Sunday 19 December 1971

DOLF VAN DER LINDEN (English version)

The following article is an overview of the career of Dutch pianist, arranger, and conductor Dolf van der Linden. The main source of information is the biographical book published about the life of Dolf van der Linden, “Dolf van der Linden. De vader van het Metropole Orkest”, written by the undersigned and published in 2015 by Stichting Vrienden van het Metropole Orkest. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Dolf van der Linden's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

Een Nederlandse versie van dit artikel is beschikbaar via deze link.

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2015 & 2023

  1. Passport
  2. Short Eurovision record
  3. Biography
  4. Eurovision Song Contest
  5. Other artists about Dolf van der Linden
  6. Eurovision involvement year by year
  7. Sources & links

Born: June 22nd, 1915, Vlaardingen (Netherlands)
Died: January 30th, 1999, Weesp (Netherlands)
Nationality: Dutch


Although involved in the Netherlands’ national selection as a conductor in 1956, Dolf van der Linden did not make his international Eurovision debut until one year later, being part of the winning Dutch team around Corry Brokken, who performed ‘Net als toen’. In total, Van der Linden was involved in thirteen Eurovision editions between 1957 and 1971, conducting a total of eighteen entries, including three winners; apart from ‘Net als toen’, he also led the orchestra for ‘Een beetje’ (1959) and ‘All Kinds Of Everything’ (1970). Moreover, Dolf van der Linden also was the chief conductor of the 1958 and 1970 Eurovision Song Contests, both held in the Netherlands.


Young years (1915-1933)

Dolf van der Linden was born as David Gijsbert van der Linden in 1915 in Vlaardingen, an industrial town to the west of Rotterdam. His father Joseph ran a hairdresser's shop there. David grew up in a large family; there was his half-brother Joop, seven years his senior, but his parents had five more children after him – the youngest being the only family member also destined for a career in music, his brother Rob, who was 21 years younger than David.

Shortly after David's birth, Joseph van der Linden's barber shop went bankrupt. In the following years, Joseph, restless and inventive, made ends meet by doing odd jobs here and there, working as a beach photographer in Hook of Holland among many other things. Alongside all his other talents, Joseph also was a fine musician. With a self-built double bass, he played in an amateur orchestra for 15 years, but he mastered several other instruments too. In 1923, he decided to turn his hobby into business; with a modest amount of savings as collateral, he opened a music store in the centre of Vlaardingen. He mainly sold pianos and harmoniums – as well as gramophones later on. Initially, business went well; over time, he set up a second shop in nearby Maassluis.

Music played an important role in the Van der Linden family, even before Joseph opened his shop. “In our family, music was a regular feature”, Dolf van der Linden recalled years later. “When a few family members sat together, the piano inevitably became their focal point. All of my uncles and aunts owned a piano. My father (…) was an excellent amateur violinist. When I was 7 years old, he put a violin in my hands. It wasn't something which came unexpected. In our family, this was perfectly natural.” Father Joseph gave young David his first violin lessons and also taught him the basics of music theory – as well as drawing his son’s attention to the piano later on.

Years later, Joseph van der Linden also taught the first music principles to his youngest son, Rob. “I started playing the piano at the age of six,” Rob van der Linden recalls. “My father didn't have the patience to be a good teacher. Angered by my disappointing performance, he once even locked the piano to prevent me from playing any further. As I was once told, when my brother Dolf started studying the piano in addition to the violin, things didn’t always go smoothly either. Father is even alleged to have chased him with a hammer once. While he was down in the shop, Dolf was upstairs at the piano, because father had told him to study. Dad would carefully listen downstairs to whether Dolf was making any progress. At one point, he noticed that Dolf was playing the same exercises over and over. When he sneaked upstairs, he discovered that he had put a novel on the lectern. He was reading a book, playing the same thing over and over in a semi-mindless way. Knowing my father’s character, he must have lost his temper badly!”

David as a toddler with his father's violin

Although his second son's diligence left something to be desired now and then, Joseph van der Linden soon recognised that he was pretty gifted as a musician. He sent him to Toonkunst, a local music school, where David was taught the violin as well as the piano by Leen van der Tand, Anna van Pinxteren, and Arnold Vranken, among others. Later on, he also took private piano lessons with Tijs Boerdam, a friend of his father’s.

In the autumn of 1929, stock markets across the globe crashed, the consequences of which also badly hit the Netherlands. Joseph van der Linden was an early victim of the deteriorated economic circumstances. He had been selling many harmoniums on credit, according to a system that he had devised himself. “The problem was that his installment payment system wasn’t legally protected in the Netherlands at the time,” Rob van der Linden comments. “Once the crisis arrived, customers stopped paying; and he never saw his money back.” Joseph van der Linden’s music business soldiered on for a couple more years, but in 1933 an inevitable bankruptcy followed.

Meanwhile, as an adolescent, David was expected to contribute to the family income from the days of the crisis onwards. In the mid-1920s, father Van der Linden had formed a family orchestra, the Lincys, in which David played the violin and brother Joop took care of the percussion; it was meant to be just a bit of fun, but, after 1929, Joseph allowed his little entertainment group to be booked for wedding parties and small corporate events willy-nilly. Realising full well that David was by far the most talented musician of the group, Joseph van der Linden saved a Stendel upright piano as well as an accordion from the inventory of his ailing company. 

In fact, David turned out to be a more than skilled accordion player. This was a small gold mine for the family, because there were lots of opportunities to earn decent money with an accordion in those days. Gradually, David began to perform regularly as a soloist or accordion accompanist of other artists in and around Vlaardingen. Allowed by his parents to keep half of his earnings for himself, he was obliged to pass on the remaining amount to his father.

The Lincy's, the little entertainment band of the Van der Linden family, with David and his father Joseph as violinists, and David's stepbrother Joop on drums; the names of the two other musicians are unknown (c. 1927)

Quickly realising that if he wanted to earn his father some hard-needed income, the young man understood that most of his ideals had to be thrown overboard. “At some point, something had to be contributed to the general expenses,” he explained years later. “And then you had to do just about everything; I might have had a regular classical education as a musician, but there was no money in that. It was always entertainment music people wanted to hear. This also meant that I regularly had to accompany ballet lessons or rehearse with singers.” He never earned a single penny with the violin, because, as he put it, “there was no employment for violinists at that time. There were no vacancies in any of the symphony orchestras.”

David had to learn his trade from the bottom upwards. As a piano accompanist, he worked in dance halls and cafés. In 1931, he was offered a new, very interesting opportunity: after a probationary period of two weeks at the Luxor Theatre in Vlaardingen, he was signed as an organist. According to the custom of the time, silent films were provided with appropriate musical accompaniment by an organist on the spot. David, who worked at Luxor under the pseudonym Dave Lincy, could improvise to his heart's content on the cinema organ. Sometimes, while the film was being screened, a high note got stuck and he had to climb into the instrument to remedy the problem as fast as he could. Then the audience would howl at him, throwing peanut shells and orange peel into the orchestra pit. Apart from his work at the cinema, young David also played the organ in Vlaardingen’s Reformed Church for a while.

If one aspect of young David van der Linden's character deserves praise, it is his sense of purpose. In the Luxor Theatre, he had discovered his talent for improvisation. Inspired by this, he reported to the renowned Rotterdam kapellmeister Jules Zagwijn for lessons in composition, counterpoint, instrumentation and harmony in 1931. “So I took lessons with him, because somehow I felt the urge to put pen to paper,” Van der Linden later explained when asked about his choice for Zagwijn. “It started very early on in my life, but I never managed on my own; however, later on I very carefully started arranging a bit and that actually got the ball rolling.”

Tuition fees must have taken quite a toll on David's limited budget, but he knew what he was doing – immediately putting Zagwijn's lessons into practice on the theatre organ. This instrument offered him the opportunity to test the effect of his first tentative attempts at arrangements on an audience. Jules Zagwijn was his last and most important teacher at the same time. His lessons provided him with the theoretical background on which he built his professional career. Like so many other musicians of his generation, Dolf van der Linden went on to make his mark as a professional without ever having visited a music academy.

David as a 13-year-old at a performance at Vlaardingen's music school (1928)

The young music professional (1933-1939)

By the age of 17, David had formed his own accordion group, The Jolly Boys. It is not clear whether the ensemble consisted of two, three or perhaps even four musicians. There was ample of work for the group. In the summer months of 1932, 1933, and 1934, David and his companions spent weeks on end in Hook of Holland. There, they performed on the beach and in pavilions. Naturally the boys enjoyed their success, but their ambitions reached further. They ordered stationery paper with a letterhead which was testament to their youthful bravado; ‘The Jolly Boys, accordion and piano virtuosos’. An open application at the KRO (the Netherlands’ Roman-Catholic radio broadcaster – BT) led to two invitations to perform on nationwide radio in 1933. “As a fee”, wrote KRO secretary, Fr Jan Dito, “we can offer you an amount of 40 guilders all included.” This marked David van der Linden's radio debut, but The Jolly Boys never became radio regulars. After the summer of 1934, nothing more was heard of the accordion group.

In the meantime, David had become acquainted with a girl, Gerda Goudappel, the daughter of a bargeman from Schiedam. She was ten months older than David. “He was visiting a lady in Schiedam who had bought a piano from his father,” says Dolf's youngest daughter Ineke, delving into her memory to recall what her mother had told her about their first meeting. “The lady in question was Gerda's aunt and it just so happened that she was visiting that aunt. My father was under her spell right from the start.”

During the summers of 1933 and 1934, when David was staying in Hook of Holland with his accordion friends, Gerda regularly visited him. Moreover, they maintained an intensive correspondence with passionate declarations of love back and forth. In August 1933, David sent his girlfriend a postcard, in which he once again betrayed his unbridled ambition and sense of purpose. “I would love to marry you in Hilversum”, he mused, “because that would mean that I have found a job there – and so would you, of course. I will offer you a job – a permanent one, with me!”

'Hilversum' was never really out of David’s mind in those days. Thanks to Zagwijn's composition lessons, he now had the background required to write down his piano and organ fantasies. In 1933, he decided to submit some of his creations to Cor Steyn, an organ player and one of the great stars of pre-war Dutch radio. Steyn was impressed by Van der Linden's work and actually performed several of his pieces. "I’ve decided to include your work ‘The Glance Of Your Eyes’ in my programme once again on May 27th (1.45pm),” a note written by Steyn to David reads. “I hope this is ample proof of how much I appreciate this piece of work. I would go even further, stating it’s at least as good as the best English or American ‘hits’.” Steyn's review is early evidence of the talent of the 17-year-old youngster as a creative musician in the commercial field.

David aged 17 (1932)

The following year, David succeeded in convincing the programme team of Protestant radio broadcaster NCRV to book him as an organist for a show of ‘popular organ playing’. Initially, his performances were appreciated. In the next months, he was asked back several times. In the summer of 1935, however, Van der Linden was fired ‘due to incompetence’ “Those people were right. I was far too young and inexperienced to play for such a large audience,” he admitted years later. It was a worthwhile experience to add to the list.

Here and there, David found himself new assignments. He played as a bar pianist in Café De Maas in Rotterdam. In addition, he also started receiving commissions from dance orchestras. In March 1935, he worked as a substitute pianist in the sextet of the German kapellmeister Dodo Hohenstein in Groningen for three weeks. Later that year, he was invited to play for one week with another German bandleader, Orlow, who performed at fairs in the far southeast of the Netherlands. Furthermore, David was also making his mark as a music teacher. He gave accordion lessons in the wider Rotterdam and The Hague areas. In the meantime, he devised full-blown courses for piano and accordion on his father's typewriter. Although advertising in nationwide newspapers, his company, with the verbose name Hollandsch Instituut voor Piano-Onderwijs (H.I.P.O.), was not very successful.

After more than two years of courtship, David and Gerda decided to marry in the summer of 1935. The couple were in a hurry, because Gerda was pregnant. After it had turned out that she was expecting a child, she moved in with the Van der Linden family. By that time, escaping the shame of the Vlaardingen bankruptcy, Joseph and his wife had settled in Schiedam. The first child of the young couple, Anneke, was born in her grandfather’s house on December 1st, 1935; the pretty baby was given the nickname ‘Pop’. A few months later, David's mother Anna gave birth to her sixth child, Rob – Anneke's uncle.

In those pre-war years, David and Gerda had two more sons, David – who was nicknamed 'Kinge', because his older sister kept on mispronouncing the word kindje (or in English, ‘baby’ – BT) – and Peter. From 1936 on, David and Gerda lived in an upstairs apartment in Rotterdam.

David van der Linden and Gerda Goudappel getting married at Schiedam's town hall (1935)

A married man now, David van der Linden had a family to support. His choice for an existence as a professional musician was unconditional. In 1935 and 1936, however, he continued having a hard time, with mainly short-term engagements and some music lessons here and there. He also continued being in demand as a substitute pianist for dance orchestras. With these bands, David gradually got the opportunity to write dance arrangements. “In the beginning, the trombonist got to play some impossible runs, not hiding his anger about this. Instruments sometimes fell silent at critical moments, because the tones which Dolf had heard in his imagination did not actually exist on those instruments.” Arranging is a profession that one had to learn through trial and error, but it felt like more, because, as Van der Linden put it, “Arranging, rewriting music for certain line-ups of instruments, was actually my favourite pastime.”

Naturally, his ambitions as a pianist and arranger extended beyond the fringes of the entertainment business. Jazz music had been his interest for a number of years. “Jazz which was somewhat looked down upon by everyone,” as Dolf later put it, “because as soon as you got involved in classical music, you weren't allowed to even pronounce the word 'jazz'. That was a taboo, that was impossible. But I actually felt a lot for it.” That is why he wrote letters to various bandleaders, requesting to be allowed the opportunity to write them a test arrangement.

One of the bandleaders he approached was Eddy Meenk, whose dance orchestra had previously performed to great success for AVRO radio (AVRO being the liberal broadcasting service – BT), but who was fired along with his band following a scandal involving female fans. David’s arrangements were only moderately appreciated by the orchestra leader. Therefore it came as a surprise when, in the autumn of 1936, Meenk unexpectedly presented himself at David van der Linden’s apartment in Rotterdam, parking his large Chrysler right at the door. Once inside, he told a bewildered Van der Linden that he was on the lookout for a new pianist. David was asked to play something on the spot.

“I played a bit and then he said, “Please allow me to interrupt – and don’t get angry with me, but this is as old-fashioned as it gets. It’s pretty useless!” I thought to myself, “Well that’s it then!”, but then he said, “You should buy yourself some records!”, and he mentioned a few names, Teddy Wilson among others... famous pianists at the time. I must admit I had never heard of them before! So I obeyed, borrowing some money from my mother-in-law to purchase the 78 rpm records he had mentioned. Then I began to listen to that music, day and night, endlessly. Eventually the needle came through the record on the other side! After two weeks, Meenk showed up again (…). He named a title and I started playing. Then he said to his wife, “Can you believe this? That man’s style of playing was obsolete fourteen days ago… and now he can play in the style of Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller!”

David promoting himself in a local newspaper as a cinema organ player, pianist, and accordion virtuoso, "will be performing shortly on radio as well as in studio recordings"

After a short probationary period, David was offered a permanent position as pianist-arranger with Meenk’s orchestra. Of course, he accepted immediately. Looking back, he would highlight this moment as the true start of his professional career. Not that his existence was now becoming more orderly, because Eddy Meenk & His Radio Stars were usually booked for engagements of one or two months, three at most, in hotels and dance halls. Shortly after David had joined, Meenk succeeded in finding work for his ensemble for several months at a palais in The Hague, Het Zuid. At this point, David van der Linden decided to abandon his apartment in Rotterdam, moving to The Hague with Gerda and his children. This was the beginning of a nomadic life. Wherever Meenk led his orchestra, the young family followed. They lived in rooms and upstairs apartments in De Bilt, Amsterdam, and again in The Hague. When no decent housing was available, Gerda and the children lived with her parents in Schiedam.

David's new colleagues in Eddy Meenk's big band quickly found a nickname for the lanky pianist. From the beginning, Van der Linden had been displaying the unsavoury habit of making last-minute adjustments in his arrangements, even when the sheet music was already on the musicians’ desks. The orchestra members who had already been with the band in Meenk’s days with AVRO radio could not help but think back to their pianist and main arranger from those days, Dolf Karelsen, because he had often walked from music stand to music stand for a last correction as well. That is why they teasingly coined the nickname ‘Dolf’ for the new pianist. 

It was not intended as a compliment, but somehow the name stuck with Van der Linden. Eddy Meenk soon decided that Dolf van der Linden was a better stage name than David van der Linden. Apparently, the young pianist himself was pleased with his stage name as well. He even started using it privately. In 1938, Gerda started a letter to him writing, “My dearest husband Dolfie”. Before long, his closest relatives, his friends, and even his children called him ‘Dolf’ – and that’s how it stayed for the rest of his life.

As for his repertoire, Eddy Meenk stuck to what the public had come to expect from the radio era; contemporary Anglo-Saxon dance music. However, as his radio fame began to wane, the bandleader had increasing difficulty finding his orchestra attractive assignments. Finally, during 1937, Meenk decided to change course, exchanging the progressive ‘hot jazz style’ for the style of an average, commercial entertainment orchestra. A violinist was added to the line-up, a great opportunity for Van der Linden to learn to write for strings as well.

Trumpet player and bandleader Eddy Meenk (third from left) and his jazz orchestra - with David 'Dolf' van der Linden at the piano (1939)

Although Meenk managed to prolong his orchestra's existence by choosing a different approach, the work was not always there for the taking. Regularly, Dolf had to do odd jobs elsewhere to supplement his income. As usual, he wrote letters to orchestra leaders, trying to sell his arrangements. In those days, he penned arrangements for, among others, Jan Vogel's VARA Radio Orchestra and Will Hildering's Gold Stars, which played in the Tuschinski Theatre in Amsterdam. Also in Amsterdam, he played the piano with Giuseppe Mignone’s Neapolitan orchestra, while taking on jobs as a piano accompanist with various singers as well.

