The choir comes to sing
The days fly past.
It is a real feast day after day.
Crisje feels strong again, but Mina wants her to enjoy her rest up to the last day and the last hour.
This evening the singers are coming and they will hear the skill of Tall Hendrik.
Jeus is already seven days old now.
He can cry well and Hendrik believes that he will be able to do something with this voice.
But Crisje laughs at him.
He mustn’t exaggerate.
She has lain down again; the men can come any minute.
Gerrit is the first to arrive.
He blows up the events of life like fairground balloons until they burst and whirl to the ground in pieces.
And like the balloons the stories are also made available to the public in different bright colours.
And the fun and the mirth of the onlookers are often not surpassed by the real cheering of a fairground.
In addition, after his fifth or sixth drink, his mixture of French and Italian language becomes agitated, but it does not deter him from speaking.
However, the friends, with just as little talent for languages as Gerrit himself, believe that he would manage fine if he was in the country concerned.
Only Tall Hendrik knows better, but leaves it at that, of course.
He finds Gerrit, as does Crisje, a fine person to associate with and he also knows that his bass singer also has his serious moments and can also say what he has to say in a proper manner.
As if he had just arrived, however he has been seated at the table for some time, he suddenly stands up and starts off again: “First I say good day to you Crisje, and then to your body and soul, Hendrik.
But at the end of the day you are the sculptor of that flesh and blood.
True or not, Cris?”
What can she say to this now?
Crisje chuckles a bit.
However, Gerrit does not expect an answer and sits down at the table again.
They are waiting for the others.
“Good gracious”, he suddenly starts again, “now I’ve forgotten Jeus as well.
How is he, Crisje?”
“I will now let him hear how I can sing, Crisje.
He wants to sleep, or not?
But he can forget about that.
I will let him hear how we can sing here.
Or he had better go back where he came from.
When he is big, Hendrik, he can ask me to sing the first tenor.”
Peter and Jan have arrived in the meantime.
The other pair, who will sing bass, and the second tenor, Jantje van Stien, are still to come.
Peter has received a request to come and sing in Wezel.
And they are definitely going to.
They know Wezel, they have had several successes there and they earned such fame in Meiderich that they have received invitations from deep within Germany.
Peter and Hendrik are the stars of the choir.
Jan’s voice is not one of the strongest, but on the other hand Gerrit’s voice can surge so that he carries the whole bass part.
Peter is from Saksen who will never learn to speak Dutch or talk the local dialect.
That language, strung together of German and dialect, with which he tries to make himself understood, can be felt in your stomach, it tickles and, as with Gerrit’s nonsense, you cannot resist laughing.
However, Peter has a beautiful voice and the general opinion is that he could make good money with singing.
Finally the team is complete.
They start to get tuned in towards each other.
Even this is nice for Crisje and it has its own charm for her.
The men clear their throats.
Crisje can distinguish every sound, the high voices, Gerrit’s bass and her Hendrik’s tenor.
All in all a noise to drive you crazy.
In the street, people are already standing there in expectation of what they will get to hear.
They like a free singing performance.
And they will probably clap as well.
“Now we must start”, the men hear from Peter, “we can always chat later.”
“Yes, Peter, They’re good at chatting.
Gerrit chats the whole evening, the whole week, well the whole year through.”
The men take position.
And didn’t I know it?
Crisje already suspected that Tall Hendrik had a plan in his head again.
The Tall One enters the bedroom and gets Johan out of his bed.
But Crisje does not appreciate this nonsense, and does not hesitate to respond.
Now what has this child to do with their singing?
However, Hendrik pretends to have heard nothing and goes and stands in front of Peter with his eldest son.
“Look, Peter, at this child.
Johan can sing.
This week I heard him sing.
Come on, Johan; just let us hear your voice.
Sing us Silent Night ... Holy Night.”
Johan, taken out of his bed unexpectedly and probably not in the gentlest of manners, stands quivering and quaking, his little legs wobbly from sleep.
