Foto Hanneloes Boonstra

30 years Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble: a Jubilee and farewell in one

Anyone who wants to see bandoneon player Carel Kraayenhof at work with his full sextet will have to hurry up. Because when the anniversary tour of almost thirty performances across The Netherlands in November is over, it will also be the last curtain call for the Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble after thirty years of existence. Too little work and too high costs have forced Kraayenhof to make the decision of continuing without his reliable group.

by Ton Maas


30 years Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble

But first of all the reason for this conversation, because there is much to celebrate. After all, a career of thirty years is an unique feat for an ensemble in this sector and that is also celebrated in a proper way with a new CD – 30! Passionate Tango Years – and a jubilee theatre tour that will soon be seen all over the country. Thirza Lourens: ‘It is also a great way for us to say thank you to the many loyal fans who have supported us all those years.’ Carel: ‘And to the thirty musicians who have played in my ensemble since 1988.’ Thirza continues: ‘And because of this jubilee there is also a lot of interest from the media. For example, Carel and his ensemble will be on four NPO radio stations: 1, 2, 4 and 5. They will be guests at Podium Witteman and get a feature in KLM’s in-flight magazine. It is of course a little ironic, now that we have had to decide to stop with the ensemble.’ Carel: ‘But we stop at a high point!’


Carel and his wife Thirza, who is for twenty-two years the business leader of the ensemble, are bluntly realistic about it. Thirza: ‘It just did not work anymore. For thirty years we have pushed and invested much of Carel’s own activities’ finances into the sextet, but the relationship between costs and benefits only got worse. It hurts a lot, but we have to let go of the ensemble’.

Carel continues: ‘In the end it’s all about my big dream, which has everything to do with the two most fantastic people I’ve been fortunate to work with: Astor Piazzolla and Osvaldo Pugliese. Thanks to this ensemble I have both the richness of tones of Piazzolla and the power of Pugliese. That gives me the feeling that I continue their work. Because that is, and remains, my mission. You can safely say that I am addicted to the sound of my sextet. Especially now that there is a cello next to the two violins, which gives the strings an orchestral dimension. And then there is Juan Pablo Dobal, the brilliant Argentinian pianist who, besides his own part, also manages to play the part of a second bandoneon from his piano. It is not an orquesta típica, but it is very close to it and I am very proud of that.’


Are the musicians exclusive to the Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble? Thirza: ‘No, but it has been their priority to play with us all these years. Thanks to their incredible loyalty it was possible to rehearse weekly – an absolute requirement for the dynamic of the ensemble – and that was always done for no financial compensation. What has made the situation even more difficult is that a growing number of theatres now paw lower guarantees. It can happen that you play for two hundred people, but ultimately only have a thousand euros after all the cost deductions; which then has to be shared by nine people (the musicians plus sound engineer, tour manager and business manager). That is no longer in proportion to the commitment we ask from everyone.’


Carel: ‘That legendary TV moment with Máxima’s tear, while listening to Adiós Nonino in the Nieuwe Kerk, has of course given my career a great boost. But the accompanying status of BN’er(public figure), to which I was subsequently (unsolicited) bombed with, reveals a fake picture of success and wealth. Many people think that I am constantly traveling the world and have earned a fortune with my music. The reality, however, is very different: I travel with my music in a cultural segment – the world music – that is dying. At least in the Netherlands. The financial cultural cutbacks of the last ten years have led to a downright defeat in world music, which affects everyone in the sector. Only most colleagues do not hold a permanent ensemble of this size. And furthermore, almost all of my musicians now have a family to maintain and a mortgage to pay.’


Carel: ‘Of course it is sad, but my accountant is cheering. For years, he has seen with a level of distress that thousands of euros were being invested in the ensemble. In addition, support from the media for our sextet continues to decrease.’ Thirza adds: ‘Moreover, we must have realized that the interest is mainly in Carel and not in the sextet. By insisting on promoting the sextet and not Carel as a soloist, we also contributed to Carel being less seen on TV.’