Additionally, Dolf also penned arrangements for Nico de Vries' orchestra, which regularly played in The Hague in the last years before the war. Some 75 years later, Cor Baan, guitarist in De Vries' band at the time, recalled, “Before Nico de Vries commissioned Dolf to write arrangements for us, one of the orchestra members took care of that. Once we had Dolf’s scores, the sound of the band changed markedly. Suddenly, our style was more contemporary. What a difference! Really, even before the war Dolf was in a league of his own as an arranger of dance music.”

In the autumn of 1938, Eddy Meenk received an invitation to play in Berne for a month. At the end of October, he and his men travelled to the Swiss capital by train. The orchestra put together by Meenk for the engagement in Switzerland consisted of only seven musicians, including himself. In Berne, L'orchestre hollandais du Poste de Hilversum were booked in the ballroom Chikito. Afterwards, Dolf stayed for another month to play as a substitute with an orchestra from Sankt-Gallen. He enjoyed the beauty of the Swiss landscape, but artistically speaking, the picture was very different. “This orchestra is very bad”, he told his wife bluntly in a letter. Around the turn of the year, he returned to Gerda and his children in the Netherlands.

In May 1939, Dolf decided to terminate his stay with Eddy Meenk after two and a half years. By that time, the band had more or less fallen apart. The pianist got the opportunity to play with bandleader Johnny Fresco. Fresco and his Swing Aristocrats were working with an acclaimed jazz singer, Anny Xhofleer, in the Palais de Danse, located on Scheveningen’s seafront promenade. Subsequently, the orchestra performed in the popular Rotterdam dance hall Pschorr, famous for its glass dance floor. After the engagement in Rotterdam, Fresco had been planning to move his band to Belgium for some time, but, in the meantime, the Netherlands’ government had mobilised its armed forces, with a restriction on travel papers being a logical consequence. At that point, Fresco took the decision to dissolve his orchestra. It was then that Dolf van der Linden, throwing caution to the wind, finally applied for his dream job in Hilversum.

Radio arranger in wartime (1939-1945) 

“In 1939, we were playing in Scheveningen,” as Van der Linden recalled, years later. “I was listening to the radio that evening; and there was an orchestra playing in that programme which had an interesting line-up – at least 25 to 30 instruments; the AVRO-Amusementsorkest (AVRO Entertainment Orchestra – BT). Then I thought to myself, “That's it! I’ll write a piece for that orchestra.” So, just as I had done for Eddy Meenk, I started writing. I didn't ask them in advance if they wanted it; I just submitted it, hoping they would like my arrangement.” The orchestra Dolf van der Linden heard on the radio that evening was led by Groningen-born pianist-conductor Elzard Kuhlman, an ensemble with a line-up of wind instruments and a large string section. In his free hours, Dolf put himself to work, coming up with an arrangement of ‘Tea for Two’ – a fifteen-minute-long paraphrase.

“At some point, I received a note from AVRO Radio that the broadcast of my piece would be on October 8th, 1939. Then I thought to myself, “Why not take the train to Hilversum?” So I went there, because I wanted to ask them if they had a job for me. I said, “Look, I'm about to sign a contract for some nightclub” – and I hated working in nightclubs! – “Isn't there something for me to do here on a permanent basis?” Then they all started laughing, “You don’t beat about the bush, do you!” Well, I had little choice actually. Besides, by then our country’s forces had mobilised and war was imminent. I didn’t like the prospect of going on another trip abroad all that much.”

The young musician obviously made no secret of his ambition. Elzard Kuhlman promised to do his best. Probably on his advice, Van der Linden sent an open application to AVRO’s management. After a meeting at AVRO’s headquarters in Amsterdam, the decision was taken to hire him as an arranger and pianist – initially with a probationary period, but it was not long before he was given a permanent position. Having stayed in a boarding house for some months, Dolf brought his family to Hilversum, where they rented a terraced house. In the meantime, he worked for Kuhlman's orchestra, but for other, smaller AVRO ensembles as well. In addition, he was commissioned to compose accompanying music for radio plays, while also playing as a pianist in Klaas van Beeck's dance orchestra from time to time.

At the AVRO, probably for the first time, Dolf met the man whose name he had been borrowing for some years now, Dolf Karelsen, former pianist and arranger with the orchestras of Kovacs Lajos and Eddy Meenk. After Meenk had been sacked as an AVRO employee, Karelsen continued working for the broadcaster as a staff arranger. Although the Amsterdam musician of Jewish blood was 10 years Van der Linden’s senior, the two men quickly struck up a friendship. Karelsen became the young arranger’s mentor. "It's so nice that Karelsen is here, because he helps me through lots of difficult things," Dolf wrote to his wife, only about a week after coming to Hilversum. And the next day, “Regretfully I didn't meet Kuhlman again, so we'll just have to wait and see (…). However, Karelsen thinks my situation is promising. He is very easy-going and gives me great tips.”

Dolf receiving an invitation for a job interview from AVRO conductor Elzard Kuhlman

After the German invasion in May 1940, Nazi authorities took control of the radio immediately. Using salami tactics, the Germans took away the independence of the Dutch broadcasting companies slice by slice. Willem Vogt, General Director at AVRO, however, did not wait for the German guidelines. Eager to make a good impression on the new rulers, he dismissed most of his Jewish employees before the end of May, including football reporter Han Hollander and Albert van Raalte, conductor of the symphony orchestra. Most probably, arranger Dolf Karelsen lost his job in this round of layoffs as well.

Now that British and American music, Van der Linden’s specialty, were no longer appreciated – regarding jazz as ‘negro music’, the Nazis banned the genre outright –, the repertoire he got to arrange changed markedly. Doing away with dance music, the new regime preferred operettas and similar repertoire. In the meantime, the influence of the Netherlands’ radio broadcasters – the Roman-Catholic KRO, the liberal AVRO, the socialist VARA, and the Protestant NCRV and VPRO – were cut back, with the Germans eventually disbanding all five of them in March 1941 to make way for their creation, De Nederlandsche Omroep, a ‘concentrated’ broadcasting company completely supervised by the Germans and their Dutch cronies. Musicians eager to forward their career expressed themselves in positive terms about Nazi rule. One of them was Elzard Kuhlman, who even joined the Netherlands’ National-Socialist Party NSB. Not surprisingly, Kuhlman’s AVRO Entertainment Orchestra was taken over by De Nederlandsche Omroep under the modified name Groot Amusementsorkest (Grand Entertainment Orchestra – BT).

From March 1942 onwards, all staff arrangers were put under the supervision of Eddy Noordijk, who, like Dolf, had already been an AVRO employee before the war. Among other things, Noordijk was responsible for the programme Nederlandsche Volksklanken, in which Dutch folk tunes were alternated with lectures with an outspokenly ideological background. Presumably, Van der Linden had no involvement with this ‘contaminated’ programme. Nevertheless, it is clear that he felt increasingly out of place in Hilversum. By now, it was common knowledge in broadcasting circles that the vast majority of radio personnel had no sympathy whatsoever for the Nazis and their Dutch lackeys. Despite this Nazification of the broadcasting service, the majority of these ‘antis’ did not give up their job; by the summer of 1942, however, Van der Linden decided he had had enough. Asking a lawyer to draw up a letter for him, he declared his wish to be relieved of his work with De Nederlandsche Omroep.

It is an interesting question why Van der Linden chose this juncture to quit his job in Hilversum. Although it cannot be determined with certainty, would it have been a coincidence that Dolf Karelsen was arrested exactly in the same period? After Karelsen had been fired in 1940, Dolf van der Linden had stayed in touch with him. Their children were friends. After the war, Karelsen's wife Jokkie declared, “My husband (…) regularly visited Mr Van der Linden's house and, together, they would always listen to the BBC. The fact that my husband was finally arrested is all the more tragic, given that Mr Van der Linden had repeatedly told him that he could call on him to go into hiding in case of an emergency.”

Dolf van der Linden's mentor and fellow-arranger Dolf Karelsen

When asked about his father’s arrest, Eddy, Dolf Karelsen’ eldest son, recalls, “On that fateful day, my mother was ill. She had a nasal infection. My father rushed out to pick up a prescription for her, while also buying some flowers from the drugstore down the street. Because the shops were open for Jews only during parts of the day, he consciously wore a jacket which didn’t have a star of David sewn in. Someone from our street must have given him away; when he came out of the shop, SS men were waiting for him.” Via Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands, Dolf Karelsen was deported to Auschwitz. It is unclear where and when exactly he died, but it must have been in a German concentration camp in occupied Poland. This was the sad end of the man Dolf van der Linden called “my very best friend.”

It can no longer be ascertained whether Karelsen's arrest actually played a crucial role in Van der Linden's decision. In response to his letter, the broadcasting management made him a much improved salary offer, but it did not change his mind. Although his contract did not expire until after the summer, he no longer showed his face at the broadcasting offices from late June 1942 onwards.

Liberated from his broadcasting work, Van der Linden joined Het Voetlicht, a revue company in The Hague. Having performed their show for some time in the Odeon Theatre in The Hague, the company went on a nationwide tour in September 1942. The leading lady was Conny Stuart, who already enjoyed considerable fame as a radio singer. Van der Linden built up a good working relationship with her. As the company’s musical director, he took care of all the arrangements as well as putting together an octet for the tour. Naturally, he also took upon himself the role of pianist and bandleader.

Doubtlessly, Dolf’s spell at Het Voetlicht was not the happiest in his career. The company was constantly plagued by travel issues. Band members were arrested and taken away, if it turned out they did not possess the correct work permits. As early as the autumn of 1942, the tour was interrupted – to the relief of Van der Linden. Rather than the problem of his orchestra being decimated, Dolf's greatest objection to the work was his aversion to the irregular life of a wandering artist, away from his wife and children, living out of his suitcase in cheap boarding houses. Every day, his wife Gerda received letters from him – and sometimes more than just one –, in which he expressed his feelings openly. “How long will we have to go on like this?”, he wrote to her from Heerenveen. “When will this bloody war end, so we can take up our life together again? I fervently hope this day is near. But anyway, I'm not in Germany yet [taken away to do hard labour], so looking at it that way we should count our blessings.”

Accompanying Conny Stuart at the piano in a performance by revue company Het Voetlicht (1942)

In one of her return letters, Gerda suggested that he should attempt to return to the broadcasting service in Hilversum. Dolf had his own thoughts, “Do you really believe they want me back? I don’t believe in miracles. They will surely think to themselves, “To hell with him”.” Nevertheless, he promised her to write an open application to Eddy Noordijk. At De Nederlandsche Omroep, officials were far less resentful than Dolf had expected. The Director General, NSB man Willem Herweijer, informed him by letter that the company was happy to have him back as an arranger – even offering him an improved salary of 80 guilders.

After the war, Van der Linden was asked about his return to Hilversum by a commission put together to check on the behaviour of radio employees. By 1942, it was crystal-clear that the broadcasting company was a Nazi tool. Propaganda broadcasts were embedded in the programming, intertwined with harmless entertainment music. Popular music was seen as the main means of glueing Dutch audiences to the radio. Almost half of the broadcasting time was devoted to light entertainment. This meant there was plenty of work for Noordijk’s group of staff arrangers. In post-war interrogations, Van der Linden defended his actions, using various arguments. Among other things, he claimed to have asked for a clause in his new contract that he would not have to work on anything that went against his principles. Although this request was refused, he did receive a verbal pledge from Noordijk to the same effect. “He then accepted the job – and, indeed, he never had to do anything he felt was inappropriate.”

Dolf van der Linden was one of many radio musicians who, against their will, were a cog in the Nazi propaganda machine. Many were well aware of this, feeling uncomfortable about it as a result – and Van der Linden was one. He had consciously tendered his resignation in June 1942, but found out the hard way that working as a freelance musician during wartime was extremely difficult. In desperation, he reported to the radio again. In a combination of naivety and the simple need to generate an income – with everyone having their own family to take care of – countless other broadcast musicians chose this path. They were no heroes. On the other hand, in a way, they were war victims as well, having to work for an unwelcome employer in order to offer themselves and their family a chance of survival in these hard times.

Despite this seemingly apolitical attitude, Van der Linden, in his own modest way, played his part in resisting the occupier. In his house, he hid goods belonging to a Jewish musician, Sally Frank. Furthermore, in the last years of the war he regularly gave shelter to a resistance fighter, a man called Maas. According to the testimonies of two other resistance members, Van der Linden also regularly donated money, intended to help Jews who were in hiding as well as resistance fighters. In short; despite his involvement with the broadcasting service, he was and always remained strongly anti-German.

Gerda van der Linden-Goudappel with her three first children, from left - Anneke 'Pop', Peter, and David 'Kinge' (c. 1942)

In contrast to his first spell with the broadcaster, when he was expected to be present in the studio during office hours, Dolf now carried out most of his work at home. This left him with a considerable amount of free hours. He used this time to compose his first symphonic instrumentations. At the same time, Van der Linden, ambitious as ever, returned to his studies. He read conducting handbooks, additionally also taking lessons, probably with Willem van Otterloo, who was chief conductor of the Utrecht Symphony Orchestra and, ironically enough, also the father of Dolf’s future successor at the Metropole Orchestra.

When asked about this many years later, Van der Linden explained, “Because I wrote quite extensively for all kinds of ensembles at the time, I always felt it would be even better if I could perform my arrangements myself. In other words; I envisioned standing up in front of the orchestra myself (…). And it was during those war years, when everyone had to be careful to avoid being arrested, that I took up studying. Taking lessons with some music professionals, I also read an awful lot about the subject. Furthermore, I listened to all kinds of music, especially symphonic music, because I felt that, if I wanted to lead an orchestra, I had to master at least the basics of conducting. I was looking for a way to develop my skills. At the time, it was unclear whether anything would ever come of it.”

During the last two years of the war, German artists were regularly sent on tour in the occupied territories to perform for their compatriots who were stationed there as soldiers. In February 1944, Berlin revue singer Evelyn Künneke came to the Netherlands to cheer up the occupying troops. Because her arrival was announced only shortly beforehand, there was some haste in creating suitable music arrangements. Dolf van der Linden was commissioned by Elzard Kuhlman to take care of some of the titles. Van der Linden protested that he could not possibly write the requested charts at such short notice, but in vain. Probably simply in the studio, he was ordered to play through a few songs with Künneke. After a radio performance with Kuhlman's orchestra, the singer was sent on a tour across the country. Asked who she wanted to be her musical director, Künneke must have dropped Dolf's name. Apparently, she was satisfied with his arrangements and the short cooperation in Hilversum.

After consultation with broadcasting authorities, Künneke was given permission to hire part of Kuhlman's orchestra for a two-month tour. Because, initially, no musicians seemed to be available, Van der Linden had hoped to avoid the unwelcome assignment, but now he had to accept. In addition to several public concerts, the singer and her accompanists were forced to play three evenings for Wehrmacht soldiers. The tour was a box office success and, by the look of it, Evelyn Künneke and her bandleader enjoyed a good working relationship. According to her, he was ein fabelhafter Musiker (‘a fantastic musician’ – BT), while she also heaped praise on the quality of his musicians.

Dolf (standing, with pipe) with his fellow-arrangers at De Nederlandsche Omroep, from left - Cor van der Linden, Eddy Noordijk, Jan Vogel, Rudolf Karsemeijer, and Willem Ciere (1942)

The tour with Künneke was not the only freelance assignment carried out by Van der Linden away from his work as a radio arranger in 1944. Again at the request of the broadcaster’s management, he wrote arrangements for Werner Bochmann’s film orchestra. Bochmann was a German bandleader who visited the Netherlands for a short series of performances. In addition, Van der Linden also composed and arranged Met slaande trom, a fully-fledged theatre programme for Ben ter Hall’s revue company in Arnhem.

In the meantime, Allied troops had advanced as far as Belgium in their liberation of Western Europe. On September 5, 1944, the day that has gone down in history as Dolle Dinsdag (Mad Tuesday – BT), the wildest rumours were circulating about the imminent liberation of the southern and western areas of the Netherlands. Panic broke out among Germans and their Dutch cronies. Many of them fled, having in mind to escape over the German border. Among them were some broadcasting heavyweights, including Director-General Herweijer and conductor Elzard Kuhlman. Herweijer returned after a few weeks, once it turned out the Allies had not been able to follow up their breakthrough. Nevertheless, little is left of De Nederlandsche Omroep; too many of its leading figures had left, meaning that an orderly continuation of activities was no longer possible.

In the ensuing chaos, musicians of the Groot Amusementsorkest decided to take matters into their own hands. After Kuhlman's departure, as Van der Linden explained, “we thought the war would be over in 14 days. I then conducted an orchestra a few times, because we wanted to keep things going until the liberation. I never imagined that I was doing anything wrong by doing this.”

The fact that Dolf van der Linden had been placed on the conductor’s dais by the musicians, was indicative of his increased status. By 1944, he was no longer a junior arranger, but a man who had not only established himself at the broadcasting service, but also as a kapellmeister on tour. His colleagues liked him. “Everyone loved Dolf”, says guitarist Cor Baan, who regularly played with the Groot Amusementsorkest as a substitute. “He was such a nice guy! We were used to Elzard Kuhlman. Kuhlman was very distant, almost like a German. He insisted on being addressed as ‘Mr Kuhlman’. Dolf was different… he was a musician, one of us. After all, he had played in all kinds of different orchestras himself.” Van der Linden’s spell as caretaker conductor of Kuhlman’s orchestra did not last longer than a few weeks, in which he led the band for no more than a handful of performances.