He squeals for a moment and then starts to weep.
So Hendrik just puts the child back to bed.
The men know that they can expect anything from him, but it is a relief for them when the child is back in its bed.
“Now”, asks Peter, “are you ready?
‘Im schönsten Wiesengrunde’.”
This is always the first song, which the men sing.
Now the voices are warming up and it becomes serious.
Tall Hendrik is standing in front of his men.
His arms go up.
Nothing can shake their concentration now.
The men are now deadly serious.
Even Gerrit will not get it into his silly head to talk nonsense.
Before that sometimes used to be the case, but Tall Hendrik forces them into line with his eyes.
His eyes are now shooting fire.
Due to his commanding presence and his beautiful voice there is contact and unity in the quartet and the general willingness to give the best of what they have.
They have started!
That is beautiful.
Crisje hums along with the men.
But then she suddenly stops.
She changes her mind.
Tall Hendrik can’t stand it, and she has already had to hear a lot about it.
“Then”, as he said, “you must just join in yourself.”
He knew he couldn’t keep any discipline then.
And that humming along sounded like the squeaking of a mouse caught in a trap which also had its tail trapped.
Crisje had to make do with that.
‘Im schönsten Wiesengrunde.’
Listen to that sound.
Gerrit’s deep voice sounds beautiful.
If Crisje were to look at Jan Maandag she would have to laugh.
Which is why she wisely doesn’t.
Jan stretches up his gaunt body completely and is dancing like a chicken on stilts.
He is then singing with his feet.
He sings with his whole body and pulls a face like St. Nicholas who is about to hand out ginger nuts but notices that there isn’t a single ginger nut left in the sack.
Tall Hendrik also changes like a leaf of a tree.
He becomes a different person, you would almost say, a more beautiful person.
Peter expands his voice and Hendrik follows him.
But these two voices really carry the whole choir, Crisje thinks.
It could almost make you weep, it is so moving.
But listen to that Hendrik.
They have the voices of the gods in their throat and possess a thousand times as much talent as the others.
If you hear these two, you definitely don’t need to go to the town to hear a nicer song.
The song is finished.
Now the discussion follows.
“You!”, Peter already begins “You let that bar disappear.
Not a single person knows what this means.
“And you, Gerrit, your bass, your accompaniment was too deep.
What do you think Hendrik?”
Tall Hendrik also gives his opinion.
Gerrit came forward too strongly with his bass tone, so that the others had to sing above it if they wished at the end to give that shine to the correct proportions and the whole character, which it deserves.
“Once more”, Peter says, “and now when you come in, feel where it’s going.
And also finish with feeling.”
Peter has this in hand.
Of course, Tall Hendrik is the conductor and stands in front of the troop, but Peter sorts this out with Hendrik.
However, if he feels that Peter is off the mark, but that is rarely the case, he gets to hear about it.
Peter, who has had his own choir and has scored great triumphs with them in Germany, knows the voices and knows how the people have to give themselves.
And again Crisje hears ‘Im schönsten Wiesengrunde’.
But now someone else is singing the sixth tenor, without bothering about the beat or rhythm and even Tall Hendrik is powerless to enforce silence on this voice.
Jeus has wakened and starts bawling.
Crisje sends the child her thoughts and, as though it feels her and realizes that the singing is in his honour, it is silent, and lies quietly watching.
Gerrit has to say quickly before they open their mouths again: “He wouldn’t dare, Cris!”
They are singing again.
Jeus now remains quiet.
However, Crisje has her heart in her mouth, because meanwhile Johan and Bernard have also wakened and look at their mother as if to say: “What has father got into his head now and what does this mean, you haven’t a minute’s peace in this house.
You can’t even have a decent sleep.”
It now seems like there is a whole opera singing, so powerful and full it sounds.
Even Jan Maandag is different and isn’t moving about so much.
And from Tall Hendrik and his men a power flows towards Crisje, and moves through the whole house, which gives those lives inspiration and makes hearts beat faster and even forces the children to listen carefully.
