The years 2000 up to 2009

The third FATA MORGANA decennium. 88 concerts in 12 different countries, another player change and the release of three CD’s.

In the beginning of the 21st century, cassette tapes were hardly sold anymore. So the pieces from the two tapes that had been released in the 1980’s were put on a compilation CD Recordings Of The 80’s. In March, FATA MORGANA played in Balingen, Germany. this was the first part of an exchange concert with harmonica quartet Harmonicamento, followed by a quick concert at the Harmonica Museum in Trossingen the next morning. The 2000 Novam harmonica festival was organized in Eindhoven in May by the EMC orchestra. At this festival, in the Frits Philips Theatre, Ronald was a judge at the competition, Rob hosted the festival on stage, and FATA MORGANA played at the gala concert on Saturday evening. In September, the quartet played for the first time at the international harmonica concert in Homécourt, France, as organized by Jean-Louis Emmenecker. It was a very successful concert with 650 enthusiastic harmonica fans in the audience.

FATA MORGANA celebrated its 20th anniversary in Valkenswaard on Saturday September 28, with a party together with some 60 harmonica friends. The group played “Malaga” with the players from 1982 (Ronald, Rob, Erik and Elly) and “Un Type Normal” with the players from 1991 (Ronald, Rob, Dirk and Lex). They even used the original costumes. A Powerpoint slideshow was presented, showing the history of the quartet.

Sunday September 29 during the anniversary concert, Harmonicamento played as guests and the CD For Once In My Life was presented (the complete cd production was handled by FATA MORGANA, and the disc was ready on time). The foto sessions for the cd brought some special moments: when shooting the cover picture at a roulette table at Holland Casino in Eindhoven, they almost had one of the cleaning ladies in the background of the picture, including her vacuum cleaner.

When doing the picture for the inside cover in the tropical environment of holiday parc Kempervennen in the village of Westerhoven, there were quite some people who were interested to see the waitress in bikini who was serving cocktails to the quartet… But in the end of of this lead to a fine cd that looked good and sounded good. As with the Way To Heart cd, the piece that the For Once In My Life cd was named after was never performed live by FATA MORGANA.

The year 2001 was not so busy: the group played only 7 concerts. But there were several interesting events. A concert with a FATA MORGANA cd as a gift by the organizer for everybody in the audience, a nice informal session in Balken, Germany, the second performance at the Homécourt concert, and in October the World Harmonica Festival in Trossingen, were FATA MORGANA played on the gala concert “Classic Meets Jazz”, together with Franz Chmel, Sigmund Groven and Hendrik Meurkens. At this festival, the group also did a workshop on “playing bass and chord in a harmonica group”, combined with “arranging for harmonica groups”. Additionally there was a small concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of the harmonica museum. Rob and Ronald were judges in the competition, and Rob also hosted one of the gala concerts. There was also the opportunity to have some fun during informal sessions, like the one at Gasthof Linde with (a.o.) Harmonica Quartet Austria. In November, Dirk left the group.

The others decided to try to find a new chromatic player. Where from? Guess what: the EMC orchestra (again) had a suitable person. Paul Cornelissen played chromatic in the orchestra and had also gathered quite some experience already playing in the Duo Cadence with remco van den Boom on keyboards. At the end of November, Paul became the new chromatic player in the group.

Paul needed some time to practice the group repertoire, so some of the first concerts in 2002 were played (partly) as a trio. Yet Paul played his first concert already on January 5th (two pieces), at the 70th birthday of harmonica player Hermann Otto Brand in Hilden, Germany. Paul’s start as FATA MORGANA’s treasurer was less successful: a few days after the petty cash was handed over to him, it got stolen from Paul’s house. But from a musical standpoint everything went well. Over the year 2002 the group did 11 concerts, of which 5 abroad.

In July there was the trip to Estonia, to play at the Baltic-Nordic Harmonica Festival in Parnu. A harmonica festival in a completely different environment, but with the usual enthusiasm. Well organized, new harmonica friends and a good performance by FATA MORGANA after the player-change. When Novam celebrated it’s 75th anniversary, FATA MORGANA played as a harmonica quartet, but also as a trio with Paul (harmonica), Ronald (piano) and Rob (bass guitar). Late October, the group played at the “harmonica evening”, organized by the Swiss harmonica trio Pranhas in Basel. Surprisingly, even after midnight, the 500+ people in the audience were still thrilled.

In November there was the presentation of the cd “The Harmonica In The Netherlands, 1947-2002”. This cd had been produced by Bas van Toor, who in the Netherlands was well known for his “clown Bassie” character in TV programs for kids. It was a set of two compilation cd’s, for which FATA MORGANA had provided a radio recording of Tell Her About It. Rob provided a recording of Nature Boy, played for a radio show as a harmonica soloist together with the Metropole Orchestra. In 2002, the group invested in wireless microphones: this lead to more efficiency when setting up the system, en more freedom of movement when playing.