Dolf van der Linden on tour with German singer Evelyn Künneke and entertainer Jack Funny in the early months of 1944

Although Operation Market Garden ultimately ended in failure for the Allies, German forces occupying the northern half of the Netherlands were terrified at the prospect of an enemy invasion in the autumn of 1944. German troops in the wider Hilversum area turned out to be especially worried. Because it was suspected that the local population would side with the Allies en masse in the case of an invasion, secret preparations were made to arrest all men aged between 18 and 55. On October 23rd, a major raid was held in Hilversum, in which nearly 4,000 people were arrested and taken to the local football stadium.

Dolf van der Linden and many other radio employees were among the unfortunate people arrested in this Erfassungsaktion – or rounding-up operation. Cor Baan was one of them, “We had to report to the AVRO building. From there, we were sent in long lines to the sports park. Soldiers with rifles lined the field. There were countless German doctors sitting at tables, with us having to line up in long queues to be examined. Director General Herweijer of De Nederlandsche Omroep had reassured us by saying that he would get all musicians released, but when we introduced ourselves as musicians to those Krauts, we were told curtly, 'Musiker, arbeiten!' ('Musicians, work!' – BT). There we were! Now, you have to know that I suffered from chronic sciatica. I had it during my military service. I had a doctor's note with me. The SS doctor didn't believe me, but thanks to a Wehrmacht colleague of his I was sent home. Percussionist Gerard Middendorp was also rejected. Having hurriedly cut the soles of his feet with a razor, he then stood in a tub of salt… just to avoid being sent to Germany. It’s an incredible story, but then the times we were going through were incredible too.”

Dolf and many others were deported, initially ending up in the infamous transit camp in Amersfoort. From there, they were taken to various Arbeitslager, labour camps. Among others, Dolf, Tony van Hulst, and Eddy Develing were deported to Camp Bethel near Bielefeld after a short stop-over in Hamm. In Hilversum, Gerda stayed behind with her three children. During the winter months, in the so-called Dutch famine of 1944-45, she had to call on the soup kitchen for extra food. In vain, she tried to find her two boys a place on farmsteads in the area. She chopped wood in a forest, while also managing to smuggle coal from the local gasworks. “Yes, that’s what Mrs Van der Linden is doing now,” she noted with embarrassment in a letter to her husband in Germany.

Meanwhile, Van der Linden was working as a forced labourer on the construction of a railway viaduct. Working on this “very nice bit of railway line,” as Dolf once put it in his usual understated way, he and his colleagues had to lug stones and pieces of rail. At the end of a hard day's work, the men sat together in their barracks. Tony van Hulst tried to keep his spirits up by composing songs. Meanwhile, Dolf’s thoughts were fixed on his radio work after the war. He envisioned putting together an ensemble in the style of Louis Levy's American film orchestra, renowned for its lush arrangements. At the time, it seemed an impossible dream, according to Tony van Hulst, “Dolf had fantasies about an orchestra that he would like to set up, turning to me and saying, ‘And you’re going to be the main vocalist!’ At the time, I couldn’t help but laugh! I didn't have much faith in it to be honest. I just thought, ‘His fantasies are too good to be true!’”

In the weeks leading up to his arrest in October 1944, Dolf van der Linden was requested to conduct the Groot Amusementsorkest of De Nederlandsche Omroep on a handful of occasions

A serious accident almost cost Dolf van der Linden his life, as he fell off a train. “Those trains were packed with building materials; stones and sleepers (…). At one point, as the train jerked, I fell onto the rails between two wagons. Fortunately, as the wagon was moving slowly, I was able to pull in my legs, but all the same, I had bruised my back. A German officer saw me lying there and ordered my colleagues and friends, all from Hilversum, to take me to a hospital. That man was a nice German, one of the few.” 

Although recovering well from the injuries to his spine and chest, a male nurse advised him to feign invalidity; on his advice, Dolf held on to his cane, even after no longer requiring it to move about. He was exempted from heavy work. Having posed as a cripple for about six weeks, his fake act bore fruit. In March 1945, along with several dozens of others, he was loaded onto a truck and taken across the Dutch border. “From the border, I then started walking, having naps in the hay in farmsteads (…). Along the way, I was given food by many – it was really fantastic how I was helped by strangers along the way.”

Borrowing a bicycle, Dolf covered the last part of the route, from Soest to Hilversum. His children noticed that dad had returned home before their mother did. Dolf’s eldest daughter, Anneke, “It was very early in the morning; he had done the last stretch in the middle of the night on his bike. He was whistling Beethoven's Fifth. It was the BBC's signature tune at the time. It was clear this was not just somebody whistling; this was a musician! That's how we knew it just had to be dad. We raced outside. I couldn’t leave his side, hugging him a hundred times. He told us about his experiences. He may have told mum about his injuries, but not us. My father was not someone prone to complaining.”

Those were the last months of German occupation. The fear of being arrested again was palpable, as Van der Linden once explained, “I didn't show my face. My wife pretended I wasn't there, because NSB members were living nearby and they knew me!" It took a long time before the day of liberation was finally there. Daughter Anneke, “It was only when we heard planes flying over with food packages in May that we realised it was over. At last, the war had come to an end.”

On the way back from the labour camp in Bethel to Hilversum, Dolf passed the quarantine station in Enschede, just on the Dutch side of the border with Germany

Birth of the Metropole Orchestra (1945)

On Tuesday, May 8th, 1945, three days after the Germans in the Netherlands had surrendered, Major Henk van den Broek entered AVRO’s headquarters in Hilversum. There he met representatives of the four major pre-war broadcasters; NCRV, KRO, VARA, and AVRO. These gentlemen were under the impression that they would soon be able to resume their broadcasts. However, to their dismay, the major stated that the government in London had decided that he himself, and no one else, would be responsible for radio programming. There could be no question of the old broadcasters returning until further notice. Van den Broek only managed to drive the four men out of the building after he had called in a British guard. “Under protest and bowing to violence”, as one of them wrote indignantly, they left the premises.

Who was this bold officer? Henk van den Broek, referred to by wartime Prime Minister Gerbrandy as “a very useful potentate,” had been the head of Radio Oranje in London, the Dutch radio service providing broadcasts intended to lift the spirits in the Netherlands during German occupation. In the autumn of 1944, Van den Broek had been given orders to follow the Allies to the liberated southern part of the Netherlands. With the Military Authority installed to rule the area until a regular government would take over, he became head of the radio department. In just a few weeks, he managed to form a new radio station, Radio Herrijzend Nederland. Van den Broek sought and found personnel to help him get the organisation up and running. One of his aides became the head of Eindhoven’s music school; this man, Jos Wouters, was put in charge of the Serious Music department. 

In October 1944, Herrijzend Nederland’s first broadcast went on the air from liberated Eindhoven. In London, the Dutch government decided to postpone taking a decision about the post-war broadcasting system. Some advocated a return of the old broadcasting companies, each representing a part of Dutch society, while others envisioned a national broadcaster modelled on the BBC. Until further notice, Herrijzend Nederland would remain the sole broadcaster.

Naturally, Dolf van der Linden also saw a role for himself in post-war radio. As early as May 6th, he first showed his face in the studio. “The day after the liberation I went to the studio, but I wasn’t allowed in, because representatives of the Military Authority were there along with Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten (the Netherlands’ post-war equivalent of the Home Guard, largely made up of resistance fighters – BT). After having a short chat with them, I walked in to have a look-around. There were already some old employees gathered there, friends and acquaintances. It was a very warm welcome I received. At one point they said, “We need someone for our morning exercise show. Would you like to do that?" Of course I said yes.” However, there was no question of a new permanent contract with the broadcaster. After all, in the meantime, the decision had been taken that everyone who had worked on national radio during wartime and now wanted to be employed again, first had to survive a purge. A committee was set up to be entrusted with this task of weeding out those who had sided with the Germans.

"Work for food" - Dolf van der Linden's band in the Parklane Club in Hilversum's Hotel Jans; photo from the private collection of double bass player Lion Groen

Of course, Van der Linden could not build a living on the odd piano gig in the radio studio. That is why he formed a dance orchestra with four musician friends just after the end of the war, with which he performed in Hotel Jans in Hilversum. NCOs of the Canadian Armed Forces had set up their mess in the banquet hall next to the hotel, the so-called Parklane Club. The orchestra was rapidly extended to a nine-man formation. Dolf himself led his 'Parklane Band' from behind the piano. One of the musicians who joined was guitarist Cor Baan.

“That was the best time of my life,” Baan smiles. “The war was over and finally we were allowed to play swing music again. Just like me, Dolf was fond of the American orchestras! Tony van Hulst sang with our band, but occasionally he also played guitar – so then there were two guitarists playing, him and me. The bass player was a Jewish guy, Lion Groen. He was soon asked to join the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, but in the evenings he continued to play with us. In the beginning, we were usually paid with a meal, which was put on the table for us before we started our performance. We shared the table with the Canadians. That summer being particularly hot, we sometimes didn't play wearing tuxedos, but in just shirtsleeves. The doors of the hotel were wide open so that everyone from the street could see how those Canadian guys were having fun dancing with Dutch girls.”

In Hotel Jans, the makeshift orchestra played American melodies, but compositions by Van der Linden himself as well. One of these was a foxtrot, which the bandleader had casually composed on his bedside table. The tune was soon one of the favourites of the Canadians. A Dutch newspaper later recounted that the melody was “so popular that the NCOs of the Parklane Club, who regarded the new band as their private property, stepped up to the bandleader one evening, their faces beaming with pride, saying, “Hey, Dolf, that tune of yours… let’s call it ‘Parklane Serenade’!'”

In the meantime, at Radio Herrijzend Nederland’s headquarters, all effort was made to bring about a Dutch BBC; after all, Henk van den Broek did not have in mind to wait for political decision-making. The outcome would be the foundation of a national broadcaster under his leadership. One of the major issues the major and his right-hand man in music affairs, Jos Wouters, wanted to put in order as quickly as possible was the creation of a set of broadcasting orchestras. Their first priority was a large classical orchestra – and so the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra could start rehearsing as early as July 1945. Albert van Raalte became the conductor of the 100-man-strong formation. From Dolf van der Linden’s Parklane band, Lion Groen was not the only musician to be recruited by Van Raalte; like Groen, Tony van Hulst joined the Radio Phil as a bass player. That summer, three other classical formations saw the daylight; the Omroeporkest (another classical orchestra – BT), the Theatre Orchestra – later renamed Promenade Orchestra – and the Radio Chamber Orchestra.

Tony van Hulst singing in the Parklane Club

The one element still missing was an entertainment orchestra. Sometime that summer, Dolf van der Linden struck up a conversation with the head of the studio department of Radio Herrijzend Nederland, who told him there were plans to form a large light music ensemble. “Well, that will be a difficult assignment,” Van der Linden then responded, “because if you asked me now, I think I would be able to find myself a good bunch of musicians, but by next month, nobody will be left. Mind you, everyone is finding his own way, playing in clubs in Belgium and Germany to entertain the Canadian, British, and American soldiers.”

Unsuspecting, Dolf then walked home, but his statement had an impact; the following morning, a broadcasting employee arrived at his door. Dolf was told to urgently report to the AVRO studio. There he was immediately taken to the boardroom, where Van den Broek and Wouters were waiting for him. “I was then asked if I was able to form an orchestra. I then said, “Yes, I am.” I was bold and confident, oh yes! When asked by Van den Broek how large an orchestra he had in mind, I answered, “At least 40 musicians.” Indeed, Van der Linden, who had just turned 30, must have sounded rather confident that morning. Be that as it may, the broadcasting management gave him all the time and opportunity to form his orchestra as he saw fit, gathering the best musicians. Even at that time, he was fully aware that this was the key moment in his career, “I thought to myself, “This is it – this is the chance!” I had once been told that everyone is given one good chance in life. When that moment comes along, you have to take it. So that’s what I did!”

Why Van den Broek and Wouters chose the young and relatively inexperienced Dolf van der Linden for this assignment has never been established with certainty. Dolf himself later stated laconically, “I was fortunate enough to walk into the right door at the right time. In a way as a matter of course, I was put in a chair that was thought by some to be rightfully mine.” 

Undoubtedly, Herrijzend Nederland’s leadership sought advice in Hilversum circles – most notably with Albert van Raalte. It is not known whether other candidates were considered at all before Dolf van der Linden came into the picture. Given that he had already specialised in arrangements in a distinctly Anglo-Saxon style in the 1930s, it was clear that he was potentially the perfect man to provide the music which people wanted to hear now that the war was over. Furthermore, his popularity among radio musicians probably played a part as well. This had already been apparent in 1944, when they had put him up on the conductor’s rostrum to lead the Groot Amusementsorkest after its chief Elzard Kuhlman had escaped the country. Furthermore, Dolf had often spoken clearly about his ambition to form an orchestra. As it turned out, there were quite a few people in Hilversum who were happy to see the ambitious radio arranger achieving his dream. Only time would tell if he was up to his new task.

Saxophonist and clarinettist Cees Verschoor, playing in a makeshift jazz band in Antwerp at the time, expressing his interest in a position in the new radio orchestra. "Francis Bay also interested", but - unlike Verschoor - the future conductor of the Flemish broadcasting service's big band was not among the musicians picked by Van der Linden

Now Van der Linden had been given a free hand in recruiting suitable musicians, but, as he had anticipated himself, this was no easy assignment. “Finding the right musicians was difficult,” he said, “since the large [classical] orchestras that had been put together before (…) had swallowed up almost all musicians.” As mentioned, Lion Groen and Tony van Hulst from the Parklane Band had already made the choice to join the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Four other members of the Parklane Band, percussionist Gerard Middendorp, guitarist Cor Baan, and trumpeters Koos Knoop and Wim Olij, were still available. Together with Van der Linden, they formed the nucleus of what was to become the Metropole Orchestra.

For freelance musicians, the months following the liberation of the Netherlands were a golden time, but everyone realised that this situation would not last indefinitely. Despite the fairly low salaries, a permanent job with the broadcaster was a godsend. That is why Van der Linden almost always received a positive answer to his telegram which read, “Starting a modern radio orchestra – Like to join?” Piles of answers poured in. Among others, trombonist Jos Cleber and saxophonist Cees Verschoor, both working in clubs across the border in Belgium at the time, made their interest known. 

Dolf also recruited multi-instrumentalist Sem Nijveen from The Ramblers, VARA’s pre-war big band. Violinist Benny Behr was picked up in Groningen. For the important place at the piano, Dolf's eye fell on a relative outsider, young Manny Oets, who lived in the eastern part of the country. From Hengelo, he came down to Hilversum by train. “The train stopped at Deventer, at the River IJssel,” Oets recalled. “We all had to get out. The railway bridge had been bombed, with the fragments sticking out of the water. We clambered over them, as the train for Hilversum was waiting on the other side.”

Van der Linden recruited many of his orchestra members from the ranks of wartime radio orchestras, such as the formation of conductor Otto Hendriks, another bandleader discredited for his Nazi sympathies after the war, and Klaas van Beeck's AVRO Dance Orchestra. For the string section, Dolf mainly picked musicians who had been in Elzard Kuhlman’s Groot Amusementsorkest. Violinists Guus Valten and Lucien Grignard stepped over from this ensemble, as did flautist Joop Elders. One woman was also included; harpist Ellen Stotijn, descendant of a renowned musical family in The Hague. Soon, Van der Linden started rehearsing with the core of his formation. “On August 20th, when I had 17 people, I held a meeting to discuss my plans. On September 13th, we were rehearsing with 25 musicians; and by the beginning of November, I had everyone I needed. Around 40 men, which was the number I had been commissioned to bring together.”

The genesis of the Metropole Orchestra - Dolf van der Linden (second from left) with some of the musicians working with him in the Parklane Club. The conductor is flanked by Manny Oets (left) and Cor Baan. Among the others, Koos Knoop, Lion Groen, and Tony van Hulst can be detected

As long as the new orchestra had not started performing on radio, the musicians received no salary. For that reason, many of them were given the opportunity to play along with the Parklane Band for the time being. In fact, the prospect of work from the moment of arrival in Hilversum convinced some. If a musician harboured doubts about accepting the Metropole job, Van der Linden once explained, “I went to the manager of the club and said, “I know of a very good musician… couldn’t I let him join as well?” Then [the Canadian manager] asked, "Is he any good?", to which my reply always was, “He's fantastic!” “Then go ahead with it!”, [he said]. (…) As a result, gradually, the entire orchestra was playing in that club. At one point, we were there with 12 to 14 people playing for the Canadians in the evening, while in the daytime we were rehearsing in the studio with our fledgling radio orchestra”.

Among the newly recruited musicians, the atmosphere was pleasant from the start, as guitarist Cor Baan explains, “It was a lot of fun working with Dolf and the others. We were a mix of academy-educated musicians and stray dogs like me, guys who had learned their trade as we went along. We were all proud having Dolf as our conductor, particularly after having had to play all those German melodies with Elzard Kuhlman. Everyone was so fed up with that! Suddenly, we were playing the stuff we had been listening to clandestinely on British radio; Glenn Miller and dance bands from England. Like me, many other guys in the orchestra had been fond of swing repertoire even before the war. The repertoire we got to play with Dolf was the music of our hearts. Another thing was… in Kuhlman’s orchestra, there were quite a few musicians from an older generation; and they did not get into Dolf's new orchestra. The result was a younger band which sounded much more contemporary.”

Surprising as it may sound, Dolf van der Linden does not seem to have run into any problems as a conductor in that critical initial period. “He seemed very experienced from the start,” says Cor Baan. “He conducted very well. Dolf was a man who had the feeling and the heart for music. No, he never had discipline issues; a born leader really. He was also accepted, because he had such a great personality; a nice, humble guy who I still have in my heart today! Unlike other conductors, he would never denigrate anyone in front of the whole orchestra during rehearsals if a mistake was made. He simply came to your place to have a little chat; simply as colleagues do.”