The ethereal sounds which are present in those powers, and the voices inside, make a hole in your life and burrow into your personality, yes, it gives you a lump in your throat, because they possess a clarity and vividness from which, even if you have very little feeling for music and are insensitive to the purity of this singing, you hear unconsciously that this is close to perfection.
There is admiration from the bedroom, and it comes from Johan:
“Goodness me, Father, that is so beautiful, isn’t it?”
Hendrik races over to Crisje.
“That is some compliment, Cris”.
“Thank you, Johan, thank you.”
Now Johan is allowed to say something like that and the child also feels that.
But he mustn’t try this if his father is not in a good mood or playing the violin.
Hendrik does not tolerate that children judge whether something is nice or not, that is only fitting for parents.
Johan may count himself lucky, that father is in the mood for fun and pleasure and that the men are there and that his father is also fully aware that he himself wakened the children.
“How was it, Cris?” Hendrik asks.
“Beautiful, Hendrik, it was lovely.”
“Did you hear that, men?
Now it was better.”
Peter chortles and says:
“And now our new song for Crisje.”
Tall Hendrik races back to the bedroom.
With a few steps he is at Crisje’s side, because right next to the large kitchen, which is a living room, sitting room and everything else, is the small bedroom where they sleep.
“Now you will hear something, Cris.
You must listen carefully and tell us what you think of it.”
“Well, Hendrik”, says Crisje.
“I will listen well and tell you honestly what I think of it.”
What is the new song called?
Peter is already putting the papers together.
This still has to be done, but later they will sing it off by heart, of course.
It is called ‘Zum stolzen Fels am Rhein’.
It is a beautiful song.
Crisje sees Tall Hendrik trembling.
It is as if his long legs are greeting her from left and right, but that probably isn’t the case, however it is a fact that Tall Hendrik, if it concerns something new, is always different.
His nerves then get the better of him.
His arms go up.
The tap on the men’s hearts has already been given.
Invisible to outsiders, but, which can be felt clearly by those for whom it was intended.
The first somewhat restrained timbres already sound throughout the house.
Peter sings like an angel; whether there are such voices in the heavens Crisje doesn’t know, but that is beautiful.
Hendrik is really in his stride.
His voice sounds beautiful.
This song is wonderful.
It causes Crisje’s throat to tighten and she believes that even Jeus is listening.
Johan and Bernard are half hanging out of bed, afraid that they will miss any of the singing.
They think their father is a great man, who can literally do anything that he wants.
Crisje feels that the men will be successful with that nice song.
But it is not only inside the house that they are enjoying the concert, people are still standing outside listening.
It is impossible for them to just walk past.
Captivated, they continue to listen to the songs, and they are giving their best there in Hendrik’s house.
It is awfully good.
This is art.
This gives you a warmth in your heart, in which you can bask.
You love this song, because you can understand it and feel it inside you.
You hear that more is being given here than just amateurs singing.
For that matter, Tall Hendrik and Peter have already long earned their tracks.
The song is finished.
The men look at each other.
They do not know themselves how it went.
But then outside they hear enthusiastic clapping.
As a result of the thin, cold air it penetrates the walls almost unimpaired.
They want to hear more there outside.
When Hendrik peeps through the curtains, he sees a good twenty people standing there calling for more.
“Come on Hendrik, once more!”
“I have to say, Hendrik, I have never heard anything like it from you before.
That is what I call singing, my compliments to all of you.”
Tall Hendrik can’t help embracing Crisje for a minute.
Then the men get to hear it.
Gerrit can’t believe his luck and has to say something about it, of course.
“Isn’t that singing, Cris, which Our Lord can listen to?
When I have to go to my coffin later, I will always have my voice with me and I can do what I like there.”
Seems to me?
Crisje doesn’t leave it at that.
Gerrit must leave Our Lord out of it.
Gerrit always crosses her with her Lord, and she has to just accept that from him, Gerrit believes.
