Update: September 30, 2022. Read this nice review by Alfred Arnold.
Big in the big church – Remy and Ron Boots & Friends in Haarlem
Not far from Amsterdam, the large capital of the Netherlands, just a little further towards the coast, lies the slightly smaller city of Haarlem. In Haarlem there is a church on the market square, which is called the “Grote Kerk” because of its dimensions. This Saturday I’m standing in front of this building for the first time, and the reason for this is – how could it be otherwise with a report in this magazine – that electronic music will be heard in it today. The St. Bavo Kerk in Haarlem is another station on the very long way to reunite the original cast of “Phase 3” (Ron Boots, Ian Boddy and Harold van der Heijden) on stage. “Host” this evening will be Remy, who will also be active this evening and will contribute his part to this event.
Unfortunately, the St. Bavo Kerk will not be the last stop on the way to a new edition of “Phase 3”. This time it wasn’t the virus preventing Ian Boddy from crossing the Channel, it was his doctors who strongly advised against such an effort. So cancel everything? The appointment at such a special place was too valuable for that, and too much work had already gone into Remy’s concert. So Ron Boots did what he had already done to save the Circus team their event a few weeks ago: he called a few friends, in this case Frank Dorittke and Stephan Whitlan. Together with Harold they form a well-known quartet that has “rocked” the stage more than once. Of course, this will be something completely different than “Phase 3”, but without a doubt a worthy replacement.
Since I’ve never been to Haarlem before, I invest an hour or two to stroll through the streets and lanes around the market square. At some point I will also find one from which the church and the market stalls in front of it can be photographed – see lead photo. It is already late afternoon and the market stalls are being dismantled. The fact that the coast is not far away can also be seen from the fact that not only pigeons fight over leftovers left on the ground: from one of the surrounding rooftops you can hear the screeching of seagulls waiting for an opportune moment to grab them, before the city cleaning “clears the ship” again. Is there still something lying around? The weather gods are taking care of that now, and he wipes it down with two heavy downpours. It’s September and the long summer of 2022 is (fortunately?) over. Anyone who has not brought an umbrella and suitable clothing with them seeks shelter and eagerly awaits admission to the church.
It’s supposed to be at 7 p.m., but another good quarter of an hour passes before the doors of the St. Bavo Kerk open to the upcoming guests. The queue has already grown to around 50 people by this point, and by the end a good three times that number will have found their way to Haarlem. That’s a nice number for a European Championship event, but of course not much compared to the dimensions of this church building. The built-up instrumentation and rows of seats seem a little lost in the nave, and the organ, which reaches to the ceiling at the head end, makes everything else seem small anyway. The choir is doing one last rehearsal and some keyboards are still covered with cloths.
In addition to the keyboards, someone else has set up a corner who – for once – won’t be making music today: Bas Broekhuis, who is experienced in such things with his “BYSS” studio, will be in charge of the video streaming today. In addition to the 150 spectators in the church, there will be more in the vastness of the Internet. The stream will remain as a recording.
Even if admission was late, there is still plenty of time before the concert begins and for discussions, or to stock up on one or the other. Somewhere “back there” (did I mention that the church is really big?) is Groove’s CD stand, and again, almost in the other corner – the bar! Notices behind the tables indicate that this is not temporary, but permanent. A bar in a place of worship? Other countries, other customs, and I’ve seen our neighbors in the west on other occasions as pragmatic and tolerant contemporaries – something like that is also possible.
In his introductory words, Remy asks to be very quiet, because his concert will begin very quietly. In fact, the first sheet of music that was opened looked rather empty. But what happens now is even more astounding: the choirmaster is conducting, but in front of empty chairs and you can’t really hear anything yet. Only very slowly does the choir become audible as it approaches the stage in a procession and takes up a position in the semicircle. It is not surprising that Remy rehearsed this performance for many weeks, because what is being performed here certainly does not belong to the standard repertoire of a choir: it is not so much the singing, the voices are used as an additional instrument that belongs to the other, electronically generated sounds must remain in rhythm and harmony. Sometimes the electronics provide the basis for the choir, then there’s another break for a moment, and then there are occasional moments when individual choir members come to the fore with vocal passages. But even then, these aren’t real songs, but rather individual sentences whose meaning isn’t revealed on first hearing.