Van der Linden put together an entertainment orchestra of almost 40 players, including a full string section of 19. Elzard Kuhlman's orchestra had never consisted of more than 30 musicians. In short; in Hilversum’s music libraries, there was not a single arrangement available for Dolf's new orchestra – and what was there was far removed from the Anglo-Saxon style which was so fashionable in 1945. “There was nothing there for the orchestra,” Van der Linden recalled. “So what did I do in the evenings? I wrote one piece after the other, which gave us something to rehearse again the following day. (…) I also asked other people, “Please write me something”.” Pianist Manny Oets was one of those able to help out building up a solid repertoire for the new orchestra. Two music publishers, the International Music Company from Belgium as well as Chapell in Amsterdam, also jumped in, providing the orchestra with printed scores directly from England and America.

The ever expanding orchestra of Dolf van der Linden in Hotel Jans, summer 1945

Rehearsals were now well underway, but the new ‘modern entertainment orchestra' did not have a name yet. “No matter how deeply I was lost in thoughts – and, admittedly, this happened regularly in those days,” Van der Linden once explained, “I couldn't find a name for my orchestra.” In desperation, he decided to organise a little competition among his orchestra members, promising a box of cigarettes to the musician who came up with the best idea. “Well, the craziest suggestions came to the fore,” the conductor continues, “but no suitable name emerged. Then one of the guys working in the administration department stepped forward, a boy called Floor. He came up with the idea 'Metropole', ‘Metropolists’ – which I then duly put forward as a suggestion to the management, where it was duly accepted.” From now on the orchestra had a catchy, international-sounding name; a name that would survive the decades – the Metropole Orchestra.

In the meantime, Dolf and most of his musicians were waiting to be called up by the Commissie Zuivering Radio-Omroeppersoneel (Radio Broadcasting Personnel Purge Committee – BT). The committee’s express goal was passing quick judgment on the total of 741 broadcasting employees who had expressed their interest in a job in post-war radio. Years of litigation had to be avoided. The aim was to separate those who had adopted a truly enthusiastic attitude towards the occupier from those who were mere hangers-on. Only the former category could expect punishment. Remarkably enough, the secretary of the committee, KRO representative Wagenaar, had been part of the broadcasting service’s leadership during wartime, which did little to help the committee’s credibility.

After a long wait for his call-up, Dolf van der Linden was interrogated twice in October 1945. He was grilled about his conduct in 1942, when he first resigned from De Nederlandsche Omroep on principle grounds, only to rejoin the service a few months later. Moreover, the tour in early 1944 with Evelyn Künneke was also discussed. The committee members had been informed in advance that Van der Linden never sympathised with the Germans. In the papers that were handed to them in preparation for the interrogation, they found the following statement, “Is known among radio employees as an ‘anti’ (i.e. anti-German – BT) person. The Honour Council of Music did not find any incriminating material about Van der Linden either.”

It took a long time before the committee reached its judgment. As a result, the Metropole Orchestra’s debut had to be postponed several times. The final verdict was not made until December 3rd. In its wording, the committee was not kind to Dolf van der Linden. His involvement with Künneke's performances in the Netherlands was referred to as 'very reprehensible'. Furthermore, the commission felt “that, by arranging entertainment music, the applicant made a significant contribution to the fact that the National-Socialist programme could be put in a frame of popular music, making it more attractive to Dutch listeners.” In doing so, the committee deviated from its own standards. After all, with this argument in hand, the behaviour of every musician who had worked for De Nederlandsche Omroep could be condemned.

Radio Herrijzend Nederland's Jos Wouters writing Dolf van der Linden a note about two of his orchestra's projected radio broadcasts being cancelled due to the judgment on him not having been delivered yet by the Purge Committee

More than likely, Van der Linden made a bad impression on the committee. It could be proven that he had lied during his interrogations. When asked, he claimed that he had never completed an Aryan certificate, while the Committee did receive two such parentage forms – on both occasions, the certificate had been submitted at the express request of De Nederlandsche Omroep. The fact that Van der Linden had rejoined the nazified broadcasting service at the end of 1942 weighed heavily on the committee’s judgment. Van der Linden received punishment, but it was merely a symbolic one. The committee condemned him to a seven-month employment ban, starting retroactively on the day of liberation, May 5, 1945. The sentence pronounced on December 3rd would therefore only be in force for two (!) days from the moment of the verdict. 

Although Van der Linden was unhappy with the judgment, he accepted it. After months of waiting, he must have breathed a sigh of relief. After all, this meant he was confirmed as the conductor of his new orchestra. “I can still see him coming into our house with a bunch of flowers,” Dolf’s son Kinge recalls. “Throwing it at my mother, he just said, “It’s been resolved!” Then we knew he had been cleared.”

Through the intervention of the headstrong Henk van den Broek, the Metropole Orchestra had already made its debut one week prior to the end of Van der Linden's trial. On November 25th, 1945, the time had come. Radio Herrijzend Nederland’s programme magazine made mention of a 30-minute broadcast. The seven pieces to be performed were also listed in the radio guide. After the opening tune, 'J'ai deux amours', there was ample room for the American sound, such as 'Embraceable You', a song from the Gershwin musical 'Girl Crazy'. In addition to this romantic repertoire, audiences were also treated to contemporary upbeat jazz with Jimmy McHugh's composition 'On The Sunny Side Of The Street'.

As the orchestra was introduced to the listeners that night, the nerves of many of the musicians were tense. “This was an exciting moment,” pianist Manny Oets admitted. “When we showed up in AVRO Studio 1, the auditorium was packed to the rafters – not just the regular seats, but the balcony as well; and many more people were standing on the side! Of course, curiosity played a part in this; this was something different, wasn't it!” It was certainly different than anything that had come before, this huge entertainment orchestra. That night, apart from the conductor, no fewer than 38 musicians climbed the stage. Saxophonist Eddy Develing even had to play from the wings, because there was no space left for him on the stage.

Amateur footage of the Metropole Orchestra's rendition of Dolf Karelsen's Victory Marsch as performed on June 22nd, 2015, on Dolf van der Linden's 100th birthday concert, with Jan Stulen conducting. Recording made by one of Dolf Karelsen's family members; in the video, after 2 minutes, Dolf Karelsen's longest living son, Eddy, can be seen in the audience

Dolf van der Linden himself was as nervous as his musicians. Reminiscing about that first broadcast, he later wrote that he “was barely able to read his score due to the emotion of the moment.” The battle with his emotions reached a climax with the performance of the fifth piece that evening, the 'Victory March'. It had been written by Van der Linden's mentor and friend Dolf Karelsen, murdered in a German death-camp. Van der Linden once explained, "He composed that march in 1941 to be performed on the day of liberation, which he thought would soon be there, like so many Dutch people at the time." The premiere of Karelsen's composition was the perfect opportunity for Van der Linden to honour the man whose first name he bore with such pride. During the rendition of this stately 'V March', the joy about the regained freedom and the sorrow over the many innocent victims came together.

In spite of this sad note, euphoria prevailed due to the new ensemble having made a smashing debut. One of the journalists present wrote he had enjoyed himself listening to this concert of “contemporary dance music in symphonic style.” Moreover, he heaped praise on the orchestra’s “rhythmic English-American approach.” Comparing the Metropole Orchestra to its predecessor, Elzard Kuhlman's Groot Amusementsorkest, the same journalist noted, “Admittedly, the arrangements played by the old entertainment orchestra – more specifically in the last years of the war – were excellent from a musical point of view, but stylistically old-fashioned. On the other hand, those of the Metropole Orchestra – mainly written by the young, gifted arranger Dolf van der Linden – have been beautifully coloured and nuanced, as well as played in a contemporary style. Van der Linden proves himself as an arranger who knows how to write with skill and… with taste.”

The packs of fan mail Van der Linden received in the wake of that first radio concert were proof that the Metropole Orchestra had hit the right chord with audiences. This was the orchestra of a new era. “Can this really be a Dutch orchestra?”, a student from Utrecht wondered. When listening to the radio, he was initially under the impression that he was listening to an André Kostelanetz record. Another fan of the first hour was future radio announcer Aad Bos. “Dolf had put together a unique orchestra,” he explains. “There were the classical elements – a full string group with woodwinds – but a full big band as well. They produced a sound reminiscent of the orchestra of George Melachrino and the great film orchestras of America – André Kostelanetz’s orchestra, but also Morton Gould. From the start, Dolf was keen on new English and American music, for which arrangements were written specifically for the line-up of the Metropole Orchestra. This felt like liberation... Dolf and his orchestra symbolised ‘Herrijzend Nederland’ (i.e. the Netherlands Resurgent – BT)! Finally we were rid of German schlager tunes and operettas.”

After the last sounds had faded from the auditorium, a thunderous applause had rolled down over Dolf and his men. Afterwards, there was satisfaction all around, although there was also some cynicism. Theo Uden Masman, bandleader of The Ramblers, declared, "I'm sorry, but this will die in beauty!" Masman's way of thinking was understandable. In a small country such as the Netherlands, broadcasting budgets were not as generous as in England and America. Whether Van der Linden's ensemble would prove to be long-lived, therefore, remained to be seen.

The Metropole Orchestra making its radio debut on November 25th, 1945

The Golden Age of Radio (1946-1959)

Assembling the new orchestra had been a major tour de force for Dolf van der Linden. Shortly after the debut, viola player Meyer Kistemaker joined the orchestra. With him, the conductor had completed his intended formation of 39 members. In 1946, some personnel changes took place. For example, in the sax group, Jos Pino was replaced by Ben Libosan. 

Furthermore, in February 1946, two members of the orchestra left at short notice. Trumpet player Wim Olij and guitarist Cor Baan, doubling as the leader of the rhythm group, received an offer from freelance violinist Carlo Carcassola to form a combo with him for a tour of America and Canada. However, due to the fact that Carcassola turned out to have accrued a huge tax debt, the required travelling pass was not issued to him – resulting in the whole plan falling apart. Wim Olij and Cor Baan never saw North America. Sadly, they could no longer return to the Metropole Orchestra. After all, replacements had already been found, Jan Kelder and Tony van Hulst – the latter joining from the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Years later, Cor Baan still had a hard time coming to terms with his decision at the time, which turned out so wrong, “I should never have left the Metropole Orchestra. I regretted it so much later… In fact, it was the biggest mistake in my life.”

With these changes, the Metropole Orchestra had more or less been given its established form for the next 15 years. Partly due to the low turnover, the orchestra amalgamated into a club of friends with a strong sense of togetherness. Most players were contemporaries of Dolf van der Linden. Just like the conductor, a considerable part of the initial formation remained connected to the Metropole Orchestra and the broadcasting service for more than 30 years.

In the years after the war, Van der Linden also gathered a permanent group of people around the orchestra, who he could fall back on. In the early years, following the tradition of the 1930s dance bands, the Metropole Orchestra performed with its own vocalists. With the arrival of Tony van Hulst, the romantic repertoire from England and America was in safe hands. Another favourite guest vocalist was Netty van Doorn. Her real name being Netty Rosenfeld, she had already been involved with Radio Herrijzend Nederland in Eindhoven as an announcer. With the Metropole Orchestra, she enjoyed particular success in 1946 with ‘Eens zal de Betuwe in bloei weer staan’ (One Day Batavia Will Blossom As Before’ – BT). The song struck a chord with radio audiences, as it expressed the hope of peace and prosperity that so many were craving after the destructive war years. 

Other vocalists regularly performing with the orchestra in these early years were Maria Zamora (stage name of Marietje Jansen), who specialised in Latin repertoire, and Bruce Low, a Dutchman raised in Surinam, a deft interpreter of Negro spirituals. In addition, there was an American singer, former Broadway star Wanda Cochran, who had stayed in Europe after the war because of her husband's work. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, she was associated with the Metropole Orchestra. With her allure of glitz and glamour, Cochran grew into one of the Netherlands' most beloved radio stars.

With the orchestra performing on the radio several times a week, the conductor increasingly had to subdivide his time between rehearsals, meetings with broadcasting authorities, and auditions. With this busy daytime schedule, writing arrangements during the night hours became unsustainable. By this time, however, help was available in the shape of not just pianist Manny Oets, but trombonist Jos Cleber as well, both capable arrangers in their own right. 

After Cleber had left for the Dutch East Indies in 1948, Van der Linden called on flautist Joop Elders, which turned out to be a golden move. For decades, the shy Elders was one of the main arrangers of the orchestra. Like Cleber, Elders mainly focused on writing arrangements of operetta excerpts and light symphonic music. Van der Linden also found skilled writers outside the ranks of the orchestra, with his personal friend Boy Edgar in particular proving a force to be reckoned with. Edgar was responsible for the composition 'After The Concert', one of the successes of the orchestra in the early years.

For each arrangement, the parts for all individual orchestra members had to be written out. This copyist work largely came down to saxophonist Eddy Develing. Develing usually received the scores at very short notice, which is why he often had to work through the night in order to have the parts ready on time. His colleagues often saw him dozing off in his chair during the morning rehearsal.

The orchestra in November 1946 during a special broadcast on the occasion of the ensemble's first anniversary, with announcers Piet te Nuyl, Netty Rosenfeld, and Joop Reinboud at the microphone

New arrangements in different genres, specifically written for the ensemble, were the trademark of the Metropole Orchestra from the beginning. Gradually, the foxtrots and American jazz sounds were interspersed more regularly with operetta excerpts and fragments by classical composers such as Tchaikovsky, De Falla, and Debussy. With this, Van der Linden aimed at building a bridge “between seriousness and lightness, between music and entertainment”. He was a man with a mission, as he frankly admitted. “Speaking in all humility, we are trying to educate the part of the masses that are insensitive to music, entertaining them with a repertoire which is accessible and not too difficult.”

Judging from the fan mail that Van der Linden received in the first years after the foundation of the orchestra, he appears to have been wonderfully successful at “being the servant, not the slave of audiences.” In their letters, many asked the conductor for American dance music, but the orchestra’s versions of Dvořák's 'Humoresques' and Gershwin's 'Rhapsody In Blue' proved to be very popular with listeners as well. “There was no other entertainment orchestra that ventured into such bravura,” Dolf’s brother Rob comments, “but then, Dolf had the right musicians for it. One of those pieces was 'Flight Of The Bumblebee' by Rimsky-Korsakov, which has a terribly difficult solo part – but in the Metropole Orchestra, there was flautist Ko Ikelaar. Ikelaar once asked Dolf if he could write him a solo part for that particular piece. Dolf then rewrote it for flute, which was right up Ikelaar's street. My brother was sometimes reproached by his employers for venturing into this kind of repertoire, because in doing so he entered the waters of the classical radio orchestras.”

Usually, however, the orchestra’s versatility was a boon in the complicated microcosm of Dutch radio, especially when Radio Herrijzend Nederland lost ground in early 1946 and the pre-war broadcasters made their comeback. Henk van den Broek had to look on with regret while his brainchild was taken apart and replaced by Stichting Radio Nederland in den Overgangstijd. Under this umbrella, transformed into the Nederlandse Radio-Unie (NRU) in 1947, the pre-war broadcasters returned in full force. Van der Linden did his best to meet the wishes of the various companies as much as possible. For example, the Protestant VPRO and NCRV were very fond of Bruce Low’s gospel tunes. “They didn't want jazz music and dance music,” Van der Linden once explained, “but when we worked on a programme for [socialist broadcaster] VARA, our repertoire often consisted of just dance music.” As such, the Metropole Orchestra had something on offer for everyone: the audience as well as the broadcasting companies got their money's worth.

However, the demise of Radio Herrijzend Nederland brought with it a grave danger for the Metropole Orchestra. Before the war, each broadcaster had had its own entertainment ensembles. Having rid themselves of Henk van den Broek, the 'Big Four', AVRO, NCRV, KRO and VARA, decided to fight for a return to the pre-war situation with multiple smaller orchestras. The fact that the majority of musicians had now found employment in the Metropole Orchestra was a thorn in their side. In the summer of 1946, the broadcasters prepared a thorough reorganisation of the various radio orchestras created by Herrijzend Nederland. Reportedly for financial reasons, a plan was made to either dissolve the Metropole Orchestra or split it into smaller ensembles.

The orchestra in full glory at Rotterdam's Rivièrahal (1948)

This idea, however, was never implemented. Before it could have got that far, the press got wind of the broadcasters’ plans, which was the prelude to a storm of indignation. Dolf van der Linden received declarations of support from all over the country. “To hell with those broadcasting schemers – long live the Metropole Orchestra!”, is a line from just one of many letters sent in support of the harassed conductor.  By then, in September 1946, an Association of Friends of the Metropole Orchestra was formed, which set about organising a signature campaign. In addition, Van der Linden addressed a request to a number of prominent Dutch musicians to send letters to broadcasting authorities. Among others, Haakon Stotijn and Karel Mengelberg, heavyweights from the classical world, stood up for the Metropole Orchestra.

Perhaps impressed by all the reactions, the broadcasters put the planned reorganisation on hold for the time being. However, the radio musicians smelled blood – and a strike of all radio orchestras together was organised. In the end, the unions and broadcasters managed to reach an agreement, resulting in the musicians obtaining a collective labour agreement. Moreover, a committee of experts was set up, which was charged with delivering an advisory opinion on the future of the orchestra system. This committee came up with a crystal-clear answer, recommending to preserve the status quo. Following this report, the broadcasting companies were in checkmate. They might have eliminated Radio Herrijzend Nederland, but had to face up to the fact that its set-up of orchestras was there to stay.

In 1946, in spite of all opposition from within, the Metropole Orchestra performed in three to five radio broadcasts each week. “We usually had one rehearsal day beforehand,” guitarist Tony van Hulst recalled, “and then another one in the morning – and following that, we were expected to perform on air live at noon.” Work pressure was high. Apart from their live programmes for the various broadcasters, the orchestra also recorded a considerable amount of music for radio plays, often composed by Dolf van der Linden himself.