But Crisje will never ever do that.
“What has Our Lord got to do with your screaming, Gerrit?”
What are you telling me now?
Are you pulling our legs, Cris?”
Yes, Gerrit, you must leave Our Lord alone.
He has nothing to do with your singing; that is sacred!
Hendrik knows his Cris, but he also knows Gerrit, who is deliberately provoking his wife.
Crisje falls for it again and again, because she is prepared to defend Our Lord day and night.
But that singing was nice.
“Really, Hendrik, it was nice”, says Crisje.
“Do you mean it, Cris?”
That is real singing.”
Another few cuddles, because he knows that she has a feeling for music and singing, which only a few people can call their own.
Hendrik also often discusses the different nuances of the voices with her.
And you should hear her talking now.
She gives Gerrit’s humming a thrashing and Jan also has to accept the necessary criticism, to such an extent that even Hendrik screams with laughter.
But he knows that Crisje’s remarks are right and what else is wrong with them.
“Why do you like this so much, Cris?”
“Now the voices are one, Hendrik.
One carries the other.
You know what I mean.
I can’t express myself that well at the moment, but I’ll tell you another time.”
This is the truth.
Because Hendrik and Peter have kept harping on about exactly this.
The voices must be one, completely one, one sound, only then can you talk of a harmonic whole, and only then is it a joy to listen to.
The men in the street are clapping so loudly again that it is as like they are standing inside and they ask again if they can sing the song once more.
“Well”, says Tall Hendrik, “you will get another blast, if you can just wait a minute.”
The chattering amongst each other, thinks Crisje, is already a pleasure and happiness.
They are just like small children, she continues to think, in whose mouths you put a piece of liquorice for them to suck on.
But she does not deny the men the appreciation for what they have achieved.
At the end of the day it is not some old nonsense which she hears here, not the singing of herring on a cane, which squeal when they are being smoked, as that man said to me a short time ago, and thereby claimed that they were still good, because they still squealed and she could safely dish them up to the Tall Hendrik!
All in all it was a pleasant get-together which didn’t give you lice.
Several people now have their doors open in order to be able to hear and enjoy the singing as well.
And this whole party is in her house, right under her eyes.
A happiness which is certainly not put away for everyone.
Just look at that.
Peter is as red as a beetroot, Gerrit’s cheeks are ready to burst and Jan has become almost as big as Tall Hendrik.
There are even some who look as white as a corpse.
They only need a sheet and they can go straight in the coffin.
She doesn’t know why that is.
But everyone has something different.
Johan, who knows that he can’t do anything wrong in his mother’s eyes, thinks that he must improve the party mood and starts whistling a tune in bed.
But in doing this he has gone far too far.
It is no longer the afternoon and at least a quarter past ten and then he has to keep his mouth closed, even if he wants to whistle.
However, he thinks that he cannot leave out a word of appreciation.
“But what a voice, mother, our father has, hasn’t he?”can be heard from that corner.
But then he gets the broom or a whipping, even if it is metaphorical and it is made clear to him that it is not too late for a hiding with the real one, which is lying there under the clock in the corner
A present from Tall Hendrik for which Johan has great respect.
“You can hold your tongue, Johan.
You know, father won’t have that, you have no understanding of that and I don’t want to hear your whistling anymore.”
They may listen, but not say a word, pretend they are enjoying it or go to sleep.
Cleaning the world with shoe polish or, as Crisje calls it, sitting under a tree in the shadow of the summer sun of Our Lord and thanking Him for every single thing.
However, she doesn’t have much more time to grumble any more.
The men are already on parade again and stretching their heads.
Peter’s left eye is running, which she notices every time, but she doesn’t understand why.
It is doing it over and again and it will probably be the stress.
But when Peter’s eye runs and weeps, the man has a voice which the angels would not be averse to.
‘If Peter had to sing for Our Lord, he wouldn’t walk away from Peter.’
