Niels Bijl

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‘Circus of Nothing’ is really a circus of everything

Trouw, May 16th, 2007

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention for: just someone with a act of nothing!’ In the youth concert ‘Circus of Nothing’ René Groothof stands with empty hands on the stage. With a packet of chips in his hands he walks nonchalantly into the small hall from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, as if he is lost. His co-stars are the four saxophonists of the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet. They are dressed in white suits and their faces are even painted white.

The men blow musical notes in his ears that he can’t place. ‘What do they want from him?’, he seems to be asking. The children in the audience burst into laughter at his clumsy behaviour. And so he finds himself smack bang in the leading role in the concert, the role of the stupid clown. On the stage stands a small table with circus props: a red nose, juggling balls and invisible masks to make you look happy or sad. That is not much, but a clown can make the most of it. Certainly if he is called René Groothof and can wrap the young audience around his little finger by making jokes about the four funny looking white clowns with their strange honky instruments.

In no time he has the hall in the palm of his hand through a series of simple pantomime acts to music. He imitates the movement of the saxophonists, floats underneath an invisible balloon over the stage or wanders into the audience and picks a birthday girl our of the audience. The girl is wearing a princess dress and is missing two front teeth, so that she also looked like a clown girl.

The saxophonists, one in white tails, another in white satin knickerbockers, remind me of Pierrot and match the picture perfectly. They move as a group over the stage and seem to be talking with their musical instruments. Sometimes a saxophone sounds surprised then mournful or cheerful. The music and the act meld together beautifully. Johan van der Linden on soprano saxophone, Niels Bijl on alto saxophone, Arno Bornkamp on tenor saxophone and Willem van Merwijk on baritone saxophone playing modern and classical compositions, that vary from John Cage to Shostakovich to Bach.

The atmosphere of this theatrical concert suggests classic Italian films such as ‘I Clowns’ and ‘La Strada’ by Fellini and the music of Nina Rota. ‘Circus of Nothing’ resembles the Commedia dell’Arte of street artists of bygone days. It reality it is simply a ‘Circus of Everything’.

Trouw, Anita Twaalfhoven