Obviously, a radio orchestra’s major working environment was in the studio, but it was not long before Dolf and his men were invited to do live concerts away from Hilversum as well. In March 1946, the ensemble experienced its baptism of fire on stage in a Red Cross charity concert in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Vocalists were Netty van Doorn, Tony van Hulst, and Bruce Low – the latter putting shoe polish on his face to lend extra credibility to his gospel repertoire. In the following months and years, the orchestra was given permission by NRU authorities to perform in ‘outdoor concerts’ now and then – with a first international trip to Brussels in 1948 being a particular highlight. These were occasions the musicians were looking forward to eagerly. “I couldn’t begin to describe to you how happy the boys are when we do one of those occasional performances in front of a live audience,” Van der Linden told a journalist in 1947. “Suddenly, there is personal contact, which changes the whole atmosphere. An orchestra like ours needs an audience every now and then.”

Dolf at home with his wife Gerda and their children (from left) Ineke, Peter, Anneke 'Pop', and David 'Kinge' (1948)

One of the venues where the Metropole Orchestra returned regularly was Rotterdam’s Rivièrahal. In November 1947, the orchestra even celebrated its second anniversary here with a concert which was broadcast live on radio. Dolf’s youngest brother Rob, a teenager at the time, attended several of these concerts in Rotterdam, a city that was still reeling from the havoc of World War II, more particularly the devastating German bombardment of 1940, “Rotterdam was flat after the war and there was nothing. When the Metropole Orchestra came down for a concert, the auditorium was packed. They put on a quality show. There were large palm trees on stage, Dolf came on in a white suit, and there was a songstress walking onto the stage with a backless dress. It really was as if America came to the Netherlands for one night.”

Strikingly, fan mail for the Metropole Orchestra rolled in not just from the Netherlands, but from other Western European countries as well. Van der Linden regularly received letters from admirers in Belgium, England, Scandinavia and little by little even from Ireland, France, and Switzerland, all listening to Dutch broadcasts with world receivers. Letters were often addressed simply to ‘Dolf van der Linden, Radio Hilversum’. Postmen in Hilversum took care of the rest.

Van der Linden's achievements did not go unnoticed at the BBC either. In 1947, a request came in from London to be allowed to retransmit Metropole Orchestra programmes. Those so-called relay broadcasts proved very popular. A reviewer from Musical Express magazine even referred to Van der Linden's ensemble as the best entertainment orchestra in Europe, including the British Isles. Later that year, two more broadcasts were relayed to Sweden. In the next decade, such exchanges of music programmes between Western European public radio stations became more and more regular. As a result, the Metropole Orchestra was also heard by radio listeners in Denmark and Belgium. However, the most extensive contacts continued to be maintained with the BBC.

Radio announcer Aad Bos recalls his first broadcast with the Metropole Orchestra, which was relayed directly by the BBC. This was in 1955. “As an announcer, you were supposed to make announcements largely in Dutch, with an occasional sentence of English added. I immediately found that Dolf was the ideal radio conductor. With one simple hand gesture, he indicated to me exactly when I could make my announcements. Simultaneously, he had his orchestra play a little softer. Things like that were prepared by Dolf meticulously. His musical ear told him that the announcer should start speaking at, say, bar 38. I was honoured to find that a conductor like Dolf van der Linden took an interest in my work. In the years that followed, we built up a good working relationship.”

The orchestra performing at Avifauna, Alphen aan den Rijn (April 1952) with American songstress Wanda Cochran; in the orchestra, concertmaster Guus Valten, guitarist Tony van Hulst, and harpist Ellen Stotijn can be recognised

Because the Metropole Orchestra was not part of one specific broadcaster, Dolf van der Linden and his men were employed by the NRU, the partnership of broadcasting associations formed in 1947. Van der Linden's correspondence with NRU management shows that relations with his employer were strained. The underlying reason was simple and painful at the same time; unlike the musicians in his orchestra, Van der Linden had not been given a permanent position. For years, his contract was extended by a number of months at a time. This precarious situation was downright torment for him. In his frustration, he even considered leaving. In 1947, he applied for the job of conductor of the Swedish radio orchestra. The answer from Stockholm, however, was short and clear, stating bluntly, “Positions like that must be reserved for Swedish people.” In the end, Van der Linden got his coveted permanent contract in 1956.

Another source of frustration for the conductor was the fact that he had to deal with more and more competition from various larger and smaller ensembles, used by the traditional broadcasting companies in their respective show programmes. Van der Linden was most annoyed about Jos Cleber, former trombonist of the Metropole Orchestra, who returned from his Indonesian adventure in 1952 to become chief conductor of AVRO’s house orchestra, De Zaaiers. One year later, Cleber added strings to the line-up, thus forming the Cosmopolitain Orchestra. From now on, AVRO had a small version of the Metropole Orchestra at its disposal, conducted by a skilled arranger and bandleader. “Dolf felt that Jos Cleber was trying to imitate him,” Rob van der Linden recalls. “Very childishly, AVRO chose the name ‘Cosmopolitain’, of course a deliberate move against the Metropole Orchestra. There was real hatred and envy between Cleber and Dolf. Dolf considered the Cosmopolitain Orchestra an unfair rival of his own orchestra.”

Meanwhile, in NRU listening surveys, the Metropole Orchestra time and again came out with the highest marks of all radio orchestras – not surprisingly, given that the ensemble built up an enormous reputation in the 1950s thanks to its participation in a string of major entertainment programmes. The most popular of these was VARA’s Saturday night show, Showboat, produced by Karel Prior. In Showboat, Dorus had his nationwide breakthrough as an entertainer, while Wim Sonneveld became a national treasure in his guise of the Amsterdam organ grinder Willem Parel. Additionally, guest artists from the Netherlands and abroad were invited. In those years, Showboat was one of the most popular programmes on Dutch radio. In this era before the introduction of television as a mass medium, millions of listeners gathered around their radio sets simultaneously to tune in.

In 1953, a small incident occurred in one of the Showboat broadcasts. Karel Prior had invited Rasma Ducat, a Latvian-British singer and actress who had been flown in from Rome. She would perform several songs with the Metropole Orchestra, including Kurt Weil's 'September Song'. The morning rehearsal with Ducat had been flawless, but things went wrong during the afternoon recording with a studio audience, when the singer entered the stage in a dress sporting a lush cleavage. “I stood in front of the orchestra, waving both of my arms,” Van der Linden recalled, “but nothing happened! My musicians didn’t play a single note, none of them! I didn't understand what was going on, but when I looked over my shoulder, I saw the singer right behind me. I shouted, “Who are you supposed to look at, her or me!?” Then the audience broke into laughter, which gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at our vocalist as well.”

Photo made for an advertisement campaign organised by the combined Dutch beer brewers (second half 1950s)

Meanwhile, Dolf van der Linden's staff of arrangers had been extended with two influential musicians, Pi Scheffer and Bert Paige. After the war, Scheffer had been appointed leader of the Skymasters, AVRO’s big band, but he gave up his music career in 1951 for a job as an English teacher. Because he did not want to give up on music completely, he wrote arrangements for the Metropole Orchestra. Van der Linden mainly used Scheffer's services for instrumental pieces and tunes. He was known for his original ideas. For Showboat, Scheffer once wrote a concerto for garden hose and orchestra, in which he himself took care of the solo on the eccentric instrument.

The modest but very gifted Belgian Bert Paige soon became an indispensable force for Van der Linden. Born as Albert Lepage, Paige studied the trumpet at Ghent’s music academy before moving to the Netherlands in 1950 to join The Ramblers, VARA’s big band. Before long, he also devoted himself to arranging for various other radio orchestras. In 1957, he stopped playing altogether to devote himself entirely to arranging, first and foremost for the Metropole Orchestra. For programmes like Showboat, Dolf increasingly relied on the prolific Paige, as Rob van der Linden recalls. “Dolf could tell Bert on Monday, “Listen, I have here a little arrangement which needs to be ready by Wednesday.” “Well, no problem,” Paige replied. Then, on Wednesday, he would come up with something seemingly simple. Every time, Bert Paige managed to do something wonderful with just three notes. His arrangements were simpler, but at the same time more refined than Pi Scheffer's. He was a true natural.”

When Dolf van der Linden formed his orchestra in 1945, he was just 30 years old. Most of the musicians he chose were about his age. At the end of the 1950s, the orchestra, with most members now in their forties, was joined by two relative youngsters; clarinettist-saxophonist Ad van den Hoed and pianist Dick Schallies, both excellent soloists. Schallies replaced Manny Oets, who preferred to cut short his  career as a musician to join the NRU as a recording director. At 29, Schallies was by far the youngest member of the orchestra, a status he retained for more than 10 years.

When asked about the opportunity to join the Metropole Orchestra, Schallies explained, “After graduating from the music academy, I was a freelancer for about ten years. At one point, I played with twelve orchestras at the same time. In many radio orchestras, such as The Skymasters and The Ramblers, I was the regular substitute. At the Metropole Orchestra, I had already replaced Manny Oets once for a performance in Belgium. One time, during a lunch break in the AVRO canteen, Dolf van der Linden and [alto violinist] Lo van Broekhoven, who was chairman of the orchestra’s advisory committee, suddenly came to sit with me, asking, “Would you like to join the orchestra?” Now, I hadn’t seen that coming! They offered me the job without having to audition – which was actually against the rules! As it happened, I was a fan of the orchestra, so the decision was an easy one. I was happy to finally get a permanent job after years of bi-monthly or quarterly contracts. I was tired of always having to apply for odd jobs. In the beginning, I really looked up to Dolf van der Linden. I called him 'Mr Van der Linden' for about a year, until he finally told me he insisted on being addressed simply as 'Dolf'. In its genre, the orchestra was known as the best in Europe. I was very proud to be part of it.”

The orchestra during a radio broadcast (1950s)

Even by the end of the 1950s, with television slowly beginning to make its mark in the media landscape, the Metropole Orchestra was still involved in at least four radio broadcasts per week. There were the traditional programmes with instrumental music as well as all kinds of one-off events, such as a large-scale show in 1958 on the occasion of Princess Beatrix's 20th birthday. Most broadcasts went on air live. As it happened, Van der Linden had developed the habit of storming in at the very last minute even for such live shows, while his musicians were already ready and waiting. Given the informal way in which the conductor dealt with his orchestra, it was a matter of time before he would be set straight by the members of his orchestra. According to a contemporary article in the daily De Rotterdammer, the conductor panicked one day, “when his naughty musicians turned out to have nailed his pack of scores to his desk with four wire nails a few minutes before the broadcast was due.”

When reminded of the anecdote, Rob van der Linden adds, “That newspaper quote is not entirely correct. Dolf later told me the story himself… and with relish. The guys wanted to teach him a lesson for always showing up just in the nick of time. Before the broadcast, using one huge nail, they had fixed the pack of sheet music, which had been put on his music stand by the orchestra assistant. Of course, this meant that he couldn't turn the pages. Now, everyone in the orchestra knew they had to start in a matter of minutes, so one of the musicians stood ready behind him with a pair of pincers to remove the nail.”

In 1957, Hilversum was shaken to its foundations, when producer Karel Prior left the socialist VARA, moving – or defecting, as many saw it at the time – to the liberal AVRO. As his successor, the VARA appointed 27-year-old announcer Joop Koopman. Replacing Showboat, he came up with a new Saturday night show, Plein 8 uur 13, named after the exact time when the programme started. The show offered a mix of songs and cabaret, but the Metropole Orchestra was also given its chance to shine with virtuoso instrumental pieces. Like Showboat, Plein 8 uur 13 relied on a cast of permanent artists, including Corry Brokken. Furthermore, Koopman always managed to entice celebrities from the entertainment world for each show, often from far abroad. Even Amalia Rodrigues, Cleo Laine, and Ella Fitzgerald performed in this programme.

Traditionally, the VARA was the broadcaster which made use of the Metropole Orchestra most extensively. Therefore, it was well-nigh unthinkable that Dolf van der Linden's ensemble would have been left out of the follow-up to Showboat. Each week, a preparatory meeting for the programme was held at Dolf’s home, at which, as wells as Koopman, arrangers Bert Paige and Pi Scheffer attended. Koopman, a man with an immense know-how in music, later recalled how wonderfully well the collaboration between him and Van der Linden turned out, when Belgian mouth organ genius Toots Thielemans was the programme’s main guest, “Actually, there was no time left to make new arrangements. Then Dolf suggested we should take a vocal piece of which an arrangement was available in the music library – and that we should tell Toots, ‘This is the piece, this is the key, and that's where the modulation is.’ That's how it happened, and Toots’ performance really was top-notch.”

Van der Linden welcoming English singer Vera Lynn in a one-off TV gala version of NCRV's radio show 'Vlag in top' (1959)

‘Van Lynn & His Orchestra’ – Dolf van der Linden’s freelance work (1946-1965)

Official broadcasting regulations forbade musicians under contract with the NRU to have any involvement in commercial record releases. Like most of his musicians, however, Dolf van der Linden paid little attention to this. Even shortly after the war, he was working as a freelancer in studio recordings under the flag of record company Decca. It must have been a torment for Van der Linden that he and his orchestra, in spite of acquiring huge popularity among radio listeners in those first post-war years, were not allowed to record their own repertoire for commercial purposes. It must be admitted, though, that NRU officials regularly turned a blind eye, as Decca released several 78 rpm records of the orchestra’s most beloved instrumental works in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

At the NRU, Dolf van der Linden was appointed as conductor – and conducting was what he liked doing most. In addition, however, he was regularly commissioned by broadcasters to write music. In the first post-war years, he specialised in composing signature tunes – including the theme of the Netherlands’ first TV news programme – as well as radio plays. In 1948, the radio play Van een koning die niet kon opstaan was even sold to Belgium’s national broadcaster NIR. Van der Linden was invited to record his work with local musicians in Brussels.

It was only a short step from radio plays to film scores. After the war, the Dutch film industry only very slowly climbed out of the pit into which it had fallen due to German occupation. Following the example of Louis Levy and other British and American composers, Dolf van der Linden was eager to record soundtracks with a large orchestral set-up. In 1949, a first chance to write a real soundtrack presented itself. For the animated film Tom Poes in Aetherland, created by Toonder Studios of cartoonist and filmmaker Marten Toonder, Dolf provided the musical accompaniment. In subsequent years, Toonder called on Van der Linden several more times for his cartoon creations.

It took a few more years before his real baptism of fire as a film composer. Directed by Gerard Rutten, the motion picture Sterren stralen overal was recorded, the main storyline being about an Amsterdam taxi driver emigrating to Australia with his family. Van der Linden accepted the assignment, but not without a firm demand. “Obviously my condition was that I would get to record it with the Metropole Orchestra, because they are my boys.” Van der Linden also composed the title song, recorded by Bert van Dongen. In 1953, Sterren stralen overal was a resounding blockbuster in cinemas across the Netherlands.

During a nightly recording session in the film studios of Geesink Productions (1955)

Three years later, Van der Linden was handed a new opportunity to write music to a film directed by Rutten. For Het wonderlijke leven van Willem Parel, Wim Sonneveld once again took on the role of the organ grinder which had been so popular in the radio show Showboat. In Cinetone Studios, Van der Linden recorded his compositions with the full Metropole Orchestra. A journalist was there to witness it, “For two long nights, the Metropole Orchestra and an extensive staff of engineers worked hard to create the best possible result in terms of music. All work had to be done after 11 pm due to the orchestra having all kinds of other activities for radio during daytime. (…) Various microphones towered above the musicians like miniature cranes, with a minuscule production screen being attached to a wooden partition, right opposite Dolf van der Linden's desk. Through two mirrors, fragments of the film could be projected from a different part of the building to enable the conductor to choose the right moment to put his orchestra to work.”

Clearly, the journalist was impressed by Van der Linden's quick way of working. As it turned out, an additional piece of music was required for a certain scene. Swiftly, the conductor came up with a melody in between two sessions, “Dolf van der Linden rolled up his sleeves, took a ballpoint and a piece of paper, composing a little waltz while leaning against the lid of the grand piano – a melody which pianist Manny Oets’ flexible fingers played flawlessly mere minutes after it had been thought up.” Although critics were not that kind about Wim Sonneveld’s film, the general public was more impressed, judging by the movie’s revenue and the popularity of the single release of the theme song ‘Poen, poen, poen’ – now an evergreen of Dutch popular music.

Following this, Van der Linden was involved as a composer in several more feature films, most notably Toon Hermans’ comedy Moutarde van Sonaansee (1959). By the late 1950s, Hermans, who had had his national breakthrough thanks to a performance with the Metropole Orchestra in early 1946, was the country’s most popular comedian. He and Van der Linden enjoyed a good working relationship, which made Dolf the logical choice when Hermans made his first – and only – motion picture. For this film, Van der Linden composed all the ‘illustrative music’, as he invariably called it, while the ideas for the songs came from Hermans himself, who sang or played them “with one finger on the piano,” whereupon Dolf then wrote out these ‘compositions’, subsequently coming up with the arrangements as well. In addition to films, Van der Linden also provided music for various documentaries as well as cinema commercials.

Beside his soundtracks, Van der Linden also wrote short, instrumental pieces in a genre that may be described as light-symphonic in terms of orchestral instrumentation, but which, melody-wise, is closer to entertainment music. In 1948, he conducted the Metropole Orchestra for the radio premiere of his compositions 'Humoresque For Strings' and 'Concertino For Orchestra'. In doing so, he followed a trend among orchestra leaders in the United States and Great Britain, who often wrote this type of melodies as so-called library music – alternatively referred to as mood music. Specialised record companies offered such compositions to television broadcasters and newsreel production companies for use with their news images or as intermission music.

