Nigel’s first work as Composer-in-Residence to the Marinierskapel der Koninklijke Marine (Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy) `Storm Surge’ was premiered under the baton of Major Peter Kleine Schaars. The concert took place on 6th November to a near capacity audience in the magnificent de Doelan 2000 seater concert hall in Rotterdam, Netherlands. A week later after the concert the Marinierskapel der Koninklijke Marine recorded `Storm Surge’ with the Art of Sound department at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in Den Haag, Netherlands.
`Storm Surge’ is a musical representation of the devastating North Sea storm surge (in Dutch, Watersnoodramp) of 1953. `Storm Surge’ is a musical representation of the devastating North Sea storm surge (in Dutch, Watersnoodramp) of 1953. The surge left 2,551 dead – 1,836 from the Netherlands alone, together with fatalities in Scotland, England and West Flanders in Belgium. Nine percent of farmland in the Netherlands was flooded, over 30,000 animals were drowned and tens of thousands of properties were damaged or destroyed. The destruction was certainly comparable to that caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 which resulted in 1,833 fatalities in the southern United States of America and the Caribbean as well as Eastern North America. Mostly recently the Philippines experienced a storm surge with Typhoon Haiyan (2013) with winds of up to 270km/h exacerbating flooding. In today’s world we increasingly reassure ourselves that that we control our environment but the truth is that we are not, and never will be, immune from the forces that nature can unleash upon us. The storm of 1953 began during the night of 31 January and continued through the morning of 1 February. The devastating event resulted from a combination of a high spring tide, heavy wind and rain and a massive storm over the North Sea.
In Nigel’s musical depiction `Storm Surge’ starts off with calm waters, while we hear the steadily growing sounds of the wind and sea. A specially commissioned poem written by Martin Westlake and spoken over these sounds warns of the dangers of ignoring the storm. An off stage trumpet is heard playing a fragment from `Wilhelmus van Nassouwe’ – the National Anthem of the Netherlands. Slowly, the storm starts to take hold and the sea begins to swell. The violence of the storm then erupts but before it reaches its climax the music returns briefly to the Dutch National Anthem giving a sense of the calm in the `eye of the storm’. Then it returns to the storm surge and depicts the sea breaking through and ravaging the coastline. Eventually the storm-surge recedes until a lone trumpet is left quoting broken fragments of `Wilhelmus van Nassouwe’ – the piece closes with a calm breeze mournfully revealing the devastation left behind by this natural disaster.
See a short clip from this recording session at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in Den Haag.