Things are going crazy in the Muziekgebouw ‘t Akcord in Kortenhoef. One of the halls is busy rehearsing by one of the most legendary orchestras in the Netherlands: The Ramblers. Almost a hundred years old, but all set for a new tour. The premiere is on Sunday in ‘t Spant in Bussum. ‘t Gooi is and remains the cradle of this iconic orchestra, emphasizes Ramblers fan Nol van Bennekom.
In one of the halls the musicians are rehearsing in a wide circle. The new conductor Loet van der Lee, a well-known musician from Krommenie, walks back and forth while giving instructions to Janne Schra. The jazz singer recently won an Edison and will tour with The Ramblers in the coming weeks. With a performance in which there is room for new repertoire, but of course also featuring the Dutch classics, such as ‘Deep in my heart’ and ‘Wie is Loesje’.
The Ramblers can rehearse undisturbed in Kortenhoef, only loyal fan Nol van Bennekom (82) is tolerated. He sits in a corner of the room enjoying the music. “It’s going well,” he says. “What musicians. The new arrangements are difficult, but these guys don’t mind.”
Nol is a well-known Huizer, for many years he was editor-in-chief of the Gooi en Eemlander and music reporter. He is now a board member of The Ramblers Foundation, which supports the orchestra and does its best to keep this example of Dutch heritage alive. Despite that, The Ramblers must continue to move with the times, Nol emphasizes. “Obviously, the old hits are played, but the new repertoire is just as important. That way we succeed every time in reaching new audiences.”
The Ramblers were founded in 1926 by Theo Uden Masman, who led the jazz orchestra until 1964. Since the 1930s, The Ramblers have been the permanent resident orchestra of the VARA. In those years, the popularity of the band knew no bounds, the musicians were welcomed everywhere as idols. In the sixties, the orchestra seemed to have come to an end, due to the rise of pop music. Thanks to loyal fans such as Nol, The Ramblers experienced a relaunch and they are working towards their centenary in the coming years.
Nol has been through much of that time, as he has been a fan for over 65 years. “That started when I was fifteen, when The Ramblers had a broadcast every other week for the Wereldomroep in ‘Ons Gebouw’ on the Vaartweg in Hilversum. An audience was needed, most people were working, but I was free those afternoons. van de Mulo and was always there to clap along. That’s how I got to know all those old musicians: Theo Uden Masman, Marcel Thielemans, Ack van Rooijen and Wim Poppink.”
In the years that Nol organized jazz festivals in Huizen, The Ramblers were of course always present. “The music lovers have managed to maintain the orchestra in this way, by organizing concerts and performances,” says Nol. “Because of that involvement, I was approached in 2014 if I wanted to become chairman of the foundation, which is quite an honor. I have now handed over that task to none other than Joop Daalmeijer, but I am still a board member.”
It is no coincidence that the premiere of the new tour starts in Bussum. The Ramblers and ‘t Gooi belong together. “The Ramblers performed a lot for the radio, of course, so most musicians moved to live in the area,” says Nol. “In addition, they performed a lot in Hof van Holland on the Kerkbrink in Hilversum and Hamdorff in Laren. Before the war, they played in Hamdorff’s famous Japanese garden for no less than seven summers.”
In the coming years, The Ramblers will be working towards the centenary. Nol expects that milestone will be achieved effortlessly by the orchestra. “Our new conductor Loet leads the orchestra in a great way. With a lot of dedication and discipline, but above all it sounds great. I remain impressed.”
Listen here to the radio report of the rehearsal of The Ramblers:
Text & Explanation
Conductor Loet van der Lee can be heard on Saturday 8 October from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm in the program Tekst & Uitleg on NH Radio.