It’s summer so in Holland it’s time for “Zomergasten” an iconic yearly TV show, which is perhaps my favorite thing on this medium anywhere. Presented by a different host every year, it has only one guest who, for the three hours the program lasts, has total freedom to discuss any topic, tell any story or share any observation, while showing video clips from any movie/TV show/documentary he wants. Mind you, there are no commercial interruptions! This years presenter is Wilfried de Jong, a very smart and truly interested person, and the first guest was none other than Freek de Jonge, a living legend in the Netherlands. A true artist, de Jonge discusses many many interesting topics and makes it clear that he’s as free as a human can be in this day and age: his one-man theater shows are completely and utterly uncompromised, not by commerce, or by the desire to be liked by everyone which plagues so many these days.
In this 180 minute journey, we see a young Charlie Chaplin, discovering his talents in a time where close-up shots had not even been considered yet! We witness the most unbelievable put by Tiger Woods: the movement of the ball includes what looks like about a 90 degree turn, and then a teetering on the edge of the hole for literally seconds before it seems like the growing roar of the crowd provides the last little push it needs to go in! There are many more very interesting parts, but where it really got me was when Freek showed us a few minutes of a British program called The Choir: Military Wives.
It’s the fourth season of a show in which conductor Gareth Malone rounds up groups of people to form a singing group. This is no populist BS though, he works them, but more importantly, literally makes them better people. I’ve said many times the we westerners don’t sing together enough! I haven’t seen the whole show, but in the 5 minutes we got to witness on Zomergasten, at first we see a few dozen women whose husbands are away at war; these are ladies who know each other, but in England there’s not much socializing between folks of different ranks so they don’t know each other well. Also, most are not singers and visibly uncomfortable with the whole situation. In addition, military wives are probably in a similarly rigid system as their husbands, not used to the ‘cutting loose and letting go’ that music begs for.
By the time that they perform in front of prince Charles at Royal Albert Hall (!!!!) their faces have completely changed; I get tears in my eyes writing this, I can see the unity, the peace, the togetherness, the confidence. It’s like they were girls and now they are women. Freek makes some very fascinating observations: “when their husbands come back from the war, they’re going to have a problem!” The women have now far surpassed their partners in this journey of discovery we call life, as the latter have probably regressed in their understanding of balance and happiness. Wives who acted like they had never been listened to have now learned to wield the power of their voices, in the best, most selfless way possible.
One final interesting thing: even though most Dutch public TV shows are watchable online these days, for free by the way, most of the time Zomergasten is not, but this episode was! You know why? Because the restrictions always come due to ‘geographic’ license issues in this over-commercialized world; but true art is not run by money managers! There were no Disney clips, no major network Amercian TV…….. and the result was another perfect example of the potential of this Medium!
UPDATE: found out that the entire three part series can be watched on Youtube in perfectly fine quality! I watched it last night and was so moved……. Choir Director Gareth Malone is quite an interesting character, and at points all his judgements of these women (“they literally have no voice!”) seem quite pretentious and almost vulgar, but then the faces don’t lie and the incredible joy and thankfulness they experience moved me to tears. Wow!