Thirza: ‘For quite some time we have drawn hope from the fact that even the big names of the tango were at times not able to play for years, or only as a soloist or as a duo, but the cultural poverty in the Netherlands is now so worrying that even something as essential as music education is pretty much gone, cut away.’ Carel: ‘And where else should the new generation of musicians come from? In our neighbourhood the music school in Purmerend recently had a new qualification to be able to provide music education in secondary schools. But just two weeks after they obtained it, the director was informed that the subsidy for the current year had been halved and would be completely cancelled for next year. Her team serves more than a thousand secondary school students and they will no longer receive music lessons. And that while in recent years it has been scientifically proven that music (like Bach’s) stimulates the development of the children’s brain in a very positive way. Apparently, the importance of this does not get enough attention.’


That then brings the conversation to the importance of making music together, in the intimate setting with family and friends. Carel: ‘In many other countries you see that this practice is still alive and kicking. With us it only gets less and less, partly due to the lack of music schooling. I cannot escape that either: most people still know me exclusively as the man who played at their wedding and made Máxima shed a tear.’ Thirza adds: ‘For Carel, the tango is something much bigger: a living tradition that should not only be retained but also further developed. This ambition is very alive and appreciated not only in Argentina, but also in countries such as Germany and Japan.’


Carel: ‘Gustavo Beytelmann, artistic director of the Department of Argentine Tango of Codarts in Rotterdam, once asked our students a very interesting question: “Do you think the tango is there for you, or are you there for the tango?” Gustavo says that every music genre that is capable of surviving for a hundred years without any support from government or industry, simply because it is in the people, is an authentic force that deserves to be respected. That is why we are there to serve the tango. For me that meant: immersing myself in Buenos Aires, in the tango, and analysing the work of the masters by transcribing it minutely – for thousands of hours. I have spent a month working on sixteen bars of Pugliese: What does he exactly play? What does the double bass do, what does the second bandoneon do? That is how I learned to arrange, only to then start composing myself. And I have always sought the connection with my own background in Celtic and classical music.’


Carel: ‘There have been times when I doubted whether I still wanted to continue now that music – at least my kind of music – is being removed, more and more each time, from our cultural circle. But then I think of the young musicians who I will undoubtedly meet and who will inspire me again. I can even imagine that in a few years I might set up a new ensemble; but not with me as a main player, because I never really aspired to that role, it just came about’.


‘I look forward to meeting new people and to develop things together. Just by hanging out together, to work together for some time on ideas and compositions. I will definitely look for that in the coming period. I still dream of a “band of composers”. In that sense, I also see this moment as an opportunity to tackle my dreams differently than before. And I don’t mean it only business like, but also on the artistic process.’


‘At a certain moment you notice that you are drifting away from reality as a person. I realize that I have become a sort of “professional idiot” who is only occupied with his work. On the one hand I find it terrible that this happens to us now, but on the other hand, I also see that it is an opportunity. It gives space to do other things: act as a soloist or as a duo, not only playing in large halls but also in small circles. Take for example playing during a wedding. How special is it to be able to be part of one of the most important moments of someone’s life with your music! Fantastic! How do I see the future? I feel like taking on new challenges and I still absolutely adore to make music.’

Chacarera – Carel Kraayenhof

I am the best bandoneonist of Noordbeemster! That’s not an alternative fact, but an accurate description: I am the only bandoneonist in our tiny village…So tiny, that, when my twins were born nineteen years ago, the population augmented with one percent.
At the edge of the village lives one of my friends, who is a biological greengrocer; when I asked him what kind of music he would like me to write for him, he said to my shock: a chacarera! Oh dear, I thought, I have never done that before! Chacarera is a special kind of Argentine folk music, polyrhythmic and rooted in an old tradition. Since 2010, when pianist Juan Pablo Dobal and I started our duo, I have been learning to play the chacarera, thanks to the knowledge and help of my brilliant collegue; on the other hand, writing one is another matter…
By the way, I should have mentioned that my friend is in fact the only Argentinian in our village. So now I am trying to write a chacarera for the best Argentine greengrocer in Noordbeemster!

