Robert de Roos: Op het puin (On the Rubble)

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Saturday October 10th there will be a special concert in the old concert hall of Musis. After almost 75 years of silence, the poignant music of the performance ‘Op het Puin’ from 1946 will be heard again. A reminder of hope, resilience and perspective. A work composed by Robert de Roos…   

The music theatre spectacle Op het Puin was performed in May 1946 during the first Liberation Day, on the ruins of the Eusebius Church. Around 16000 visitors saw the performance from the Market Square, including the princely couple Juliana and Bernhard. After this performance, the music was never performed again, ended up in the archives and fell into oblivion. Rozet and Muziektheater De Plaats tracked down the old score and decided to breathe new life into the piece.
The concert on 10 October is the kick-off of a special program series, which will be performed in Rozet from February and will end in and around the Eusebiuskerk in May 2021.

Op het Puin was written in a very short time for a performance on and in front of the ruins of the Eusebius Church in Arnhem in May 1946. Arnhem was severely damaged during the Second World War. In the last days of the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944 the population of the city was evacuated after which the city was systematically plundered. Arnhem has become a front city. The occupier populates the city with several thousand civilians and forced laborers. Due to continuous shelling, many buildings are damaged and there is almost no window in one piece. A large part of the buildings falls prey to wind and weather.

After the second Battle of Arnhem in April 1945 the occupier is driven out of the city and from the liberation on May 5 the first civilians can return to the city. Only at the end of 1945 most of the evacuees returned to Arnhem. A large part of the houses were then uninhabitable and many families had to live together. Society itself has also been severely affected: war experiences through resistance, collaboration and battles between warring factions have left their traces. Part of the population has been deported and murdered in the concentration camps, a number of them survive and return to the city.

Founded in 1944, the Nederlands Volksherstel (NVH) is an umbrella organization for all aid organizations in the Netherlands. The provincial departments are in charge, the national office facilitates and the local departments execute. The Arnhem department, which for example includes the local Red Cross department, also provides spiritual, emotional and moral help. The Central Youth Council Arnhem of the NVH came up with the idea of performing an open-air game with a few young people and actors on the Grote Meide van Stadspark Sonsbeek and attracts Meia Kaas-Albarda for the text. Open-air or lay games are popular in the first half of the 20th century because “a successful performance creates a strong bond between players and spectators which temporarily removes differences between them”.

Meia Kaas is a French teacher but she has also been writing plays since the 1930s and plays herself. Abraham van der Vies has been directing lay plays since the 1920s, including those of Utrecht and Amsterdam student associations. He regularly collaborates with composer Robert de Roos. At a late moment, mid April 1946, Abraham asked Robert de Roos to collaborate on Op het Puin (On the rubble). Robert de Roos from The Hague is a valued composer and familiar with Arnhem. He can compose quickly and well: Op het Puin he provides choral and orchestral music between 21 and 29 April, as he proudly mentions under the last page of the score. Op het Puin will eventually be performed by the Enka Mannenkoor, the Paasberg Women’s Choir, the St. Joseph Boys’ Choir of the St. Josephkerk and the Arnhemse Orkest Vereniging (wind instruments, percussion instruments and double bass). It is a mass play: about 500 Arnhem youths work together with some professional actors (speaking voice, dictator).

The text describes how a dictatorship comes into being, how fragile the peace that follows is and the responsibility of the young generation to make that peace strong and to take up the task of reconstruction. Reviews from 1946 write of successful music that has taken the open-air play to a higher level.

A recording of the work will soon be available at Donemus Records.

More news about Op het Puin

Score of Op het Puin at Donemus

Listen to the broadcast at RTV Arnhem to the interview with Pieter Goossen: