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Culture Press Tonapodcast (19): Willemijn Mooij had to cancel the Matthew Passion: 'Leading from a distance is hard for me'

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'Last (Silent, ed.) Saturday, we ventured out to dinner at friends', my husband and I once again. We were tired of just talking about Corona. Then we agreed to have a music night. We all work in classical music, but agreed to listen to precisely no classical music. It became an evening of 1980s pop music. We spent the whole evening watching YouTube videos on a big screen. It brought back fond childhood memories. I didn't have the courage to listen to a complete Matthew. I just didn't pull that off.'

Willemijn Mooij has had a bizarrely hectic time as business director of the Netherlands Bach Society. For the second time in the association's nearly 100-year existence, the St Matthew Passion in Naarden's Grote Kerk was cancelled. Last time was at the end of the Hunger Winter in 1945, when the Netherlands was almost liberated from German occupation. Now a pandemic threw a spanner in the works.

Shoulders loose

For the Bach Society, it became clear early on that 2020 could be a very tough year, Mooij says: 'The first thing was the subsidy applications for the national subsidy and for the Utrecht municipality. That's an awful lot of work. So I had already spent two months locked up like a monk writing. That was finished by the end of January. Then I took a time-out for one week to loosen my shoulders a bit.'

Willemijn Mooij, photo Simon van Boxtel

On returning, corona appeared to have arrived in the Netherlands. 'In early March we brought the Trauerode, very appropriate afterwards, and that's when we noticed it. It wasn't as full as usual. We saw that certain sponsors didn't come, even though they had tickets. From then on, I basically just stood on my head.'

Things moved fast. 'We took the decision to cancel as early as 16 March. There was nothing to suggest that we could resume after 31 March. We also couldn't get it done because we couldn't get many foreign musicians, especially the soloists, to come to the Netherlands. We were completely in overkill by then.'

'The musicians were the first thing I thought of.'

Good to know Good to know
In this podcast Willemijn Mooij talks candidly about life after cancellation. A transcript of the entire conversation will soon appear on the website of Cultural Affairs of the Municipality of Utrecht, also accessible via this link:

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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