In her simplicity Crisje almost dares to doubt whether the angels in heaven have such a voice in their choir.
Their veins swell, those of Hendrik have already reddened.
You notice immediately that it is no trouble to either Peter or Hendrik to become inflated like a turkey and to get everything out of their vocal cords.
You notice that it happens of its own accord.
Again ‘Stolzen Fels am Rhein’ can be heard, which could even be sung in the church, so beautiful it is now.
What would Father say if they sung this song for him.
How happy she is again.
And what kind of a week she has had.
While the singing is going on, the door opens and uncle Gradus comes into the kitchen.
Completely unexpected, this one also pays a visit.
He creeps over to Crisje, takes her hand, nods to her kindly and gives her a look of understanding.
He has also heard the new song and his visit is to say that the song is worthwhile.
He takes the opportunity at the same time to have a look at the child and see how his sister-in-law is doing.
The choir finishes, the bass sound of Gerrit can still be heard echoing in the distance and dies off with a sigh like a person who has breathed his last.
“Good gracious me, that is what I call singing, Hendrik.”
The men are beaming.
They are pleased with the compliment.
Joy and satisfaction radiate from their eyes.
Uncle Gradus is not the only one who has come to say thank you, another few listeners from the street knock on the door and they also express their thanks for the beautiful singing which they have enjoyed.
It has gone down so well that even the people at Hent Klink walked out of the bar.
That wasn’t so nice for Hent, because of course there is no drinking.
But Hent doesn’t try to hold on to his people because he happens to know that when the quartet is singing everyone listens.
Is there going to be more?
No, they are stopping, but that is not yet acceptable.
They want to hear more.
They give another song.
They hear a few short noises and you already have to laugh about the crazy way in which these noises come out of their mouths.
Gerrit calls it sketches or excuses.
A mishmash of sounds, which always make people laugh, because they are always playing the fool.
You hear nothing else from Gerrit than bam ... bam ... bam ... bam ...
He throws out these noises with an inflated face and a round mouth.
Tall Hendrik and Peter follow the resulting reflex and absorb each other and allow the whole to flow into each other again.
The clattering of the tongues between their lips makes such a funny noise that Crisje is lying in bed shaking with laughter.
Gerrit is at his best with this song.
Sometimes they are just like wind instruments, which are trying to drown each other out, but which are evenly matched to each other, and do not wish to give up.
A while later they calm down and it appears as if they have gone to sleep and an almost deadly silence reigns, to then suddenly blaze up like a fierce fire and allow the party to start all over again.
Crisje can’t make head nor tail of it.
Peter calls it ‘Zusammenbruch von Notenspielerei’, and Gerrit calls it the ‘fairground in Stokkum.’
Jan Maandag has no name for it, but gives it his laugh, his shaking shoulders and dancing around.
Jan can never stand still, never mind sit still, he has thrush in his glands, Gerrit says, and has a part of his brain under the balls of his feet, so that Jan is continually stimulated.
He also has three lungs, two in order to breath and one in order to light his cigar, which he is always sucking at.
Gerrit always has a few of the cheapest cigars in his pocket, which are especially for Jan.
That is all he is worth.
Jan always half eats his cigars.
Three of these rockets of songs fly out of the men.
They are popular songs, short, noisy, but not unknown pieces.
Crisje holds her stomach, this song sets her off laughing so much, but she still prefers the quiet songs.
She can listen to the Ave Maria again and again, even if Hendrik just plays it on his violin.
It always moves her, and she falls under its charm again, and she always likes to hear Händel and his ‘Largo’ as well, or whatever it is called.
But holy music always holds the greatest charm for her.
This Sunday evening there was another one which wouldn’t be forgotten quickly.
But now it is really finished.
After all, there are also children in the house.
Tall Hendrik looks at Crisje and she indicates to him with her eyes that it has been quite enough for today.
“Well, Cris”, he says, “we’re stopping”, and then the others also know that it is finished.
The quartet separates.