In any case, it should be noted that the first concert of the evening was performed by a musician with a classical background. Together with the darkened church, in which one feels small, this results in a mystical and at the same time solemn atmosphere – appropriate to the place. Gradually the sounds become louder and more powerful, a little like stepping out of the darkness into the light – and there’s also the moment when one of the choir members uses the full volume of his voice, reminiscent of times when you had no electrical means to fill such a space.
Fortunately, Remy was able to quickly overcome initial problems with the sound, including a small “reboot”, and so when the adventure ends after a good three-quarters of an hour, the actors make more than satisfied faces and sometimes hug each other . For the “pure electronics” fan, “The Other Side” was certainly an experience that will resonate in your head for a while until you digest it, but it was certainly appropriate for the venue and a very special experience. Praise and congratulations at this point to Remy for tackling something like this!
The pause that follows is a longer one, time for both a drink and the CD stand. In addition to the CDs that Ron Boots gave out free of charge at the entrance, some viewers get another CD without paying for it: the new “record” from the Schallwende association is ready, and since it was mastered and produced by Ron Boots , he brought the boxes with the freshly pressed CDs to pass them on to the new Schallwende chairman, Klaus-Ulrich Sommerfeld. He will leave the church today with a bulging suitcase and is therefore grateful for every copy that he can distribute to members on site – it also saves the association some postage and packaging.
In the meantime, the cloths have been removed from Stephan Whitlan’s keyboards and are flashing and glowing in all colors, as appreciated by EM fans who are interested in hardware. Frank Dorittke “warmed up” a little during the break, and the choir’s row of chairs has been cleared away. So Ron can step forward and briefly tell you again how it came about that instead of “Phase 3” “Ron Boots & Friends” is now appearing. Ian Boddy is doing fine himself, he just needs to take it easy for the moment and it’s good that he’s taking his doctors advice. We hope for 2023…
When Ron Boots plays alone, he likes to slow down a bit for the first few minutes before he really “accelerates”. Not so on this evening: Already in the first track, the three-country quartet really rocks and demonstrates once again how well electronics, guitar and drums go together. Ron and Harold are the basis and engine with drums and sequences, Frank can put a guitar playing on top of it, which at first reminds me of Pink Floyd. All this still leaves room for Stephan’s playful improvisations, which are known from his solo albums. It’s always impressive how well these four have adjusted to each other over the years, so that such a
Appearance is also possible without much preparation.
In track number two and three you treat yourself to a little breather, here Ron’s sequences can also play their way into the foreground. After that, Frank proves that he doesn’t just master the hard gait: A soulful, dreamy solo, sparingly instrumented, which gradually grows into a rock’n’roll ballad – great cinema in the church! And as if the four didn’t want to rip us out of our dreams, they also begin very gently in the following title. The distant rhythm does suggest something big, though, and we’re not disappointed: a complex bar in which the guitar forms an element rather than forcing itself to the fore, and is continually developed over nearly ten minutes. That’s what Ashra could sound like if they added a few rock elements to their titles. It’s hard to keep your feet on the ground!
Finally, Frank is allowed to return to Pink Floyd: His “Shine On Variations” are now also a kind of “classic” and mark the end of the second concert of the evening. It was (of course) something different than “Phase 3”, but nobody is sad that evening: Here four musicians not only proved their technical skills, they also managed to create a suspense over the individual tracks, like that that nothing seems piecemeal – that could actually be pressed onto a CD and sold.
Anything else coming? But yes, as the third part, a session has been announced in which Remy will join Ron. How much time is left for this? 25 minutes, something can be made of it. Ron Boots & Friends just sit back a bit, leaving Remy room to overlay a progressive improvisation. Incidentally, he is not alone: the (former) choirmaster also joins in on the piano.
Is anything missing? Phil Booth, who had come over from the island especially for this event, had indicated during the long break that the large church organ would also have its place. And so it is: Remy briefly confers with Ron, then disappears somewhere in the organ and delivers “his final solo”. So at the end of the evening you kind of go back to where you started a few hours ago. A visibly relieved and relaxed Remy first greets from the organ gallery, and then stands in front of the audience arm in arm with Ron, while Ron thanks everyone involved.
