Guitar Festival Nordhorn 2017


Spring is late, this year…

The sunlight flares through the branches of the trees along the road, forming a bit of a nuisance in the corner of my eye. Normally the leaves would have provided some shadow at this time of the year. The season is hesitating, the bushes close to the ground wear light green, the tree tops are still bare, their branches reaching towards the sky forming a reflection of their roots in the soil.

I watch my dashboard. Outside temperature three degrees centigrade. Quite cold for the end of April. If the asparagus comes above the ground, it will be scared stiff, which will skyrocket its price.

The typical Twente landscape with woods, thickets, hedgerows and casual fields passes in the early morning cold. I love this countryside and its surprise that lies beyond the hedgerows or hill tops. So different from the grim predictability of the green flats in the west that cause a semi-blindness for the present because of the endless gaze in the distance of the horizon.

My guitar case in the back creaks in the rhythm of the movements of the car and taps against the child’s seat for my granddaughter.

Second chance parenthood…

I am quite satisfied with that, now I have the opportunity to see what I missed while my own kids grew up, yet now without regrets that it is over for good. It’s weird that you don’t think about that in the first act of this game. No time, time flies. How do you survive parenthood when you are in the middle of it?

Such a shame that little Iris is too young for this event. She would have been jumping around and dancing all day. She used to do that when she was little while we played the Haitian Suite. Nice piece of guitar music! Well done, Alberto!

Whatever, Granddaddy is on the move again. The road to Germany cuts through the countryside like a knife, there used to be railway tracks long ago, now it’s a road. I turn op the music. Let’s get in the mood!

I am glad that I can drive at a moderate speed. I have a preference for the back roads. Less speedy and most drivers refrain from dangerous behaviour apart from a casual foolhardy overtaking manoeuvre. At this pace I have the opportunity to admire the environment or take a look if here are more roads that lead towards Rome/

I used to entertain anxieties on highways for quite a while…

I was frightened by the compulsion of the through traffic, the pressure of speed and a sense of disorientation in the dark when I was blinded by the headlights in front of me and behind on crowded intersections.

It was not the highway itself that struck fear into me…

No, it was the destination, the end of the highway. Confrontation with decay and open ends. Ghosts from the past that hampered my view on the future. Reproaches that my road had led me to another place. Expectations that I did not meet.

This road is different…

Yes, this is the road to reunion, not the road towards separation and goodbye. I experience a bit of tension. What is the effect of time on an encounter? Will my reminiscence of it turn into nostalgia?

Not every encounter turns into a deliberate goodbye…

Many encounters are passages. Ships that sail along and leave, each taking its own course. A salute, a wish for a safe journey and loneliness in the end. At most the stern light will remain visible until it disappears in the fog or behind the horizon.

Last year’s encounter awoke something in me. As a consequence, I am a writer again, rather than a text collector that tries to stick together a story but fails to find the connection.

A miraculous story, from encounter to embrace in four days…

Obviously last year’s goodbye was sharp, almost painful, and presented me with a clear urgency. Goodbye was to turn into Reunion, I could not allow to lose it. It pushed my urge for contact, an area of tension between cautiousness and openness, with the balance slowly shifting to an open heart.

I guess many more people felt that way at the last festival…

I cross the winding river that forms the eastern border of the Twente district. My thoughts linger likewise in my mind.

Reunion… Confirmation or negation?

All the years that I visited the Guitar Festival Nordhorn, to my great pleasure I have experienced that reunion is a confirmation in many cases. A confirmation of the friendly atmosphere, the music, the contact with the people that visit the event. A highlight in my year, something I am looking forward to.

The German border… I reduce my speed to enable some early eager buyers to cross the street with their gear.

No customs, just a supermarket…

My mind goes back to the pre-Schengen era. Occasionally we had more in our luggage space than was permitted for duty-free import. Packages of Duplo bricks for the kids, materials for the model railway, all much cheaper than in Holland. I remember a bit of tension, passing the border. Would we be checked or not? No, we were no smugglers with a car full of stuff in the back. Still, it’s the idea of getting caught, isn’t it?

At this very moment, I carry five years of history of the Guitar Festival Nordhorn in my luggage space. Feast on Six Strings, Five Years of Guitar Festival Nordhorn, a box full of one kilogramme books with interviews and stories. A heavy load to carry in, right away!

The Mittelstrasse is not far away any more. To my surprise, I find a parking spot just opposite the front door. The notice Heute Gitarrenfestival Nordhorn is outside the Kulturhaus NIHZ. I carry my books and guitar inside.

Then, the first reunion of these days. Bobby, Sanna, Fred, Angie, Ine, Jim, Thomas and his girlfriend Marian. We greet each other with what I call The Nordhorn Hug. That’s one that I learnt here!

It’s there immediately: I am right into the energy of friendship and fellowship that is so characteristic for this festival, a kind of a warm bath to dive in to.

That is the real start of the festival!


A guitar festival. Three days of guitar competitions, master classes, workshops and concerts. It looks like a simple and effective concept. That was the fresh start in Nordhorn in 2011, with a single competition (Cat. 1) for the professionals with a hand-built guitar as main prize.

Ever since the concept has been adapted and improved on various subjects. In 2012 an amateur competition for players above 16 was added in 2012, in 2015 this competition was extended with a category for players younger than 15 years (Cat. 3). In 2016 two new competitions were organised, the Composers Competition (Cat. 5) and the Asturias Vodka Competition.

Kulturhaus NIHZ also extended the cooperation with other podia in the environment. For me personally this had the disadvantage that I had to choose were to go. This year I decided to stay within Kulturhaus NIHZ. Obviously, I did miss a number of great concerts as a consequence. The supply appeared larger than I could visit.

This year’s novelty is the Ensemble Competition that is open for all instrumental combinations with guitar. This competition got the marking Cat. 6.

The observant reader will notice that Cat. 4 is missing. Investigations are in progress after the cause of the disappearance. However, the cause appeared to be my spectacles: The Asturias Vodka Competition is Cat. 4. Maybe I should drink Vodka rather than wine while writing!