Beginning 2002. I was surfing the internet and by chance came across a poem titled Home Thoughts from Laventie by Edward Wyndham Tennant. The poem visualizes the main street of the french town Laventie. The town is devastated, but behind the ruins there is a garden, almost untouched. It is this poem that I decided to put on music. A hell of a job, I decided to compose it on the piano, which I only played a couple of months. At that time I had no plan to compose more music on Great War poems, but I found more treasures on the web I could not resist. And before I knew I was working on an album dedicated to this poetry. September 2003 I presented For War is Hell to friends and relatives.
Something I had not thought about in the process of making the record were author rights. Although all the authors were dead I still had to get permission from their legal heirs when the date of the author’s decease was less than 70 years ago. Since I did not expect my record to hit the charts I could have made the decision not to bother about author rights. I decided differently and regretted this at first. It seemed a mission that was hard to accomplish. But Internet was helpful again. I contacted all the people I had found and everyone of them granted me permission. Moreover, in the search for the heirs I learned to know some very nice people who gave me all the support I needed.
For War is Hell is a Do It Yourself product. Apart from the poetry I did everything myself: composing, playing, recording, producing, cover design etc. I decided to spare no costs and had 500 copies printed with a 24-pages booklet. Distribution for me was a problem. No longer being a performing artist -my last concert dated back 14 years- and not being acquainted to influential people in the music industry, distributing my record would be very hard.
I had to find alternative ways. I started with sending free copies to the people who helped me with author rights, WW1-websites and others I thought possibly were interested in the poetry, the subject or my music. Later on I inserted a card asking for a voluntary contribution when I gave away a cd. And it worked. Although altogether not enough to cover my expenses, lots of people made a contribution.
I also got lots of enthusiastic feedback and applies for extra copies. I was overwhelmed by the kind and sincere words people have written me. Not only from The Netherlands and Flanders but especially from The United Kingdom, Canada and the United States I received numerous e-mails supporting my work. I feel honored!
All in all this way of distribution proved to be a success. For my future records I will walk the same path. I have learned a great deal making this record and end of 2005 For War is Hell was followed up by Out of Trenches.
Here a compilation of the things people wrote me after listening to For War is Hell:
You’ve done a beautiful, professional job. I’ve never seen anything quite like it: the mix of biographies, poems and music.
For a few who heard the CD, some of the music was a surprise — at first (like the poems are when you first read them), but it grew on them. I think you had something for everyone: from the traditional sound of „Far, Far From Wipers,“ to the modern sound of „The Beach Road by the Wood.“
I played the CD for my students, and they were intrigued that someone would record a CD like this today — but they’re just coming around to understand the war’s lasting impact.
I enjoyed your musical settings of the poems, which had the atmosphere of the tragedy and desparation of war. I found that the words were very clear, much clearer than most poetry set to music.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart! 🙂 I am truly impressed, you have an awesome talent!
I feel your first CD does honour the vision of these poets.
I was impressed by your CD. It was fascinating for me to see not only your selection, but the way you musically interpreted the poems.
I have read and listened to it all with great interest; it is a very professional production. I especially like the insert, with the full words, although you do articulate them clearly – with one or two unusual
pronunciations, as is also the case in some of my US recordings!
It is a powerful collection of poems which you sing almost as if you were reading them for the first time. I liked the weariness in ‚The Day’s March‘, the minimalist characterlessness of ‚No Man’s Land‘, the two ‚Messines Road’s but, interestingly, I liked ‚London Stone‘ the best. The bitter torment is palpable and perhaps it is right that the sudden glimpse of hope at the end is understated.
It was most moving to listen to the Poets‘ words set to your splendid music. I think they would appreciate what you have achieved in their memory.
Muziek en tekst is als een vrijend stel dat elkaars „Ins & Outs“ van top tot teen vanuit hart en ziel aanvoelen.
Het nummer No Man’s Land raakt me telkens weer tot in mijn ziel.