Only one person doesn’t quite want to see that the evening is over: Stephan can’t resist the temptation of a big organ after all. And so it is that his grand sci-fi/EM medley reverberate through the church as we say goodbye and chat about where we’ll see each other next. Hopefully it won’t be another decade before it’s back here in Haarlem in the Grote Kerk. This place is so special and it challenges you to explore the range of electronic music in unfamiliar directions. Remy, Ron Boots and Friends, and the choir did that on this memorable evening, and they were rewarded with a very good audience response – for our small EM scene. And next time it might really be: “Remy & Phase 3 in Haarlem”!
Update: September 26, 2022. We received a lookback about the St Bavo Church concerts last week.
Last Saturday we had a real blast during the concerts of Remy Stroomer & Ron Boots at the Grote St Bavo Church Haarlem
It’s always a pleasure and privilege to perform at a tremendous venue this and especially together and surrounded with gifted musicians, good friends and many wonderful people, carrying out nothing less than positive vibes.
We want to thank everyone who attended yesterday’s event (around 150 people), all volunteers (without whom it would have been impossible to have a flawless evening), the sound and livestream guys, the Grote of St.Bavokerk crew, everyone who was part of the media attention and who did promotion for this event, and indeed all musicians who contributed on this unique event.
Unfortunately there was a serious issue regarding the live-stream’s sound of Remy’s set of the evening. We have no idea what caused this, and will sort it out within coming days. Remy hopes to replace the correct audio, but first need to see what is technically possible. We will keep informed everyone concerned.
It’s always good times working together (and organize an event like this) with my dear friend and colleagues It was a pleasure and wonderful experience to share this same stage ten years ago, as much as it was yesterday, and as much as it will be in 2032!
Feel free to share your photos, videos and stories! Andre Stooker captured the afternoon and evening, so if you would like to have an impression of yesterday, be sure to check out his photos at the Facebook page of Andre.
Remy & Ron
Update: September 13, 2022: Time table and ticket info added:
- 19:00 Doors open
- 19:45 – 20:45 “The Other Side” – Concert Remy Stroomer & Choir
- 20:45 – 21:05 Break
- 21:05 – 22:15 “Phase Shifted” – Concert Ron Boots, Harold van der Heijden, Stephan Whitlan and Frank Dorittke
- 22:20 – 23:00 Session
Tickets and information here.
You can choose from two different tickets:
- The “Regular” one gains access to the concert. It consists of a QR-code, which can be showed via your mobile phone as well as print. The “Regular” option also includes a download link.
- The “Virtual” option is for the live stream.
The links will be sent seperately via mail one or two days before the concert takes place.
Update: September 3, 2022: Ron Boots informed us with unfortunate news and an update about the program:
“For the 17th of September concert in the St. Bavo Church “Ian Boddy” will not be able to join me and Harold on stage. Due to health issue doctors have advised him not to travel. As health is our most precious possesion it’s best to do what the doctors say! Let’s hope we can make a new date in 2023 with Ian and me onstage.”
” I am glad to announce that Stephan Whitlan and Frank Dorittke will join Harold and me onstage for this great event. As much as Ian will be missed (not only music wise!!) these two great friends and musicians will make this event as special as you can only imagine.”
About the (concert) program:
As a special offer for all who come Groove will have a BIG selection of CD’s from which you can pick 2 freebees for your EM Collection!! One more reason to come and join us!
Hope to see you at Live electronic music in the Big St. Bavokerk, Grote Markt Haarlem.
- “The Other Side”: Remy Stroomer with Choir.
- “Phase shifted”: Ron Boots, Frank Dorittke, Stephan Whitlan and Harold van der Heijden
- Saturday 17 September 2022
- Doors open: 19:00
- Concerts: 19:45-23:00
Update: August 2022: A legend returns! Ten years ago, Ron Boots and Remy Stroomer organized a memorable evening in the unique location of the Grote of St. Bavokerk, in the center of Haarlem. Now, a decade later, both gentlemen have decided to do it again. Same location, but a different lineup. Live electronic music in the Grote or St. Bavokerk, Grote Markt Haarlem.
The Other Side”: Remy Stroomer with choir
“Phase 3”: Ron Boots, Ian Boddy and Harold van der Heijden
Saturday September 17, 2022 – Doors open: 19:00 – Concerts: 19:45-23:00 – Tickets €25 (presale) / €30 (at the door)