If they come again, they may continue to sing until four o’clock in the morning if necessary.
However, it is enough for today.
Tomorrow is another day and there is a seven-day-old child.
It is amazing, that this child sleeps through everything.
The boys have also fallen asleep, they have tired themselves out listening and Crisje feels that she can also no longer listen to anything.
Good night Peter, good night Gerrit and Jan and greetings to the others as well.
Thank you very much everyone.
It was really worthwhile to stay awake and 'listen' to it.
As uncle Gradus also leaves, Crisje remarks:
“It was lovely that you came uncle Gradus.”
Tall Hendrik now also feels tired.
He longs for his sleep and his lie-down.
Tomorrow will be another long day for Crisje and him.
Tomorrow she wishes to assert her rights as usual and to take control.
Then she will be standing at the helm again with the ship in the breakers and she will need her strength to steer the ship safely through.
But Tall Hendrik can’t get to sleep immediately.
He sits down at the edge of the bed and has a little chat with Crisje.
Only now he hears properly what she thought of it, and how much she has enjoyed it.
He likes this because this is their unity again.
This gives them a strength a thousand fold again, which everything is smashed by and which also gives a person the chance, if he wants to and he has the feelings for it, to create and bring forth art of the highest order.
Hendrik imagines himself again in Wezel on the stage.
He can’t stop talking about it again.
Crisje’s feelings are expressed in a different way.
She recalls what she felt and experienced all those months.
Now a period has ended for her, so powerful that, even if she lived to be a hundred, she will never forget.
When she is back on her feet again, she will lose all those beautiful feelings, because daily life will demand her full attention with all its worries.
When she has been up for only one hour and has lit the stove, she will have lost them irrevocably.
But nevertheless, in her thoughts it will live inside her heart, because it has become a part of her personality.
It is such a powerful and awe-inspiring feeling, that she has to share it with her husband.
“You see, Hendrik, that is it!
Now I’m myself again.
But I will never forget this!
And that is why I enjoyed it so much this evening, Hendrik.
How beautiful the voices were.
What a long way you have come.
It is unbelievable.”
Hendrik is like a child again.
The tall beanpole now looks at Crisje like a dove in flight to the blue universe.
She is now his queen in a golden carriage.
He is sitting there beside her, as if he has only known one hour of her life and now looks up to her as someone of nobility.
Which she is in her character.
This satisfaction is great, these moments are wonderful; click-click, Crisje, hear his taste, click-clack, take all these kisses, these kisses of love.
But be careful that he doesn’t give you any blue blisters because then the fun is over.
Oh, that Tall Hendrik.
Hendrik pours himself another drink and is sitting there next to Crisje sipping away.
However, he would really have wanted to fly out the door to hear what they thought of it at Hent.
But he doesn’t get round to it.
This hour is one of awe-inspiring beauty for him.
He will hear tomorrow.
And he can be pleased with himself then.
Half an hour later he is lying next to his Cris.
He snores a bit, but not for long.
Then the dreams come and he is standing in front of his men again, he is lisping in his dream like Peter and is speaking German and dialect through each other.
If Crisje hadn’t been able to force herself to sleep, she would have experienced everything again.
But luckily she falls asleep, because Jeus will soon get her up.
With echoes that will shake her awake.
That is also a song, and the song of the universe.
If you can listen, Cris, you will not only see yourself, but also Him who laid that song of the universe and the silence in you and gave you that other life, which lets its click be heard as well as Tall Hendrik.
“Drink a little more, my child, your mother has enough, which I am grateful to Our Lord for.
As long as you know that.
In the name of the Father ... the Son ... forever and ever Amen!”
I didn’t see a speck on that white cloth, neither did the angels who had heard Tall Hendrik sing.
Believe it, they also enjoyed the voices of Peter and Tall Hendrik!
But Our Lord knows exactly what He wants!
Mrs De Man, but, Mrs De Man!
Don’t you see purgatory?
Crisje prays in her sleep.