On the plane to London (1951)

As it happened, Dolf van der Linden had the good fortune that British composer Dennis 'Den' Berry had settled in the Netherlands after the war. Shortly after the war, he came to Amsterdam as a representative of Paxton, one of the most renowned library music publishers in Britain. In the meantime, he also wrote arrangements for various local orchestras, including the Metropole Orchestra of Dolf van der Linden, with whom he became friends. In 1949, Berry, who spoke Dutch almost flawlessly, was called back to Paxton's London headquarters, where he was put in charge of the music library.

That same year, English studio musicians effectively brought London’s recording business to a standstill due to their umpteenth long-term strike. More actively than before, Paxton and other labels started looking for conductors and orchestras abroad in order to keep business going. At this point, Den Berry got back in touch with his main music acquaintance in the Netherlands, Dolf van der Linden. Van der Linden offered Paxton an ideal escape route. Thanks to Dutch radio programmes relayed by the BBC and his contacts with English bandleaders, he had already built up a reputation in professional circles in the UK. Moreover, in the years before the war, Van der Linden had already stubbornly devoted himself to various English conversation courses; and he spoke and wrote English remarkably well. This made him an attractive partner for the British company. After a test recording made in Hilversum with the Metropole Orchestra, Paxton decided to sign him.

When the NRU also agreed to this additional freelance assignment for Dolf and his orchestra, nothing stood in the way of working for the English market. During the orchestra's following holiday period, in the summer of 1950, the first recordings were made. In subsequent years, Van der Linden recorded dozens of pieces for Paxton. Much of it was work by British composers, with Van der Linden being commissioned by Paxton to add the arrangements. However, he also produced his own pieces, which were added to the Paxton library under titles thought up in London. For example, he recorded ‘Jack The Dancer’, originally used for a radio play broadcast on Dutch radio. Transcripts in Van der Linden's archive show that this composition, alongside 'Grand Canyon' and 'Parklane Serenade', was one of his most purchased works published on the Paxton label.

Betting on several horses simultaneously, Dolf van der Linden also provided mood music to various other London production music publishers, including Francis-Day, Charles Brull, Synchro, and Hayes. For the latter two companies, he worked under the respective pseudonyms David Johnson and Dovaly. Some of his compositions were published in Britain as having been written by Paul Franklin and Nat Nyll. It was understandable that Van der Linden preferred not to sign all his works using his own name. After all, what if NRU officials found out that the conductor of the Metropole Orchestra did not just earn some valuable extra pocket money in the summer months as an arranger and conductor for Paxton, but enjoyed a considerable extra income as a composer for other record labels as well?

At Paxton's headquarters in London, Den Berry puts the company's latest record release on the gramophone player, while Dolf van der Linden and Robert Busby, conductor of the BBC Revue Orchestra, make themselves comfortable (1951)

In the second half of the 1950s, Van der Linden’s income from production music gradually declined. Sound-wise, television made progress. News images were increasingly accompanied by real sound, as a result of which less and less background music was needed. By the early 1960s, Van der Linden had lost virtually all of his English revenues. The golden era of library music was over.

Apart from England, Dolf van der Linden also had good business relations in Belgium. He entrusted some of his compositions to the World Music firm of Jacques Kluger and Felix Faecq in Brussels. Kluger and Faecq had one of the most extensive collections of library music on the European mainland at their disposal. In the US, the enterprising Kluger managed to sell music by various European composers and orchestra leaders, including Dolf van der Linden. Decca alone released no fewer than ten albums in the 1950s with material recorded – and also partly composed – by Van der Linden. In 1954, the Metropole Orchestra even had an American hit with 'Polka For Strings'. Financially, it was a boon, but it did not win Van der Linden much personal fame across the ocean. After all, to his regret, Kluger chose to sell all of his material under the attractive pseudonyms Daniel De Carlo and ‘Van Lynn and His Orchestra’.

In part thanks to his connections in England, Van der Linden managed to stay in touch with the American recording business later on. In the later 1950s, he was contacted by Capitol Records. This company released two instrumental albums in the United States under Van der Linden's own name, ‘Ongetrouwd Man Kamer!’ (1957) and ‘Dutch Moonlight’ (1958). On the first album, for some reason given a title in broken Dutch – with its English translation ‘Bachelor’s Apartment’ as subtitle –, listeners could enjoy Van der Linden's arrangements of songs from The Great American Songbook. The conductor was given the opportunity to present his musical credentials in the cover text, “My great love is my orchestra – my music – and I envision music as being a combination of wonderful colors. I like the natural sound of musical instruments – I detest technical tricks – and only music that comes to you healthy and clean can speak directly to your heart. This is a language without words.”

With his remark about technical tricks, Van der Linden indirectly criticised the method of Italo-British bandleader Mantovani, who enjoyed worldwide popularity in the late 1950s with his cascading strings. “Dolf didn’t like Mantovani,” Dolf's brother Rob, a piano student at the Rotterdam Music Academy in those years, confirms. “Mantovani divided the strings of his orchestra into different groups. With a descending melody, the first string group started and held that tone for a while. At the same time, a second group already started the next tone, holding it for a while as well. Next came a third string group, and so on. This created a slow cascade of sounds – a sophisticated arranging technique. Dolf acknowledged that it was a clever idea, but he was quite conservative in his views on music. He despised using any tricks in the studio as well. To his mind, everything should be taped in one go; and not glued together from small pieces.”

Visiting his good friend in Stockholm, Swedish jazz saxophonist and bandleader Harry Arnold (1951)

As in the case of production music, the 1950s were also Dolf van der Linden’s golden age of commercial records in England and America. However, after 'Starlight Reverie', an album released in 1959 on the Columbia label in Britain, the demand from abroad dried up completely. Although the market for instrumental music was by no means exhausted in the 1960s – Franck Pourcel, Bert Kaempfert, and Raymond Lefèvre enjoyed huge success with their pop arrangements –, the light symphonic sound of Van der Linden and other arrangers of his generation was brushed aside by record companies. Their music had become the sound of a bygone era.

Dolf van der Linden made a name for himself not only with foreign record companies, but also in radio circles in various Western European countries, helped by programmes of his orchestra being relayed elsewhere in Europe. Gradually, invitations started coming in to perform as a guest with radio orchestras in various countries. The first time was in 1950, when he was given the opportunity by Télé Radio Ciné in Paris to conduct Paul Durand's light-music orchestra. 

In the following years, more invitations followed, mainly from Scandinavia. In 1952, Van der Linden travelled to Copenhagen to record a programme with the DR Underholdningsorkestret of conductor Kai Mortensen, with whom he quickly became good friends. Shortly before, he had also made his debut with the Radiotjänsts Dansorkester in Stockholm, led by the amiable bandleader Thore Ehrling. In the 1950s and 1960s, Van der Linden remained a welcome guest with radio orchestras in Sweden and Denmark. Later on, he also added Norway’s Kringkastingsorkestret of conductor Øivind Bergh to his record.

In addition to his Scandinavian gigs, Van der Linden was also in demand in West Germany and other parts of Europe. He became a regular guest on Irish radio in Dublin and conducted a concert at Finnish broadcaster YLE in Helsinki in the early 1960s. Moreover, he was a regular at the BBC for many years. In 1965 alone, he recorded five radio programmes with various BBC orchestras, including the BBC Midland Orchestra in Birmingham.

Harry Rabinowitz, a contemporary of Dolf van der Linden who was employed at the BBC as a conductor in the 1950s and 1960s, composed several pieces that were recorded by Van der Linden. When asked, Rabinowitz explains why his Dutch colleague was so much in demand for radio concerts in England, “Dolf van der Linden was very well known in our circles for the mood recordings he made for the British market. The music he played was pretty advanced and required a lot of technical expertise from the conductor. He was very good at that sort of thing. You have to realise that recording music is very different to conducting a concert or a radio programme, but Dolf had the ability to do both. Dolf and I shared the same attitudes that enabled both of us to do this difficult, high-pressure job by working at top speed with the best UK players, keeping conductor-style talk to a minimum and not boring musicians with unnecessary repetition. He was a polished maestro who set admirably high standards – and a very good chap!”

A very special assignment followed in 1960, when Van der Linden received an invitation from Kol Yisrael, Israel’s national broadcaster, to come to Tel Aviv to form a radio orchestra along the lines of the Metropole Orchestra. The NRU allowed him a four-week furlough – and his sojourn in Israel was eventually even extended to almost two months. After a long series of auditions, he formed an orchestra of 26 men. Following this, he oversaw a period of rehearsals to turn the players into a harmonious ensemble.

When asked about Van der Linden’s Israeli adventure, he later conductor of the orchestra, Moshe Atzmon, comments, “It must not have been easy for Dolf to create a homogeneous, rich sound. All those string players were able to play Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto without any problem, but they had no experience with light music. Some of them had previously played in the army band, but that was something completely different. I wasn't there at the beginning, but I later heard how much effort Dolf had put into it. He managed it with his personality. His approach created an enormous enthusiasm with the musicians. They all wanted to give their best for him. They liked him very much. They appreciated his work, but they loved the person!”

In an audition organised to give the ensemble a permanent conductor, Dolf van der Linden hand-picked young Moshe Atzmon, who was completely inexperienced in the field of light music. For Atzmon, the selection came as a complete surprise, given that Yitzhak Graziani, veteran conductor of the army band, also took part in the auditions. In the weeks following his appointment, Atzmon was helped on his way by Van der Linden personally.

Rehearsing with part of the new Israeli radio orchestra - Tel Aviv, spring 1960

“I was impressed with him from the outset,” Atzmon continues. “I still see him standing in front of me; a tall guy with a calm and friendly face. He never had to resort to theatrical behaviour. Other conductors may have had the habit of shouting at the orchestra in rehearsals, but he didn't need that. Because of his charisma, he managed to achieve what he wanted to achieve. He knew exactly what he was doing. Perhaps he didn't have the technique to conduct a symphony, but that wasn't what was asked of him; in light music, it's all about creating a beautiful sound with an orchestra playing as a unit. What Dolf did was based on good musicianship. His conducting technique was very clear. I would call him a natural conductor. Kol Yisrael made a golden move by approaching him for this project. Just to show you how popular Dolf had become with the musicians, the entire orchestra saw him off to the airport upon his return to the Netherlands.”

Later that same year, Moshe Atzmon was invited to the Netherlands for a few weeks to do an internship with the Metropole Orchestra. During that period, he simply stayed at the Van der Linden family’s house in Hilversum. It must be said that Dolf van der Linden had a nose for talent. Atzmon went on to have a long and successful career as a classical conductor, leading symphony orchestras across the world.

In contrast to Van der Linden’s commercial studio work in England, which dried up quite abruptly around 1960, he continued to be much in demand as a guest conductor at radio stations in various Western European countries. For Van der Linden, these gigs abroad fulfilled an important personal need, as he once explained in a newspaper interview: “(…) the danger of standing in front of the same orchestra for a long time – with things going too easily, too automatically, too clichéd – is something we have always managed to avoid. In this respect, guest conductorships are indispensable. They are refreshing, enabling you to generate new ideas and inspiring you to new forms of creativity.”

While Van der Linden himself was very keen on guest appearances abroad, he was always wary of leaving the Metropole Orchestra in someone else’s care. In fact, only his good colleague and friend from London, Canadian mood composer Robert Farnon, met Dolf’s impossibly high standards. When Dolf had a day off, the honours were simply taken by concertmaster Guus Valten. When the Israeli offer came in, Van der Linden’s first concern was his replacement in Hilversum. He did not want anyone who could become a threat to his own position at some point. With Farnon being unavailable, the thought of having to leave his orchestra to a Dutch colleague was unbearable. “I don’t want to lose my orchestra,” he stated somewhat melodramatically in a meeting with NRU’s management. Van der Linden filed an urgent request with his employer not to appoint an external replacement. As a result, during Dolf’s stay in Israel, Guus Valten took over as conductor of the Metropole Orchestra.

Moshe Atzmon as a guest in the radio studios in Hilversum looking over the shoulder of Dolf van der Linden at a rehearsal (November 1960)

Although Van der Linden claimed that Valten was a ‘very deft’ conductor, insiders agree that the Groningen violinist was not up to his replacement task. Pianist Dick Schallies recalls, “Technically, Guus couldn’t always handle it. When there was a slower section in the middle of a piece, he often made the mistake of conducting much too slowly. During rehearsals, the orchestra as a whole took advantage of this by playing three tones lower than written. This sounded like playing a gramophone record at too low a speed. Of course, we only did this in rehearsal. Guus made sure that he was more alert during the actual recording.”

Due to his good reputation as a conductor, Van der Linden received the odd invitation to appear as a guest with classical orchestras in the Netherlands, albeit incidentally. In 1953, he conducted the Haarlemsche Orkestvereniging in a performance of Viennese repertoire, while six years later the Groningse Orkestvereniging knocked on his door, when the orchestra was looking for a conductor to guide the musicians through a musical comedy concert. At the time, the musical genre was virtually unknown in the Netherlands. A journalist described it as ‘Anglo-Saxon operetta’. Dolf van der Linden was considered the suitable choice to introduce the theatre audience in Groningen to works by Bernstein, Gershwin, and others.

Mere months after his appearance in Groningen, Van der Linden experienced one of the most remarkable episodes in his career. Sponsored by the combined Netherlands’ record companies, October 1960 was declared Month of Gramophone, culminating in the very first Grand Gala du Disque. To further promote the event, it was decided to release a premium single by the flagship of Dutch classical music, the revered Concertgebouw Orchestra, which was persuaded to devote itself to light repertoire for the first time in history. Recording a colourful potpourri of popular melodies from last year's hit parade, such as ‘Marina’, ‘Piove’, and ‘Milord’, the symphony orchestra was placed under the baton of none other than Dolf van der Linden.

News that the Concertgebouw Orchestra allowed itself to be employed in this project led to raised eyebrows in classical music circles. Even years later, Van der Linden breathed fire when asked about the commotion, “There was a lot of criticism at the time. ‘Impossible, our national orchestra playing light music’ and ‘Those light entertainment guys are trying to bring down the name of the Concertgebouw Orchestra’. Utter nonsense! There has never been a rift between classical and light-entertainment musicians. If it exists at all, it's the musicologists’ fault. They are a guild devoid of any sense of humour. Please bear in mind that the heyday of the Concertgebouw Orchestra was when Willem Mengelberg played Johann Strauss’ waltzes.”

Conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra (1960)

One time, Dolf confided in his brother how he had survived the confrontation with the 99 instrumentalists of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, as Rob van der Linden recalls. “The musicians were naturally curious how such a light-entertainment guy would hold himself. Dolf had instructed Pi Scheffer to write an arrangement which was rather demanding. The musicians really had to be on the edge of their seats to avoid messing up. In rehearsal, he really didn’t spare them, taking a firm line. Because of his way of working, he gained their respect soon enough. Perhaps Dolf didn’t have the technique to conduct Wagner or Mahler, but he certainly showed that he understood his profession.”

Regularly performing musical comedy repertoire with his own orchestra, Dolf van der Linden can be considered one of the pioneers of this genre in the Netherlands. However, no Dutch theatre had ever staged a musical. At some point, Van der Linden had made an attempt at composing one himself, but he had given up due to the lack of a suitable libretto. In 1960, Rotterdam entrepreneurs Piet Meerburg and Willy Hofman took the plunge. They decided to purchase the performing rights for the Netherlands of the Broadway musical My Fair Lady. Director Sven Åge Larsen was flown in from Denmark, while Wim Sonneveld was persuaded to perform the leading character, Professor Higgins.

Naturally, performing a musical required the presence of an orchestra. Meerburg and Hofman approached Dolf van der Linden to take on the musical directorship – the first part of the job being to put together a 25-piece theatre orchestra. For Van der Linden, who saw his income from freelance work in England and America evaporate around that time, the assignment could not have come at a better moment. Calling on employment offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, he received 80 applicants. “Of those, 30 didn’t have the necessary qualifications – and of the 50 remaining names, 25 were picked,” he recounted. Unable to neglect his regular duties with the Metropole Orchestra, he could only conduct part of the rehearsals. Nevertheless, he was satisfied. According to him, an excellent ensemble gradually emerged, “I was amazed to find how people who didn't know each other at all, some of whom hadn't played regularly for years, could get along so quickly.”

When putting together the orchestra, Van der Linden had not disavowed his musical origins. Whereas a harp was provided in the original line-up, he replaced this instrument with a piano. Van der Linden felt a pianist was a first requirement when rehearsing the various parts with the vocalists and their understudies. However, finding a suitable pianist became a real headache. The tyrannical Sven Åge Larsen dismissed one musician nominated by Van der Linden after the other. After six pianists had been tested and rejected by Larsen, he finally approved of a 24-year-old by the name of Rob van der Linden.

“Until that time, the name 'Dolf van der Linden' had always been a restricting force in my career,” Rob van der Linden admits. “Everywhere I went, I was and always remained Dolf’s brother. This wasn’t a pleasant situation. Dolf, who must have thought I was a free spirit, didn’t take me entirely seriously. It was only when his wife Gerda asked him why he wouldn't try me after all those pianists had been sent packing. He thought of it as a gamble, as I later understood, but he took it. After receiving a telegram, I reported to the Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam, where rehearsals were held. Larsen was already waiting for me, immediately putting the music sheets in front of me. Although I had never worked as a répétiteur before, the job suited me. Later on, when the orchestral rehearsals got underway, Dolf and I met as music professionals for the first time. In fact, we couldn’t help noticing that, on a musical level, the both of us were always in agreement. There was no piano arrangement. Dolf instructed me to simply fill up bits of the score which sounded a bit thin. Once he noticed that I got some iron in me as a musician, his respect increased visibly.”

