Who I am

My name is Thony, I was born in 1957 in the Netherlands, and still live there, in a suburb of Amsterdam with my wife and two children (well, that is: my daughter is now studying in another town, but sleeps here now and then). I play the cittern. There, that's all there really is to know, so you're excused now to click back to main page

A biologist by education, I worked for 10 years as a biochemist. At present (not really, see the end of this paragraph), I work as systems- and database administrator at a small institute financed by the Dutch government that provides free interpretors for non-Dutch speaking people. So, quite a change, and it keeps me rather busy right now to learn all there is to know about computers, database management and operating systems. Actually, we recently merged with 5 of our peers. I am now involved in a project to improve communications via Exchange and the Internet, which will keep me off the streets for a while :-). UPDATE: I have changed job AGAIN. And it still keeps me off the streets. UPDATE AGAIN: I have another job, this time one that suits me better. I am now a Civil Servant, working as Application Manager for a financial department, taking care of Oracle's JDEdwards suite.

Of the little time I have left (yeah, right...[who am I kidding, I just resigned from the angling society, it isn't going to happen anymore]), I spend some at the waterfront, trying to catch some fish (only to put them back) , but mostly watching everything that lives in or near the water. This I usually do in the evening, the hour(s) before dark. Most of my time goes to my other favourite pastime: listening to music and making music myself, to which this homepage is devoted. And, of course, writing HTML. No fancy stuff like Java or Active-X. I have this funny idea that the internet is about content, not about how flashy the pages look. My taste for music: anything that is really good _and_ existed already in the early 70's. That rules out punk, house, hiphop, grunge, etc. I like: symphonic rock (Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes), hard-rock (Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin,etc) but also classic music, especially for guitar. Last but not least: any good folk music.

In 2005-2006 I was part of an Irish trad band called Binneas, which is one of the reasons the website didn't get enough attention.

Read on for the story of how I got to play the cittern or click back to main page.

How I got to play the cittern

I am not much of a guitarist at all, but what I learned I taught myself. I started playing guitar at the age of 17, much against the advice of my parents, who wanted me to believe that it would not work out at all, me not being musical in any sense of the word. This was not without truth, however this was just the motivation I needed to accomplish anything. I practiced at least an hour a day for years. I started with a tutor book, but was bored very soon. My influences were rock music, like Status Quo and Deep Purple, but also Mike Oldfield. I played fingerpicking guitar with one friend on classical guitar, and rock (well, we thought so...) on electric guitar in the basement of another friend. Even played for a couple of days in the school band until they, rightfully, dismissed me for lack of rythm in my playing. The breakthrough came when I got hold of a piece of sheet music by Harry Sacksioni, a great Dutch finger-picking guitarist. I spent a full year of practicing on this piece, nothing else. By the end of the year the transcription of his first two solo records came out, and there never was a dull moment again. Recently I attended a concert by Harry Sacksioni. He said that Metasequoia, the piece I studied, was now used as study material in music college. I guess I have good taste. He also said he had heard quite some, ahem, variations. I wonder what he meant :-).

I started with a "Spanish guitar" of $25, but for my graduation from highschool my parents gave me an Epiphone folk guitar that I still have. From my first earnings I purchased a classical guitar and an electric guitar, that I sold a couple of years ago because I didn't play them a lot anymore, and had better use for money (this is where I were no longer a biochemist, and not yet a systems administrator). I also bought a second-hand 12-string guitar, that will turn up later in this story.

Hey, wasn't this page about citterns? OK, hang on, I'll come to that. At age 19, 20 or so I was pointed to records by the Chieftains and the Bothy Band, and to records by Dutch groups Fungus and Wolverlei and others. This I found really fantastic music. To play the melodies on guitar was a whole different ballpark though. When I purchased a cheap mandolin, and a Clarke C whistle, I found that the melodies were easier to play this way, but I could never play along with the records. Little did I know that playing D melodies with a C whistle is hard. Just as hard as buying De Dannann records and trying to play along with my new D whistle :-) (OK, I'll explain: they tune up half a tone, just as Dervish do. A real pain...)

All this came together somewhere in 1983 when I witnessed a band play on the streets of Amsterdam, a group of Dutch musicians by the name of Stendelaar who played Irish music like they were Irish themselves. The fiddlers were Sonja Trouw, now O'Brian, who makes a living from Irish music in Ireland, running the Boghill Centre. The other was Egon Kraak, who lives now in Groningen, still making music. The accordian player was Eltjo Toorn, who is the guy I play with the most nowadays, mainly in sessions. I stepped up to them and boldly said: teach me this wonderful music. So they did, and I eventually became a member of Stendelaar in 1986, but the group split up shortly after that due to the members diffusing over the globe. Update: I am now was in the Dutch quintet Binneas: www. binneas.nl (at the end of 2006 the band ceased to exist).

I started to play rythm guitar in Irish sessions, and with a formation of a singer, a violinist (Egon) and me. I came up with weird chord shapes and sequences to get anywhere near the ideal sound, like Bothy Band. Also playing melody with regular tuning was hard. What I was really after, was someone explaining me about DADGAD, but alas, nobody came up with that idea. Instead, I took my 12-string and converted it into a 5-course "cittern" with GDAea tuning. This was in around 1985, I knew only one bouzouki player, and there was no Cittern mailing list. I was pretty sure I invented this tuning myself. For melody playing this was quite a good thing, for chords it stunk, and sounded still like a guitar. Buying a Sobell cittern (the only ones I knew existed) was way out of my league, but I was told the address of Jaap Kraayenhof, an apprentice of Stefan Sobell, who just started making citterns.

Jaap Kraayenhof made me a cittern in 1986, to my specifications: short (guitar - 3 frets), light, loud, but with more warmth than the Sobell, and 5 courses. He did it much cheaper than Sobell, and within a couple of months. I still play the same instrument.

Jaap adviced me to tune GDAda. When he demonstrated the instrument to me when I picked it up, that was how it was tuned, and it sounded great! The problem was that I just got myself a repertoire based on playing GDAea, so I was foolish and stuck to that.

In 1988 I obtained a position as assistant professor in Leiden, and shortly after moved house. I spent all my time on my career. Unfortunately, I lost the position and worked again in Amsterdam, adding 3 hours of travel to my days. Also that job was temporary, and I ended up first as a volunteer, then as jobless. Funny, being jobless meant working harder than before! Basically, I totally lost contact with musicians for almost ten years. Now I work and live in Amsterdam again, and slowly get back to the routine of sessions, and perhaps will play in a group once again.

Having forgotten the tunes anyway, I started all over again, now with GDAda as I should have in the first place. Sometimes it is awkward when I start a tune in a session that nobody plays along, only to find out in the second part that I learned this in the old tuning :-(.

You read all of the above without skipping? Get a life!

Last updated: Feb 12th 2007

main page
These pages (http://www.xs4all.nl/~cittern/) copyright 1999-2007 Anthony de Waal. Please link, but to the index page only!