and illuminating interviews. Most observations are in the form of interviews; others are photo’s. She also reports on an urban geographical survey she performed.

Mrs. Pel is a visual artist and urban geographer. The subjects for her projects often involve these fields, while her research methods come to production mainly through photography and interviews. Recently, her focus has been researching and documenting cultural celebrations, events and spectacles. The book is the final piece of her work in New York in the summer of 2009.

The book has 11 interviews with amongst others Frans Timmermans (“I would not mind working in the United States for a few years”), Roger Panetta (“why did the Dutch build a replica of the Hudson’s ship Half Moon and present it to the United States as a gift in 1909?”) and Henrik Spoon: “I feel like an ambassador … I like to talk about abortion rights, euthanasia, and same-sex mariages”.

The interviews offer a wide and surprising view of the celebrations and the people who were involved. Some quotes:

  • Donna Henes, urban shaman and ceremonial artist: “I think the Dutch are a kind of schizophrenic society”
  • Henk Scholten, director Theater Institute Netherlands: “In New York there is so much bureaucracy, our ideas were impossible to do, according to regulations”
  • Bruno Doedens, landscape architect: “The Dutch are curious and have a straight-laced attitude”

Mrs. Pel tries to catch the meaning and the results of the activities in New York. She asks: “did we, the Dutch, make a difference in New York?” The answer is not a simple yes or no. In the interviews Mrs. Pel often asks as concluding question ”Where are we the Dutch heading? What would be the right direction to go?” and she tries to put the celebrations in the wider context of the Dutch culture. At the end of the book she doesn’t draw final conclusions but leaves room for the reader’s interpretation.

The interviews are accompanied by photographs taken from this year’s celebration as well as historical documents from the 300th and 350th anniversary of the arrival of Henry Hudson in New York. Mrs. Pel provided Dutch in America with a copy of her book. It is available in bookstores in Amsterdam and through www.evapel.com.

Observations of a celebration NL&NY 2009
Author: Eva Pel, graphic design: Claudia Doms
ISBN 978-90-814965-1-3
129 pages, 17 x 22,5 cm, illustrated black and white and color.
www.evapel.com

Dutch Art Now 2010

Dutch art.In the first two weeks of March there will be an art fair with Dutch art galleries and Dutch artists at the National Arts Club in New York.

The event, named Dutch Art Now, will be held during the Armory Arts Week, when New York attracts art lovers and experts from around the world with art events all over town.

The official opening will be on Tuesday March 2 by Dutch Consul General Gajus Scheltema and on Friday March 5 there will be a Dutch night with drinks and a Dutch bite.

Dutch Art Now is an initiative of the Amsterdam based Fair Foundation and is supported by Consulaat Generaal van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden & Witzenhausen Gallery AMS|NY.

Dutch Art Now, National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, NYC
March 3 through March 14
http://www.goingdutch.us

Rembrandt in southern California

Rembrandt in Southern California. Southern California is home to the third-largest assemblage of Rembrandt paintings in the United States. “The Golden Age in the Golden State” is the fitting title of one of the current exhibitions that display Rembrandt van Rijn’s work in California this month. A number of museums coordinated their shows in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Marino.

One of the highlights is “Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference” in The Getty Museum. This exhibition features drawings by 15 of Rembrandt’s pupils in close comparison to drawings by the master himself. The show also features works of other Dutch painters taught by or inspired by Rembrandt such as Ferdinand Bol and Nicolaes Maes.

There are currently seven temporary exhibitions in Southern California:

There is also a virtual exhibition of Rembrandt’s work in Southern California.

Two Nijmegen manuscripts in New York City

Nijmegen.The Dutch town of Nijmegen is proud of two current art exhibitions in New York City with a strong connection to Holland’s oldest city.

Since January 22 the exposition “Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves” has been on display the Morgan Library & Museum. On March 1 the Metropolitan Museum of Art will open “The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry”.

Both shows display illuminated manuscripts with a connection to Nijmegen. The book in the Morgan library was created for Katherina van Kleef, a Nijmegen noble woman, the other manuscript was illustrated by three brothers from the city. According to Vanuit New York.com the major of Nijmegen, Thom de Graaf, will join a group of re-enactment actors on a trip to New York.

Hours of Catherine of Cleves

A ‘book of hours’, getijdenboek in Dutch, is devotional book that was popular in the Middle Ages. According to the Morgan Library, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves is the most important and lavish of all Dutch manuscripts as well as one of the most beautiful among the Morgan’s collection. “Commissioned by Catherine of Cleves around 1440 and illustrated by an artist known as the Master of Catherine of Cleves, the work is an illustrated prayer book containing devotions that Catherine would recite throughout the day. The manuscript’s two volumes have been disbound for the exhibition, which features nearly a hundred miniatures”.