On October 1st, 1960, the time had finally come. My Fair Lady premiered in Rotterdam’s Luxor Theatre. Initially, critics were not overly enthusiastic, but over time audiences found their way to the theatre. In total, the musical ran for over two years, first in Luxor, later at the Carré Theatre in Amsterdam. No fewer than 750,000 tickets were sold. Dolf van der Linden was involved as a conductor in only a handful of performances. “He conducted the first week in Rotterdam,” brother Rob digs into his memory, “and when we went to the Carré, he also took care of the premiere there. He then passed the job onto Zóltan Szilassy, a Hungarian violinist in our orchestra who was really eager to conduct. Dolf trained him. Every now and then, he also came to have a look, checking if everything was still going well.”

Following this resounding success, Meerburg and Hofman were eager to get a second musical production off the ground. The choice fell on a piece by British composer Lionel Bart, Oliver!, based on Charles Dickens’ novel. Again, Dolf van der Linden put together an orchestra, consisting in part of the same musicians who had done My Fair Lady, but this second production flopped. After the upbeat and optimistic My Fair Lady, audiences had difficulty identifying with the somewhat depressing atmosphere of the slums of 19th-century London. In 1964, the plug was pulled after just a few months of performances.

Looking back, Dolf van der Linden was proud of his involvement in My Fair Lady and Oliver! – and rightly so, given that he had also been one of the pioneers of musical comedy in the Netherlands, initially by performing repertoire from various musicals with his orchestra, long before there was talk of a first fully-fledged Dutch musical production. Gradually, the genre became a familiar part of the national theatre agenda.

Dolf with his brother Rob, 21 years his junior (c. 1964)

Minor concessions to the 1960s music revolution (1960-1972)

In the first half of the 1960s, the Metropole Orchestra still had a schedule which was as busy as in the previous decade. By now, the orchestra was a familiar feature on television as well, accompanying the annual Eurovision pre-selection and other show programmes; in the autumn months, the orchestra was often commissioned to work on the prestigious Grand Gala du Disque, the Netherlands’ equivalent of the Grammy Awards. At the gala, the orchestra teamed up not just with local artists, but with international stars as well, including the likes of Caterina Valente, Dusty Springfield, and Tony Bennett. After his appearance at the Grand Gala, the American crooner mused, “I have great admiration for Dolf van der Linden and his orchestra. How I wish I could make studio recordings with those guys. I don't understand why this is the first time I’ve come to the Netherlands.”

All the while, however, the main part of the Metropole Orchestra’s workload still consisted of recording music for four to five radio programmes per week. In 1963, the orchestra was called upon for a one-off radio special with Wim Sonneveld for VARA Radio, a real highlight in the repertoire of Sonneveld. This one-off programme was a production by Joop Koopman, who had already worked with Van der Linden on Plein 8 uur 13 in the late 1950s. In 1961, Koopman came up with a new radio formula, Specialiteitentheater. In each edition of this Saturday evening show, which ran for three years, a different film genre was poked fun of. As such, Specialiteitentheater was one of the last shows of its kind. With the arrival of TV entertainment, the era of large-scale radio shows came to an end.

While the Metropole Orchestra remained faithful to its sound, the music world around the orchestra was changing swiftly. Dolf himself could no longer escape the facts, when he was sent to the Eurovision to conduct Anneke Grönloh’s performance in 1964. Here was a successful singer who had not learnt her trade with radio orchestras, but in the recording studio – and was less likely to have patience with the well-intentioned instructions of a conductor than, say, Corry Brokken or Greetje Kauffeld. But there was more than just teenage stars, pushed forward by record labels. Towards the end of 1963, The Beatles scored their first hit in the Netherlands with 'She Loves You'. As it turned out, the Liverpool quartet were the frontrunners of a deluge of guitar groups at home and abroad.

‘Beat music’ was being played on commercial stations like Radio Luxembourg and Radio Veronica. The traditional broadcasters in Hilversum initially failed to jump onto the pop music bandwagon. Finally, in 1965, in an attempt to compete with the immensely popular Radio Veronica, the NRU decided to set up a new, third radio station. Hilversum III, dedicated almost exclusively to music released by record companies. By now, ‘rock’ and ‘beat’ had become the vehicles of a new generation. Young music lovers were not interested in ballroom arrangements and large orchestras. As a result, broadcasters were quick to get rid of most of their in-house ensembles. Live music programmes with tango, musette, and bossa nova music were simply no longer in demand. For example, in 1966, the AVRO disbanded Jos Cleber's Cosmopolitain Orchestra. It was not a foregone conclusion that the Metropole Orchestra would survive this storm.

Recording a VARA radio special with singer and comedian Wim Sonneveld (1963)

What were Van der Linden’s thoughts about this so-called ‘teenager music’? The answer is not hard to guess. In a major interview with daily De Haagsche Courant on the occasion of his 50th birthday in 1965, the journalist asked the conductor his opinion about The Beatles. “Yes, of course, they are a nice bunch. This chap Lennon wrote some very nice tunes.” 

That actually sounds pretty constructive, but then Van der Linden goes on to say, “It's not an art form, that's for sure. It is a phenomenon. (…) You have to realise that teenage music is a business nowadays; and I just cannot accept our youngsters being exploited. On the other hand, you can’t do without guys like The Rolling Stones. Adolescents aged 14 to 18 are wild about them; they love music with a pronounced rhythm – that is, if you can call it music at all. As they get older, they come to their senses, suddenly explaining how they adore Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.”

At a stroke, the conductor, who had been one of the key figures in Dutch popular music for two decades, sounded like the mouthpiece of a previous generation. His viewpoint was shared by most of his orchestra members – even the youngest, such as clarinettist Ad van den Hoed, who shared with us a very telling anecdote about a concert where he played as a freelancer around that same time.

“In 1964, my jazz quartet was invited to play at a music event in North Holland, in Blokker. I went there presuming we had been booked as the main act, but as it turned out, we were the support act of some pop group… The Beatles, yes. I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ That audience obviously wasn’t there to listen to us. It was most unpleasant. And that new music… I thought it was just noisy, horrible really! Dolf and all the other guys in the orchestra were of the same opinion. At some point, we realised that we had to cut our losses. We had to evolve in order not to be left alone on an island. In our hearts we preferred not to, but… we did, bringing in a pinch of our own style, though. That's how audiences knew they were listening to the Metropole Orchestra. Here and there, for example, small loops were added, details which made the music more interesting to listen to. In doing so, you could say we actually turned pop into pop-jazz.”

Rehearsing with Tony Bennett for the 1966 edition of the Grand Gala du Disque

Over time, Dolf van der Linden also understood that beat and rock were here to stay. This was a storm which did not blow over. A few years later, in 1970, his tone had become far more moderate. When asked if he listened to contemporary pop, he answered, not very convincingly perhaps, “Well, yes, The Beatles and The Byrds. Very nice, I often listen to their music.” After some insistence on the part of the journalist, he admitted to having abandoned some of his principles. “My desire is to make great music without making too many concessions. Of course, making no concessions is impossible, because I feel the listener has a right to hear his favourite tunes now and then. However, I refuse to play music which I find embarrassing from my viewpoint as a musician.” 

But how could these seeming incompatibilities be reconciled? In another interview, he declared, “You can still add some depth to very one-dimensional music, although this does not mean the result is automatically a better one. My bottom line has always been to give any music a sound which is attractive, both musically speaking and from the point of view of the average listener. On that condition I’m happy to make a little concession now and again.” Eventually, Van der Linden put it more clearly, “As a conductor you have to be open to new trends in music. By the time you’ve reached a point where you’re no longer in touch with those developments, then the day has come to go looking for another job.”

It was obvious that, by now, Van der Linden understood the signs of the times. The Metropole Orchestra had to move along in order not to make itself redundant. As one of the first concessions, Parklane Serenade, the orchestra’s signature melody for decades, had to go; the broadcasting companies no longer wanted the orchestra to begin its radio performances playing this tune. In finding new ways to serve the ever-changing wishes of audiences, the orchestra was offered much-needed help by VARA’s Joop de Roo. This young radio producer soon built up an excellent working relationship with Dolf van der Linden. From the second half of the 1960s, De Roo included the Metropole Orchestra in countless of his radio programmes.

Thanks to De Roo, the orchestra became heavily involved in modern jazz. Inviting American soloists to the Netherlands for one-off programmes with the orchestra, he even managed to lure international stars like Bill Evans to Hilversum. For suitable orchestrations in this genre, De Roo called on two young, exceptionally talented jazz arrangers who had not previously written for the Metropole Orchestra, Jerry van Rooyen and Rob Pronk. Having built up quite a reputation as arrangers with broadcasting orchestras in West Germany, both were excellent additions to Dolf van der Linden's team of staff arrangers. Pronk and Van Rooyen were to remain associated with the orchestra for decades.

With American jazz trumpeter Benny Bailey and arranger Rob Pronk

Again largely thanks to the efforts of De Roo, the Metropole Orchestra also started trying its hand at radio specials with pop soloists, such as Trea Dobbs, Will Tura, and even Engelbert Humperdinck. Many of the arrangements were provided by a younger generation of arrangers. Among others, the young and promising Dutch arranger Harry van Hoof had a foot in the door. Van Hoof remembers well handing Van der Linden his first Metropole arrangement, some time in the second half of the 1960s.

“I don’t remember exactly what type of arrangement it was… possibly something for a Eurovision pre-selection. In those days, Dolf van der Linden still conducted that programme himself. I was extremely nervous. After I had handed my score to Dolf, I escaped into the studio’s restrooms. I couldn’t bear attending the rehearsal myself. When I emerged from the toilets, Dolf stepped up to me and said, “Young lad, you did a really good job!” He had a reputation of not being flush with compliments, so that felt like a moment of triumph. After that, I wrote arrangements for the orchestra regularly, but I never became closely acquainted with Dolf van der Linden. He was a rather distant man. I used to meet many of his musicians in a café in Hilversum, having a beer and a chat together, but Dolf was never seen there. He simply wasn’t the type of person to sit in a pub.”

A radio programme of a different order was Muzikaal Onthaal. Ignoring the prevailing trends, the AVRO developed a concept of harmless live entertainment recorded with a studio audience. In contrast with the famous 1950s radio shows, however, this programme was broadcast at lunchtime. Each edition offered a new set-list of guests from different genres. For example, after Cristina Deutekom had left the stage following a performance of opera excerpts, the next guest could be Annie Palmen or Imca Marina, who had the audience clapping along to unpretentious sing-along repertoire. 

Dolf van der Linden and the Metropole Orchestra were involved in Muzikaal Onthaal for many years. This meant that the weekends were usually taken. Rehearsals took place on Saturday with the performance following on Sunday. The conductor enjoyed working on the programme. For Muzikaal Onthaal, Van der Linden said, “you don't want music which is terribly complicated. We’re talking about a family programme here, not something for the happy few. Simple, plain entertainment – that’s not what I would call making concessions.”

Operetta singer Cristina Deutekom performing for the microphone of AVRO radio show 'Muzikaal onthaal' (1968)

In 1969, an unexpected invitation rolled in for the Metropole Orchestra. The organising committee of the stately Holland Festival, the main performing arts festival in the Netherlands, wanted a chanson programme with various interpreters, including Jasperina de Jong, Liesbeth List, and Ramses Shaffy. Light music at the Holland Festival – a novelty at this high-brow event. Still, the concept proved successful, spawning a sequel the following year, with Frans Halsema and Jenny Arean being two of the artists invited this time around. Daily newspaper Het Vrije Volk had praise for the performance – and in particular the accompanying music. “With the accompaniment by Dolf van der Linden and his orchestra being excellent all around, the audience was on its feet.” De Volkskrant’s verdict was pretty similar. “If anything, this is craftsmanship”, its journalist wrote about the orchestra’s performance.

At these two editions of the Holland Festival, the Metropole Orchestra had done a huge service to itself. The culturally-minded part of the country could not ignore the fact that the ensemble was still very much alive and kicking. Furthermore, after the demise of most entertainment shows, the orchestra had managed to find a second lease of life with new radio programmes and a younger generation of soloists. Whereas other radio orchestras had meanwhile been disbanded or condemned to a marginal existence, the Metropole Orchestra’s raison d’être was beyond doubt. Thanks to some small concessions, the 1960s music revolution had been survived.

By the dawn of the 1970s, 19 of the 43 members of the orchestra had been with the ensemble from its debut in November 1945. The majority of the others had been playing with the orchestra for more than fifteen years and, like Dolf van der Linden, were well over 50 years of age. Here and there, time was beginning to catch up with some; as an example, drummer Bill van den Heuvel was struck down by a hernia for a long time, but instead of looking for a younger replacement, Van der Linden chose a contemporary who had earned his spurs in other broadcasting orchestras, Martin Beekmans. In the early 1970s, however, the conductor could no longer avoid rejuvenating his orchestra in various places.

One of the first of the orchestra's 'founding fathers' to reach the age of 65 was Flemish violinist Lucien Grignard. After retiring in 1970, he was succeeded by 22-year-old Ernő Oláh, a musician from Budapest who had studied at the conservatoires of The Hague and Tilburg. From 1969, he had already worked regularly with the orchestra as a substitute.

Rehearsing with singer Liesbeth List 

“Prior to my first Metropole gig, I had already spent a year and a half playing as a replacement with the Radio Chamber Orchestra and the Promenade Orchestra,” Oláh recalls, “but all those classical works I had had to play in the academy 100 times over no longer really appealed to me, to be honest. At the Metropole Orchestra, you got to play something different every day; this was music freshly written by a large group of arrangers. To me, this was like heaven! After a long time of nagging at different people, I finally managed to get a one-day gig with the orchestra. In the string section, I was placed at the desk furthest away from the conductor’s platform, next to a chap called Loe Roels, a man dressed in a three-piece suit with an old-fashioned chain watch in the bottom buttonhole of his lapel. In his right hand, he held his bow as well as a cigar. If there was a two-bar break, he would take a drag. As lots of others were smoking as well, there was a huge cloud of smog hanging over the studio. Something like this was unthinkable in the Chamber Orchestra. Things were all so much more informal than what I was used to. Coffee breaks often ran long, because the social element was considered vital in this orchestra. Yeah, I immediately felt at home.”

“When Lucien retired, guys from the string group encouraged me to take part in the audition,” Oláh continues. “Given that the other candidates were more experienced than me, I was hugely surprised when I was picked. “We've known you for a while now and you’re the type of person we’re looking for,” Dolf said. “You’re creative. We need someone who can play solos – not just neatly, as written in the score, but with an extra pinch of something.” I was very honoured, also because I was immediately appointed second concertmaster, which involved being allowed to play lots of solos. This was the best thing that could have happened to me. The Metropole job offered me the freedom of interpretation that I had missed so much in classical orchestras!”

In 1972, the only female orchestra member, harpist Ellen Stotijn, turned 60. She retired as well. Her replacement was 24-year-old Rosetty Verwoerdt. Like Oláh, she had a classical background. “Before I started studying harp, my major instrument at the academy was the piano,” she explains. “Musically speaking, I have always been had a wide range of interests. In my teenage years, I wrote my own chansons. This even landed me a record deal with CNR. Once I was at the academy, my grandfather Dick Groeneveld, who had been a violinist, said, ‘With your interest in light music, the Metropole Orchestra would be ideally suited for you. So you know what? I will offer you a harp as a present. That’s going to be your main instrument from now on. This will allow you to succeed Ellen Stotijn.’"

"Initially, this ambition was his more than mine," Verwoerdt continues, "but it was sound advice! In my student days, I had been a regular replacement in several classical orchestras, but when given the choice, light music was what I preferred in my heart of hearts. I had already replaced Ellen in the Metropole Orchestra one time before I auditioned. She stood next to me during the exam, pointing out the chords on the sheet music, which gave me the opportunity to kick the pedals in time. She wanted me to be her successor and was genuinely happy when I landed the job.”

A day with the Metropole Orchestra (1957-1980)

For an impressive 35 years, Dolf van der Linden was chief conductor of the Metropole Orchestra – almost half a lifetime. It is not self-evident that an orchestra accepts a conductor with all his whims, let alone for such a long period of time. How did Van der Linden manage? He liked to portray himself as the complete opposite of the archetypal image of a tyrannical maestro, towering over the orchestra. In Dolf’s case, his musicians were his colleagues. The fact that he stood up in front of them was little more than a coincidence. He always went out of his way to explain that the strength of the Metropole Orchestra was its sense of togetherness, “We are a perfectly organised democracy, solving our problems as men do among themselves – oh no, I have to correct myself here, because we have a woman-harpist, so let’s say; as adults do.” What was it like to work as a musician 'under', or perhaps rather 'with' this conductor? High time for a look behind the scenes.

Usually, the orchestra rehearsed twice a day, with a midday break between the morning and afternoon sessions. Officially, the start of a working day was at 9.30am, but reality was quite different. To begin with, Van der Linden was not a morning person. He often had to be dragged out of bed by his wife – and she brought him to the studio every day by car, derisively referred to by the musicians as the ‘Golden Carriage’ – a wonderful pun, given that this is the name of the traditional vehicle for the Netherlands’ king or queen. Sometime in the long-distant past, Dolf had obtained a driver's licence, but he was far too absent-minded – always thinking of music – to be a safe driver. After a few near-accidents, his wife took over for good. Even when the family went on holiday to a campsite in France or Italy, the job of steering the wheel was always Gerda’s rather than Dolf’s.

The conductor was dropped off at the studio around, or even a little past 9.30am. Given that he did not strictly adhere to working hours, orchestra members did not take timetables too seriously either, as clarinettist Ad van den Hoed recalls. “Your contract stated that you had to be present 30 minutes before rehearsals got underway… in practice, this usually meant 9am. At the Promenade Orchestra and the other classical broadcasting orchestras, this time was religiously adhered to, but that was not how it worked with us. Absolutely everybody arrived late – well, except flautist Ko Ikelaar. That guy was really obsessed with his profession. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been practising on his own in an empty studio at 7.30am!” 