Summer column Carel Kraayenhof – E-bike

e-bikeI first stepped on a bicycle when I was four years old, and kept on biking full-time until I was forty; then I moved to the Beemster and needed a driver´s license, as local public transport didn´t meet my needs as a constant travelling musician. So sadly my bicycle started to feel lonely, and the heavy Beemster wind didn´t improve my urge to make a ride: no matter in which direction you start, you always seem to have a strong headwind.
When Thirza decided to buy an E-bike because of the condition of her knees, I realized it would be a tiresome job keeping up with her: so I purchased one too.
Although it defies all courageous behavior of a true Spartan, I can call myself now the proud owner of a Sparta E-bike. Definitely the best therapy you can get: some magical force is giving me a push whenever I need it…So coming from the supermarket on my amazing bike with heavy-loaded saddlebags, at twenty miles an hour, I tend to overtake surprised youngsters in disbelief on their sporting bikes…

News letter Carel Kraayenhof

Dear friends and colleagues,

With this beautiful weather, is there anything better than listening to great music in a fantastic setting outside with a delicious drink? This can be done on the weekend of 3 and 4 June at the free accessible festival ‘Music on the Dommel’ in Eindhoven. Carel and Juan Pablo play a few songs on the Saturday evening with the Student Harmony Orchestra Auletes with Paul van Gils. Also the famous violinist Lisa Jacobs will play some songs with this student orchestra.
On Sunday afternoon, Juan Pablo and Carel will talk about the various Argentine rhythms such as the Cueca, the Zamba, the Milonga, etc at the second stage. After that, they will perform on the main stage with the Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble.Muziek op de Dommel

A week later, on Sunday June 11, at 11.30 am, Carel and Lavinia Meijer play together in the beautiful Aegtenkapel in Amersfoort, during Rabobank Amersfoort Jazz. (1×60 min). This very well known jazz festival is always free of charge. Also this year there are dozens of indoor and outdoor locations where performances will take place.

Meanwhile, the musicians of the Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble are busy with the rehearsals for the new CD ’30! ‘. The release of the CD will take place on February 14, 2018. The musicians are also preparing for the new same-name theater concert that Kik Productions booked to theaters this season. The premiere will take place on April 8, 2018 at the Philharmonie in Haarlem. The tickets are already available. We hope to send you the final playlist in the next newsletter.
Rabobank Jazz Amersfoort
Our violinist Bert Vos will keep a video journal that you can follow through Carel’s YouTube channel. If you do not want to miss anything, subscribe to this channel, then you will always be the first to know when we have published something new.

Warm regards,
Carel and Thirza

Newsletter March Carel Kraayenhof

Dear friends and colleagues,
Where to start as there are so many good news is that we want to share with you? Below three dates of performances which we are pretty sure you who would wish to see.
On August 24th Carel will perform a concert, after five years, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. This time in the Kleine Zaal. Together with Juan Pablo Dobal they perform the program ‘Hotel Victoria’.
On September 2nd Carel will participate in a spectacular event, “Empheiria”, which takes place in the gardens of Soestdijk Palace in Baarn (NL). It is the second year that this event is organized. With the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chinese pianist Lang Lang, Iris Dog, Noa Wildschut and Carel among others, the event promises to be a spectacle with visual effects that have never been used in the classical world. Tickets:
Empheiria met Carel
On Sunday, September 3rd Carel performs with pianist Michiel Borstlap and harpist Lavinia Meijer a concert in the beautiful outdoor theater Caprera, Bloemendaal (NL). The program is set up as a mini-festival, with all three musicians plaing a solo set, two sets as a duo and eventually they bring the performance to an end with all three musicians on stage. Tickets:
State Visit Argenitian President Macri to Netherlands
On March 27th a state banquet takes place in the Royal Palace at the Dam Square in Amsterdam, held on the occasion of the visit of President Macri and his wife to The Netherlands. Carel and Thirza are invited to the state banquet and will be present. A day later, President Macri presents to The Netherlands a ballet performance by argentinean dancers in The Hague. There too Carel and Thirza will be present. For more information:
30! Premiere in Philharmonie Haarlem
Many thanks for all the feedback we have received from you after our request to send us your memories of Carel. The project has taken life with them. Please continue to send your memories to: On April 8th 2018 the premiere of this program will take place at the Philharmonie Haarlem. You can already order tickets via:
Warm regards,
Carel and Thirza