Out of the total of 12 performances in 2003, only three happened in the Netherlands. In April, the group spend a very nice weekend in France with harmonica club Harmonica 17 in La Rochelle. It was all about enjoying the French hospitality, cosy get-togethers and a great harmonica concert. All of this went on despite the challenges regarding the language. Harmonica 17 had rescheduled the date for the concert because FATA MORGANA couldn’t make it at the initial date. In May the quartet made the trip to Northern Germany, to be present at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the German trio Nord. They had organized two concerts in Niebüll and Husum, together with FATA MORGANA, and the groups Piccolo (from Estonia), Grisentis (Austria) and the Blizza Harmonica Gang (Germany). For both Paul and Rob, this event (that was very well organized) was also a nice family trip.

After having played in Belgium in June and in Luxemburg in July, August was the time for the 40th SPAH Convention in Dallas, Texas, US. The absolute highlight for 2003. The invitation by SPAH president Douglas Tate to perform at the Saturday night gala concert had been accepted with pleasure. It turned out to be a great experience: five days of harmonica madness in the Harvey Hotel in Irving near Dallas, and the honor of playing a one hour show after great performances of players like Norton Buffalo. FATA MORGANA had prepared a special US-part of their performance, starting with the theme from the TV series Dallas, and using cowboy hats that were bought during a sight seeing trip to Fort Worth. The players who hadn’t been at the concert, but saw FATA MORGANA afterwards, dressed in their black-, white and yellow outfit, thought that they were waiters and started ordering drinks. But although FATA MORGANA wasn’t selling drinks, they sold quite some cd’s.

The year 2004 wasn’t really special. The group played only 7 concerts, of which 4 in the Netherlands. But with some nice new experiences, like a concert in Fraire (south Belgium) and a business dinner in the medieval castle Maurick in Vught, the Netherlands. After a performance at an event in Valkenswaard, FATA MORGANA couldn’t leave, since somebody had chained his bicycle to the group’s trailer. It took quite some time before the owner of the bicycle was located. September brought the quartet’s third performance at the harmonica concert in the Picasso theatre in Homécourt, France. As usual, it turned out to be successful show, with a great audience. 2004 was the year when the group started recording pieces for the next cd. Because of limited time and technical problems with the recording equipment, the initial planning of releasing the cd in 2005 had to be adjusted.

Fata Morgana and Harmonica quartett Austria

The first performance in 2005 was at a concert of Accordeon Orchestra Concertina in Middelburg. Two FATA MORGANA shows: one on stage during the concert, and one after the concert in the lobby. The last one happened (at least partly) as a trio, when Ronald, Antal and Rob decided to just play a trio piece when Paul left for the men’s room…

EMC celebrated its 35th anniversary with a concert in June in Eindhoven, and this occasion brought Al and Judy Smith to the Netherlands. FATA MORGANA decided to, after having played at the EMC concert as well, take Al and Judy for a trip to the south of Germany. In the little village of Salem, a harmonica session took place with the Jovis Trio and the Picca Trio (from Germany), the Tramps Trio and the Piranhas Trio (from Switzerland), Harmonica Quartet Austria and FATA MORGANA. This was a typical example of what enjoying harmonica playing is all about.

In September, FATA MORGANA played at the airport of Dortmund (Germany), as part of a series of concerts in extraordinary buildings, organized by the cultural foundation “Mommenta”. Two concerts foloowed in October: the first one was in Kasterlee, Belgium and the second one was at “Harmonica 2005”, the NHL event in Bristol, UK. A great festival, where FATA MORGANA did a workshop, played in the Saturday evening concert, and met a lot of old and new harmonica friends. To the group’s surprise, Jim Hughes gave them a cd with the recordings that had been made in 1987 together with Ronald and Rob. The recordings, that had been made in the UK, had turned up in Japan more than 15 years later.

The chord player of the Picca Trio, Moses Post, celebrated his 70th birthday in January with a harmonica party. FATA MORGANA attended the event and also played some pieces, including a special version in Buona Sera. Rob made it special with his performance that was influenced by the beers he had before… In May, the quartet was invited by Jean Claude Lavergne to play at a harmonica concert in Auxerre, together with Sebastian Charlier and Willi Burger. For FATA MORGANA this was the first time they met the Italian harmonica legend; not only a brilliant player but also a very nice person. The Chablis wine after the concert was great.

June 10th was an important date: FATA MORGANA’s 25th anniversary was celebrated with a concert in theatre De Hofnar in Valkenswaard. The concert included a guest performance by the Southern Comfort Barber Mates (a barbershop choir from Eindhoven) and the presentation of the new cd Struttin’ With Some Harmonica. All the artwork for the cd had been done by UK harmonica player Paul Gillings. Although it didn’t happen at the concert in June, the tune that gave the cd its name (Struttin’ With Some Barbecue by Louis Armstrong) was played live by FATA MORGANA at later concerts.

In August, the quartet played at the festival Harmonica Bridge Torun-Bydgoszcz in Poland. A Dutch speaking lady was appointed to guide the group to the concert hall in Torun to play the first concert, and then to Bydgoszcz, where a FATA MORGANA played their second concert. Unfortunately the video recordings of this last performance were never received, despite commitments by the Polish organizers.

In October there was another experience with playing part of the show in the lobby of the theatre, after the concert by an accordion orchestra. The audience was amazed, and many cd’s were sold in between playing the planned pieces. The year ended with a concert in Beerse, Belgium, again at a concert of an accordion orchestra.

January 2007, the quartet started the new year with a guest performance in Hagenau (near Strasbourg, France). In June, a concert was planned during the DHV harmonica festival in Hilden, Germany. The performance was less successful, mainly due to technical problems with the digital mixing console. In September Jean-Louis Emmenecker had organized the harmonica concert at Homécourt, for the eight time and the Dutch group participated for the fourth time. One month later, (for the first time in many years), there was a harmonica presentation at a Novam accordion weekend, done by FATA MORGANA. In November, Novam organized a harmonica day in Tilburg with a wide range of different harmonica performances. Fortunately, FATA MORGANA came on second last. The last show was by Hermine Deurloo, and she had to finish early because of a smoke alarm in the building. A few weeks later, at a concert of different accordion orchestras (where FATA MORGANA did a guest performance), the program booklet showed the following question: “Tell me, what other musical instrument is as versatile as the accordion?” The answer to that question was easy, and was given during the FATA MORGANA performance. 2007 ended with a great finale: playing at the harmonica concert in Basel, organized by the Piranhas trio. After a sneaky entry into Switzerland (Paul had forgotten his passport) the weekend was great and so was the feedback from the audience during the Saturday evening concert.

This year, 8 from the total of 11 concerts were with accordion orchestras. It started with “Harmonicas in Harmony”, a show in Helmond with the orchestra Accordeana. In March there were two concerts with Fortissimo in Koog aan de Zaan (a good reason for the quartet to spend a weekend in the Zaanstreek area north of Amsterdam). In April the group played in Strasbourg, France, with Ensemble d’ Accordéons de l’ill. Then there was a harmonica evening in Helmond, together with Ben Bouman and Joe Powers and another four concerts with accordion orchestras: Scala in Maastricht, Dansende Vingers in Lille (Belgium), and twice with KNA in Emst, where the group played as a quartet, but where there were also performances of FATA MORGANA with the orchestra (Moon River), Ronald with the accordion orchestra (Over The Rainbow) and Rob with the accordion orchestra (Circle Of Smiles).

Late November, in Dortmund, Germany, FATA MORGANA played (as earlier in Dortmund) another show in an extraordinary environment: in the warehouse of a wholesale company, in between pallet racking and frozen foods. The concert in December was a special one: Paul had planned to spend the year 2009 on the Caribbean island Curacao as part of the development of his professional career. So in December, the group played as a quartet, before become a trio for a twelve month period. This happened on the farewell party that Paul and Rinske had organized in Son. In 2008, part of the sound system was replaced: with new amplifiers and a new digital Yamaha LS-9 mixing console, the group was not depending anymore on the unreliable Allen & Heath mixer.

The first one of seven concerts in 2009 was special: and not only because it was a trio performance. The group was not so familiar yet with the new mixing console, and very limited time was available for sound check. When technical things started going wrong, it turned out that the name of theatre “de Kunstgreep” (artifice), got a special meaning, since the group had to decide to play “unplugged”. Fortunately, the theatre was great for acoustic playing. So the mixer got some extra attention, and at the following show (in April in Belgium), the full functionality was available and the players knew how to handle what they needed.

In May there was something special: FATA MORGANA had been approached in January by Harmonica Quartet Austria. They had played a couple of times already at a harmonica festival in Croatia, and were invited again for the 2009-festival. Due to other obligations they couldn’t make it.

For FATA MORGANA, all of this lead to bringing Paul back for the occasion, and playing as a quartet in Gracisce, Croatia. After Paul’s 11 hour flight, and the group’s 1.400 km of driving, a successful 1 hour concert was played at the Croatian event. I was a four day trip with nice memories. Afterwards, Paul flew back to Curacao, and the other three players continued doing trio shows. In Geldrop at a cultural festival, then in Thy-le-Chateau (southern Belgium). The invitation by Hungarian blues player Matyas Pribojszki to play at a festival in Budapest was accepted with pleasure. In October, Ronald, Antal and Rob flew to Hungary and played in Club Gödör, in a show with a.o. Matyas himself and French soloist Michel Herblin. Paul was the only one of the group who had been to Budapest before, so it wasn’t that bad that he could come along. After playing with accordion orchestra Accordia in Kerkrade in December, the year came to an end and the group started preparing for quartet performances again.