Remembering Henk Alkema


Henk Alkema (20 November 1944 – 4 August 2011)

Since 9 am this morning I have been thirsting for words to inform my musician friends, particularly those non-Dutch classmates who have left the Netherlands, of the sad news.

Henk Alkema taught me composition and arranging; conducted my chamber opera in my final exam, delivered the final grade announcement speech, and actively performed and participated in our Monument House Concert Series.

Henk Alkema speaks at Utrecht Conservatory final exam concert, 2 June 2008

Henk Alkema speech at Utrecht Conservatory final exam concert, 2 June 2008 Photo: F. vd Meer

I knew he was dying. When the news came, it was too soon.

The Dutch press release sent out by his friend Annett Andriesen-Rutter has now reached many Dutch newspapers, radio, and television. The English papers? Not yet.

I have often, since my graduation in 2008, regretted not taking advantage of the proximity of Henk’s houseboat to visit him and get coaching on composition. He lived a mere 2 minute cycle ride from my home in Utrecht, Netherlands.

The truth is — I stopped composing when I graduated from composition. There was no longer a yearning to compose. The hunger that drove me to apply to study at Utrecht Conservatory where Henk was head of composition in 2004 waned as my interest in chamber music performance and cultural economics ballooned.

In January 2004, I began contract lessons with Henk Alkema. He asked me to start from scratch. On alternate weeks, I’d take lessons from the other composition teacher. Their approaches were very different. I blogged about those lessons: food for the soul, composing the Suite Bussum, composing wrong notes, and his honest feedback about my music.

On Friday 22 July 2011, I saw Henk for the last time. I gave him a copy of our piano guitar duo’s new CD “Live at Makawao 2007” produced in Hawaii – containing his “Sailor Talk.”

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2 Comments

Filed under communication, composer, composition, personality, photos

2 responses to “Remembering Henk Alkema

  1. I just heard about his passing, makes me very, very sad. I studied for two andbeautiful music Iǘe ever heard. I think I will play it again one of these days and cry… a half years ‘vrije studierichting compositie’ with him in Utrecht, over 20 years ago. I remember him as such an incredibly warm person, with a passion for music and life I’ve rarely encountered in anyone. His lessons were the higlight of the week. What was so great about all these afternoons and mornings in his tiny office in the old ‘noodgebouw’ (it was not so long after the big fire) is he almost never spoke of musical theory, he spoke of life mostly, and how to reflect it in music. How to make music like speech, how to tell a story. Like you I haven’t seen him since, apart from one or two occasions long ago, and deeply, sincerely regret it. I will miss him dearly. He once gave me an album of his music: Quaquaraqua, have played it a LOT, but not lately; itś with the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. i think i will play it again one of these days, and cry, probably… -Daniël Leeuwenberg.

  2. Dorelle Ackermann

    I do not know Mike Rowland personally. I am just a simple person, touched by the beauty of his music. Yet, the loving comments I have read above does not surprise me at all. I will share with you why I am searching the internet this morning for sheet music of Fairy Ring.
    25 years ago I discovered Fairy Ring and it was the only piece of music that relaxed me after a stressful day teaching high school science. I then shared the music with students that were stressed, anxious and/or depressed. They too fell in love with Fairy Ring. I told my niece that I wanted her to play that piece at my funeral. She didn’t take me seriously. At the time she was about 14 years old. Now, her daughter is about that age and plays the piano beautifully. I again issued the challenge by asking that Sydney learn to play Fairy Ring for me. They have agreed and now I am on the search for sheet music of Fairy Ring. Any suggestions on where I might find it? Thank you and thank you for sharing your memories of Mr. Alkema.

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