Edison (Dutch Grammy) nomination for cd Liberacion

Our album ‘Liberación’ is nominated for an Edison World (the Dutch Grammy)!
We are over the moon with happiness and very proud that particularly this CD, which was recorded at the Beauforthuis in Austerlitz (NL) under our own label, through crowdfunding and private savings, was nominated by the jury of the Edison Foundation.
Liberacion vd voorkant
On this CD, of which the release took place in November 2014, are as many as ten original compositions, nine of Carel Kraayenhof and one of Juan Pablo Dobal. The CD was recorded with the musicians of the ‘Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble’: Juan Pablo Dobal, Bert Vos, Iefke Wang, Jaap Branderhorst and Jan Willem Troost.
At the end of May the winner of the Edison World 2016 will be announced.

This nomination feels to us as a recognition of our work, trying once again to prove that world music is music about people, music that concerns people.
World music has made a significant contribution to the civilization and history of the world and humanity. Also this CD is dedicated to all people who are looking for “freedom” and “liberation”.
Off the coast of ‘Lampedusa‘ (composition CK) refugees seeking a safe haven drowned already back in 2013. In this composition you hear the waves crashing on the rocks, you hear the ferocious waves lifting the small boats and slamming them down into the deep black cold water…
“Aleppo” (composition CK), the beautiful city in Syria, where in the year 2016 no one knows who actually is the enemy, completely destroyed. In this composition you experience the warmth and hospitality of the Syrian people, the tenderness with which they shape life, but also the melancholy of a vanished era.
Gently Juan Pablo Dobal leads us with his magic composition ‘Andes’ to the liberation of our soul. It’s as if he invites you in this composition to soften your heart and open it to life.
You don’t have the CD yet at home?
Order it now in our webshop.
Liberacion cd lengte binnenkant

Newsletter -Temporary replacement for Bert Vos

Dear friends and colleagues,
It is a fascinating day in the canals van Amsterdam. People walk around on a very warm and sunny day. The air is electrical and the first bees and butterflies fly enchantingly. It was possibly about 20 years ago, when Carel and Leo Vervelde asked me to, temporarily, be the manager for the Sexteto Canyengue. Temporarily because I, a movement actress, was recuperating from a heavy operation on my feet. Other than having to be on wheelchair, I could function just fine. I had no other income at that time, and the former manager of the Sexteto Canyengue was busy managing other ensembles. I could answer a phone call and use a fax machine. I was already a few years together with Carel and danced tango at Lalo and Mirta Diaz. Further I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so I thought I could take the temporary challenge. That day is now 20 years ago…
April 2016
I have met many great and interesting people, together with Carel I was able to produce several productions and CDs. I have seen families grow and loved ones laid to rest. It was not always easy to keep it all on track, but it has always been a fascinating challenge. We have traveled to many corners of the world and in The Netherlands we have played in many little churches, community centers and theaters. We, Carel and I, always striving for a perfection and balance, be it organizational or content wise. I would like to thank you, the reader, the fan, the one involved in our activities for your support and trust during the past 20 years. Without you I would not have enjoyed my work this much. Allow me to thank you with a sincere bow. The future? We will live it. A new project, a new external booker, new compositions by Carel, but the bandoneón shall always, always be the connecting factor. This unique instrument is our past, our present and possibly mine, and your, future. Once again, thank you for the past 20 years.

Temporary replacement for Bert Vos
As we mentioned in our last newsletter, our first violin player Bert Vos is suffering from a bad hernia. For the concerts of 29th of April at the Beun theater in Heiloo (NL) and 7th of May in Kingenthal (GER) the CKE will play with a temporary replacement for Bert, the fantastic Ruzana Tsymbalova. Currently she leads the Rotterdam Conservatorium student orchestra OTRA. On the 14th of May Carel and some members of the CKE will perform a special concert together with OTRA during the Tango Special at the Doelen in Rotterdam. We wish Bert a speedy recovery.

On a different note,
Just a few days ago, on March 21st the internationally known bandoneón player Luis Stazo passed away. He was born in the 30’s and together with bandoneón player Jose Libertella started the acclaimed Sexteto Mayor, which performed quite often in The Netherlands. Back in 2005 Sexteto Mayor invited Carel to perform with them during their concert at the famous Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. Images of this concert can be found on the DVD that accompanies the ‘Street Tango’ CD.

