Hendrik Jan Vermeulen (Rotterdam, 1968)
Guitarist and founder of Krieg 1916
In 1995 I graduated cum laude from the Conservatory Groningen after studying Jazz guitar and teaching music. I’ve played in several bands and projects, including the Lowlands and Roskilde festivals and gigs in the US, Germany, Japan and Morocco. In 2003 I became the guitar teacher at the Academy of Pop Culture in Leeuwarden, an interdisciplinary art study in higher education. At the moment I work as a policy adviser and education developer for different schools of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, e.g. the Prince Claus Conservatory.
Since I was young the story of my German grandmother’s brothers, all of whom were supposed to have died during the First World War, fascinated me. My father told me that 5 of his uncles lost their lives in the war, causing his mother to suffer from hysteria.
Being a musician I’ve always wanted to do something artistically with this story. The result is Krieg 1916. It took me a long time to develop the concept for this project, and even longer to find the guts to actually do it. For one thing I needed to mature as a musician and composer to find the right form. I got great inspiration for the project learning about the poets of the Great War in Geert Buelens’ Europa, Europa (2008) in particular, as well as reading and watching loads of other stuff on war in general and visiting several European battle sites. It took some guts because an artistic project costs time and money, and – moreover – because researching this personal connection to war and making it public, forced me to think about the origin of my fascination and my family’s participation on the losing side.
Krieg 1916 is about my grandmother’s youngest brother Bernhard, who joined the Prussian army in 1912 and died during the final stages of the Brusilov offensive in September 1916. Although I’m trying to tell Bernhard’s personal story with Krieg 1916, I also see it as exemplary of all soldiers who died in the Great War. I hope other people may recognize this and find comfort by listening to and learning about Krieg 1916.
I am very proud of the wonderful people – musicians, techs, friends and family – that helped me to realise Krieg 1916. The professionalism, enthusiasm, talent and support they’ve shown has overwhelmed me.