The Limbourg Brothers

“The Belles Heures (1405–1408/9) of Jean de Berry, a treasure of The Cloisters collection, is one of the most celebrated and lavishly illustrated manuscripts in this country. Because it is currently unbound, it is possible to exhibit all of its illuminated pages as individual leaves, a unique opportunity never to be repeated. The exhibition will elucidate the manuscript, its artists—the young Franco-Netherlandish Limbourg Brothers—and its patron, Jean de France, duc de Berry. A select group of precious objects from the same early fifteenth-century courtly milieu will place the manuscript in the context of the patronage of Jean de Berry and his royal family, the Valois.”

Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves
Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY
January 22 through May 2, 2010

The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
March 2 through June 13, 2010

Just Be. In Holland.

Just be. In Holland.Today the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC) launched a new marketing campaign in North America. The campaign is titled “Just be. In Holland.” and means to appeal to every type of traveler.

According to the NBTC press release: “Whether your style is classic or contemporary, Holland has something for everyone, from iconic Dutch canals and windmills to innovative design shops and cutting-edge fashion.”

To mark the launch of the campaign various contests are held on the website www.holland.com with prices such as a Dutch Batavus bicycle, a trip to the Netherlands or having a fresh bouquet of tulips delivered to your home for a year.

Various promotional activities will take place in New York City, such as themed subway cars that represent Holland’s cultural, classic and contemporary aspects and street teams will be deployed at the Grand Central and Times Square stations each week to distribute Holland-themed giveaways

Conrad van Tiggelen, Director, NBTC North America, looks forward to engaging with potential travelers for the launch of the new campaign. “The new ‘Just be. In Holland.’ campaign epitomizes what repeat visitors to Holland already know—that Holland is a place where you can truly be yourself and discover a world of authentic and modern experiences, whether you are interested in art, culture, design, fashion or architecture.”

Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions
www.holland.com/us

Book review: Tecumseh TenSee

Tecumseh TenSee.In October 2009 the American author F’Allen Griffin and Dutch illustrator Karen Kommer published a book with a Dutch-American theme. The book is published by the Stichting Kinderboekenmarkt, the Dutch Children’s Book Fair Foundation, to accompany the 2009 annual kinderboekenmarkt in The Hague. We acquired a copy.

A bilingual children’s book

The book is Tecumseh TenSee is bilingual: each chapter is printed in Dutch followed by the English version. We asked Ilana, a 10-year old American girl to read the English chapters and assist with this review, an assignment she enjoyed. On a scale from 1 to 10 she would rate it a 9.

Tecumseh TenSee is the name of the main character, an American boy with Native American and Dutch ancestors. “Tecumseh turns 11 years old and goes to Grand Father Oak who tells him he’ll have a vision”. The American boy experiences a coming of age vision, and in his vision he meets his Native American ancestors, as well as his Dutch grandfather in the Netherlands.

“A very brave main character”

“It was an exciting book; the main character is very brave because he traveled a long way with nobody watching him.”

The illustrations in the book were by Karen Kommer. “The pictures in the book had everything the story was about; a little confusing, but you get it”. The book contains many biographical elements, including the references to Serpent Mound in Ohio.

Cover text

The cover text: “An American boy of partly Indian descent, sets off on the night before his eleventh birthday, on a search through the Ohio Valley for the vision of his famous Shawnee ancestors Tecumseh and Tenskatawa.

In the magical vision quest through time TenSee, as he calls himself, transforms into a young Griffin Buzzard and flies over the Atlantic Ocean to the Nether Lands. He meets Janneke the Dragon Fly and they find their philosophy of life: Peace is the heartbeat of nature. Tecumseh TenSee is meant to inspire avid 10+ readers and seekers.”

Where to buy

The book is for sale at the Stichting Kinderboekenmarkt, Stationsweg 93 (de Gebarenwinkel), 2515 BK Den Haag. The price is €7.35; shipping in the Netherlands is available for €1.25. Contact the publisher for purchasing information for the US.

Tecumseh TenSee
Author: F’Allen Griffin, illustrations: Karen Kommer
ISBN 978 90 453 1043 5
kinderboekenmarkt@xs4all.nl
http://www.griffinkommer.com/
http://www.kinderboekenmarkt.nl/marktboek.html

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