Live video recording Hotel Victoria
On April 23rd we will make a live video recording of the Hotel Victoria program at the Edesche Concertzaal (NL). We would be pleased with your presence during this recording. There are still tickets available for this performance.

On King’s Day (April 27th) Carel and Juan Pablo will perform during the ‘Koningsconcert’ in ‘s Graveland (NL). On May 5th Carel and Lavinia will perform during the ‘Liberation Concert’ at the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ in Amsterdam.

review Hotel Victoria

Review CD: Hotel Victoria
By: Pablo Rego
Once you hold in your hands a CD called ‘Hotel Victoria’ (the title of a classic tango) where the Dutch headliner Carel Kraayenhof plays the bandoneón and the Argentinean Juan Pablo Dobal is on the piano, you can already imagine how full the box of surprises, which is this CD, is. The content consists of cohesive mix of own original compositions next to some classic tangos waltzes and songs inspired by Argentinean folk music. All of a very high interpretational quality.
While Carel Kraayenhof is a very talented and well known bandoneón player who has his roots in the tango music (a genre in which he has years of experience traveling the world with his Sexteto Canyengue, his Ensemble and as soloist), the collaboration with the versatile and exquisite piano player Juan Pablo Dobal creates an unique channel of expression that strengthens both musicians.Hotel Victoria
Hotel Victoria portrays the essence of an era, with sounds which were perfectly chosen to express this geographical pictures of moments in time from the tango and the folk music. This all well refined by an intellectual process and thereafter translated into an inexplicable synergy of technique and talent.
Throughout the entire CD, with its 16 songs, you can enjoy classic tangos such as ‘Adiós Nonino’, in a solo version from Carel Kraayenhof, ‘Hotel Victoria’ from Feliciano Latasa or a creole waltz from Julio César Sanders ‘Luna de Arrabal’. The tango structure and its traditions are merely the general guideline for the journey through the Argentinean folk music represented in the album; such as the vidala chayera ‘Vamos a chayar’, from Atuto Mercau Soria (a huge cultural rescue operation), the chacareras ‘La equívoca’, from Ariel Ramirez and ‘La carbonera’, from the Avalos Brothers. In additional to that, a generous gift in the shape of own compositions from Kraayenhof and Dobal, which were inspired by Argentinean genres, illustrating the local “music map” of the country; also presenting small pieces of history and multicultural characteristics – that not only from Argentina but from all around the world.
Our attention also goes to the arrangements of the songs, where both musicians made optimal use of the piano and the bandoneón. This based on their vast knowledge of the music they play and the range of possibilities these instruments can offer.
The Dutch Kraayenhof dares to infiltrate himself into a culture of a place of the world where he is obviously passionate about. Using the bandoneón and the tango as a home base, he dives into other genres that you will come across during the journey you will follow from the suburbs of Buenos Aires throughout the South American continent. The inspiration from the Argentinean Dobal and his knowledge of the music of his country, classic and jazz, give a new color to the sounds of his nation, keeping the same emotion.
‘Hotel Victoria’ is a piece of work to be enjoyed, to be discovered, a rich initiative with the piano and the bandoneón as headliners and instrumental sounds of great technical and interpretational qualities.

Carel Kraayenhof & Juan Pablo Dobal concert Giessen-Germany

On May 20th 2016, Carel Kraayenhof and Juan Pablo Dobal will give a concert in Germany- Giessen.
They will perform the programm: Hotel Victoria

Review 4 stars! Hotel Victoria -de Telegraaf

Carel Kraayenhof and Juan Pablo Dobal travel through the country with the music-performance Hotel Victoria. The cd with the same name is a sensitive reproduction of the emotions shared by travelling musicians. The title refers to the famous Gran Hotel Victoria in Buenos Aires where artists used to meet each other, but is also a link to a tango of 1906. It is not only nostalgia what you hear; in the title-number the duo brings an ode to the present nomad-existence of the musician.
recensie Telegraaf 13 febr. 2016