As the musicians trickled in, the new scores were handed out. Hans Bonsel, a young cellist who joined the orchestra in 1971, comments, “When Dolf came in around 9.45, he started browsing leisurely through the scores on his desk. At the same time, he was looking to see who was already there. Dick Schallies was often the last to arrive. That would have been around 10am. Dick's arrival usually was the signal that we could begin!”

Once Van der Linden’s hoarse voice had admonished the musicians to pay attention, the rehearsal of new arrangements for radio and television programmes got underway. Whereas classical orchestras worked with printed music parts, the Metropole Orchestra usually got to play freshly written, new music every day. In a world without computer programmes and printers, all parts were handwritten. “Sometimes the handwriting was very unclear”, harpist Rosetty Verwoerdt recalls. “Albert [arranger Bert Paige], for example, had a very uneven hand, causing Dolf to often stare at his score in bewilderment. Albert sometimes wrote out the musicians’ parts himself too. That was even more difficult! If I couldn't read it, I guessed what to play based on the chords.”

Of course, the occasional quarrel or disagreement was inevitable in a 40-piece orchestra. At rehearsals, discussions could be intense. Dolf's brother Rob witnessed this up close, when he played with the orchestra for a day as a replacement for Dick Schallies. 

“At the start of the rehearsal, Dolf, as usual, asked the oboist, “Can I have an A, please?” The man got up and pulled out a huge ship's horn from an overnight bag. He must have taken it with him from his boat. At any rate, he blew it and it produced a huge sound. Everyone was in stitches. What I didn't know was… the day before, there had been a very heated discussion about the correct A. Violinists tend to intonate it a little higher, while wind players tend to stay on the low side. We’re talking about a really small difference here. In that discussion, the oboist probably had a significant contribution. He thought, “I'll get you,” coming up with this crazy idea to take a horn to the studio. This was the typical way in which those guys resolved minor squabbles. Their weapons were an informal working relationship and an excellent sense of humour.”

Often, the first part of the working day didn't last long, with the musicians hurrying into the canteen for their coffee break between 10.30 and 11am. Its duration was not fixed, but it could last up to an hour. “Looking back, it was an outrageous situation,” Hans Bonsel laughs. “When Ernő [Oláh] and I realised that the breaks were so long, we decided to do something else to kill time. In a back room, we played table tennis. Viola player Leo Vleeschouwer was often there with us. After an hour or so, we were still playing. Eventually, Lo van Broekhoven would come in to tell us that the rehearsal was about to be resumed. As we had really given it our all at the ping-pong table, the three of us came back to the studio drenched in sweat.” While the sports enthusiasts wore themselves out with table tennis, loner Dick Schallies often spent the coffee break in an empty studio improvising at the piano.

In the meantime, most of the orchestra was having a chat in the canteen. Dolf usually sought the company of his contemporaries, with whom he had founded the orchestra, but he regularly stayed behind in the studio as well to study his parts. “He always wanted to be prepared down to the last detail,” Rosetty Verwoerdt recalls. “And he succeeded at that – he never made a mistake in front of the orchestra, not even during rehearsals. During breaks, others regularly lingered in the studio to have a chat with him. In the end he was left alone, which is exactly what he was looking for.”

During the coffee break, violinist Benny Behr invariably took out his so-called 'Golden Book'. In it, he wrote down the names of musicians who were free to join him to work on a midday session in one of the commercial studios in the Hilversum area, recording the orchestral accompaniment to releases by pop musicians. Ernő Oláh usually was one of the names going down in the book. 

“Benny really was the ultimate freelancer in the orchestra. He had been asked to bring a certain number of musicians with him for a given session – and he was usually looking mostly for string players. Right on my very first morning with the orchestra, Benny asked me if I was available. Well, of course I was! Between shifts, from 1.30 to 3.30, we popped over to some studio to play a few tunes. This was extremely lucrative, regularly earning me an income twice or three times what I got for the Metropole job. This really was heaven! At the end of such a session, we rushed back to the broadcasting studio as fast as we could. We regularly arrived 10 minutes late for the afternoon rehearsal, but Dolf never made an issue of that.”

After a lengthy lunch break, everyone was back in the studio to start the second half of the day. Van der Linden was well prepared. Experienced as he had become over the years, he knew exactly what kind of sound he needed. Subsequently, it was up to him to convey his musical wishes to the players in his orchestra. Did he have the ability to do that?

In the studios preparing a VARA radio programme with (from left) American soprano Hilda Harris, flautist and arranger Joop Elders, and producer Joop Koopman (1969)

“Completely,” Ernő Oláh claims, without hesitation. “He was the most ‘understandable’ conductor imaginable. He had a poker face, but his gestures told you exactly what he was looking for from you. His way of beating time was graceful, almost romantic, using those long arms of his. He may have been self-taught, but Dolf was a good musician. He knew exactly how to help the orchestra. Just to give you an example, brass players need time to anticipate their entry – time they use to fill their lungs. You can't just throw a random move at them. Dolf, who had learnt his conducting job by doing it, knew those kinds of things exactly. Looking at you well before your entry was due, he gave you a perfectly fluid arm movement. That’s what real conductors do. Even the more complicated technical issues, ritenutos and things like that, posed no problem for him at all.”

Just like Oláh, Rosetty Verwoerdt is full of praise for Van der Linden's technical ability. According to her, he transcended the level of a bandleader, fully deserving to be called a real conductor. “He must have watched a lot of great conductors; Von Karajan, Bernstein maybe. Without a shadow of a doubt, he is the best conductor I have worked with. Other orchestra leaders could be a bit wobbly at times – but Dolf never was. He knew what he was doing. As a player, you benefited from that. From the outset, he gave me all the freedom I could have hoped for. At the end of a piece, he often gave me the opportunity to do something extra. Dolf made a hand gesture in my direction as if he were taking off a hat… and then he would hold that hand open until he knew that I was finished. That is the amount of trust he put in me! At such moments, while Dick Schallies or I was playing a solo, his smile stretched from ear to ear. He couldn’t hide his enthusiasm. Compared to [his successors] Rogier van Otterloo and Dick Bakker, Dolf’s conducting technique was superior. A single gesture was all he needed. I’ve always been in awe of that man’s talent.”

Being such a young girl, Rosetty was an odd one out in the ageing orchestra. In 1972, at the age of 24, she joined the ensemble, remaining its only female member for about five years. “That was until Noortje Koch joined the string section,” she comments. “In the beginning, I was quite easily upset by sexist jokes made in my direction by men like Sem Nijveen and Jan Vleeschouwer. When I wore short skirts, they were waiting for me to walk up the stairs, upon which they threw another taunt at me. Having grown up in a rather sheltered environment, I thought their behaviour was outrageous. Fortunately, it didn't take me long to get over the shock. As a musician, I quickly won their respect. I also learned to challenge them verbally. After a while, I had become very cheeky, having no trouble at all in keeping up with their jokes and silly remarks. After about half a year, I had been fully accepted.”

Opinions differ as to whether it was a conscious policy by Dolf van der Linden not to appoint women other than a harpist. When quizzed about the matter in a 1965 TV programme on the occasion of the orchestra’s 20th anniversary, the conductor replied, “In my view, the presence of women in the orchestra (…) would cause a little bit of unrest. Let's wait and see for another 20 years or so.” The grin appearing on his face suggested that the conductor was trying to play a trick on the reporter. However, Hans Bonsel feels that he was at least being partially serious, given that Van der Linden was always thinking of the unity of his orchestra before anything else. 

During a rehearsal in the early 1970s with (from left) Guus Valten, Ernő Oláh, and Lex Cachet in the first row of the string section

“To my mind, Dolf was right. Ample proof of that was offered when the string section was flooded by women as guys like Valten, Behr, and Nijveen retired. Actually, their arrival didn’t really improve the atmosphere in the orchestra. Don't get me wrong, I have great admiration for many female musicians, but a woman is a different human being than a man. Suddenly, people started whining about the smallest details. In an orchestra, which is a community more than anything else, I would prefer the situation as it was in Dolf’s days. At that time, the orchestra was a unity. Ellen Stotijn and Rosetty fitted in there. They stood their ground in every way, thus quickly earning the respect of the others.”

Very often, if the conductor was satisfied with the results of the morning rehearsal, the afternoon session was used not for a second run-through, but the orchestra set about recording the final versions of the pieces commissioned of the orchestra by the various broadcasters. Sometimes, when the orchestra was due to perform in a theatre concert or a live TV show in the evening, the break between the last rehearsal and the actual programme was very long. 

“That was asking for trouble,” Ernő Oláh laughs. “There were a number of heavy drinkers in the orchestra, especially in the wind section. I remember one time, when we did a performance in Scheveningen with [flautist] Chris Hinze as soloist. Between the morning rehearsal and the concert, we had a whole afternoon without anything to do. There was little other option but to go for a walk in Scheveningen, with the whole bunch inevitably ending up in a bar. By the time of the concert, Jan Hondelink was so drunk that he didn’t manage to play a single note. He spent the whole evening gasping at the mouthpiece of his bass clarinet."

Whatever happened, Van der Linden did not consider disciplining his troops. Instead, during the hours in which his musicians were unwinding, he was on his own, battling the mild form of stage fright that he was usually suffering from. The tension he may have felt was never about his authority as a conductor, as Ernő Oláh confirms, “As soon as Dolf was up on the podium, there was no doubt that he was in charge. The musicians might have had a great time in the afternoon, but everyone knew when to regroup their attention. Of course, there were tensions now and then. Not everyone agreed with Dolf all the time, but the old guard – the guys with whom he had built the orchestra… they remembered very well where they came from. Before the war, they had all led a freelance life, playing here for two months, then three months there, then moving elsewhere, taking their whole family with them. When Dolf asked them to join the Metropole Orchestra, they suddenly had a permanent job. A fixed salary! This was their dream come true. They were always aware of that. This was really an incredibly good human quality of those guys. They were a collective and Dolf was their leader. To them, he was the father, the saviour… ‘Our Father who art on the conductor’s platform’!”

In the 'cage' of drummer Bill van den Heuvel

Many of the orchestra members might have aged a little, but they could still keep up with the best, as newcomer Hans Bonsel observed, “Cees Verschoor on sax was a real star in the orchestra and, in the string section, there were Benny Behr and Sem Nijveen, who were the best solo string players around. By the way, don't underestimate Carlo Carcassola, a fantastic violinist in his own right. Dick Schallies on piano was yet another giant. Trombonist Chris Waldhober required two hearing aids, but that didn't stop him from playing the most beautiful parts. And then there was Tony van Hulst, a natural talent. He sang, while also playing the guitar and double bass. Tony was an extraordinarily educated man – a bit eccentric, too, so he sometimes had to endure being on the receiving end of all kinds of pranks.”

The somewhat unworldly Van Hulst had to constantly live in fear of his colleagues’ practical jokes. “Not just him,” Rob van der Linden adds. “Everyone fell victim sooner or later. One time, they tricked Tony in an incredible fashion. In a theatre concert, he performed a long guitar solo, sitting on a chair at the front part of the stage. Just before he had to come on, one of his colleagues had very carefully and quietly cut his tie with a pair of scissors, while one of the others kept him talking. Tony never noticed. Because he had the habit of holding his guitar very high, no one in the audience saw anything unusual during his solo. Being the guitar wizard that he was, Tony undoubtedly gave a beautiful performance. But when he got up from his chair to receive the applause, everyone could see that he only had a little stump around his neck. Of course the others laughed their heads off! Those Metropole guys… their creativity in finding jokes knew no bounds! Incidents like this were happening all the time.”

The closely-knit bond between orchestra musicians of the first generation existed until the end of the Van der Linden era in 1980. This shared destiny was reinforced by the fact that many spent their weekends together as well. Not only Dolf, but also Bill van den Heuvel, Bertus Grijzen, and Martin Beekmans – and many others – owned a boat in Loosdrecht, just outside Hilversum. Dolf spent hours in a shabby overall tinkering with his boat. Anneke Beekmans, Martin’s daughter, thinks back fondly to those days spent at the water. “A close-knit family gathered at the lake in Loosdrecht… that's how it really felt. The children called the others ‘uncle’, which tells you just how deeply felt this family feeling was. To me, Dolf van der Linden simply was ‘Uncle Dolf’… and my uncle Dolf was a wonderful man!”

For several years, a group of about ten members of the orchestra went on an annual skiing holiday together – the travel destination always being Reutte in Austria. “They even stayed at the same boarding house every year,” Ernő Oláh laughs. “Those guys must have booked it a year in advance! Hans Bonsel and I were soon invited to come along. I had never tried skiing before, but that wasn’t an issue at all. Dolf also joined us one or two times, but somehow he didn’t really fit in. I suspect they preferred going without him. When Dolf was around, all conversations invariably ended up being about music. Then they bluntly told him, “Give us a break, Dolf. This is our holiday!" Dolf enjoyed hanging out with his colleagues while having a little drink now and again, but even then his mind was focused primarily on his orchestra.”

A long and painful farewell (1972-1980)

Even though Dolf van der Linden was approaching retirement age, one subject was an absolute taboo in the presence of the conductor; his succession. “The orchestra is Dolf's bike and he certainly doesn't want anyone else to sit on his bike,” as Dolf's old buddy, viola player Lo van Broekhoven, used to say. Van der Linden resisted tooth and nail against any suggestion about giving up his position to someone else. “I will continue until I am 90,” he declared without a hint of irony. However, the matter of who would eventually succeed him at the helm of the Metropole Orchestra became increasingly urgent in the course of the 1970s – so much so that it would overshadow Van der Linden's last years as chief conductor.

In the world of television, the orchestra lost its job of accompanying the annual National Song Contest when AVRO producer Fred Oster approached Harry van Hoof as conductor. Van Hoof worked with an orchestra of freelancers. This did not mean the Metropole Orchestra stopped being involved in television entertainment altogether. On the contrary, there were large-scale galas for Unicef and the World Wildlife Fund, while the orchestra was also involved in Met de muziek mee.

This popular Saturday night show, which ran from 1971 to 1975, was a co-production of VARA and Flemish broadcaster BRT. Programmes were recorded monthly in large event halls throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. The accompaniment was alternately taken care of by the Metropole Orchestra and Francis Bay’s BRT Television Orchestra. The show program offered a wide variation of music entertainment, ranging from operetta excerpts to sing-along repertoire. There was also a gameplay element, in which the audience were asked to participate.

Initially, Van der Linden had reservations about this programme, as his daughter Ineke recalls, “It really was entertainment for the common man, so to speak. In some circles, my father was even blamed for allowing himself to be involved in it… but once, when he was having his dinner in the canteen in an auditorium in Arnhem prior to the recording of one of the shows, he saw long queues lining up outside in the pouring rain to get in. “Who am I to judge this programme?”, he said. “Those people enjoy it so much!” And indeed, not just the audience present, but television viewers as well, appreciated Met de muziek mee. With about four million viewers per episode, the unpretentious programme fulfilled its purpose.

With his orchestra on the set of TV entertainment show 'Met de muziek mee' (c. 1972)

Some orchestra members, ashamed of the music they had to play, had a hard time hiding their aversion. Young cellist Hans Bonsel looked at matters more mildly, “Admittedly, it was like being in the middle of a circus arena. The audience loved it. The music was straightforward enough, making our life pretty easy in that respect. On the other hand, the conditions in which you had to work weren’t always very pleasant. Even during rehearsals, television lights were left switched on. It took too much power to turn them off, we were told. It got very hot – sometimes over 40 degrees. The older guys in the orchestra could hardly bear it. In between, they had a drink or two, which made the situation a little easier on them.”

The orchestra members who disdained Met de muziek mee, could always look forward to another fixed element in the orchestra’s agenda in those years, the late night radio show Metro's Midnight Music. Once again, it was producer Joop de Roo who asked Dolf and his men for a beautiful production tailor-made for the Metropole Orchestra. In Metro's Midnight Music, symphonic jazz sounded better than ever before. Top American soloists were regularly invited. Even Dizzy Gillespie came over for a recording. For the arrangements, De Roo naturally turned to Jerry van Rooyen and Rob Pronk, who came up with scores of an international standard.

For the vocals, De Roo often called on his wife, Greetje Kauffeld. Greetje had returned to the Netherlands in 1969, after having lived and worked in West Germany for a number of years. “Metro’s Midnight Music was fantastic,” she says. “Rob and Jerry's arrangements were world-class, while the late airing time suited the music well. I think the strength of the programme lay in the collaboration between Joop and Dolf. Joop absolutely loved Dolf, as he admired his craftsmanship so much, while Dolf really appreciated Joop's choice of music. There was mutual respect, which resulted in a very good working relationship. Together, they were extremely important for the development of jazz-infused music in the Netherlands. They took it to the next level. Of course, Dolf didn't write the arrangements himself, but Jerry and Rob weren’t on the same page as him in terms of conducting technique. He was so much more exact than them.”

In 1975, De Roo was given the opportunity to make a TV spin-off of Metro's Midnight Music. In five specials, the work of American songbook composers like Harold Arlen and Cole Porter was showcased. Vocal soloists were Mark Murphy and Greetje Kauffeld. “We recorded that TV series in the studio with an audience,” the latter remembers. “Each broadcast consisted of a medley – so one song flowing into the other. The arrangements were quite complicated and there wasn't much rehearsing time. This made the role of a conductor even more important. Fortunately, Dolf was there! His gestures allowed me to know exactly, to the hundredth of a second, when I had to start. Never have I met another conductor who was so meticulous as Dolf; because I knew he never made a mistake, my performance was so much more confident! Besides being a real conductor, he was a very nice and polite man.”

Discussing a detail in the score with Jerry van Rooyen and American jazz trombonist Urbie Green (1972)

In 1976 the Metropole Orchestra made its comeback at the Holland Festival after an absence of five years. In a programme broadcast live on TV from a concert hall in Rotterdam, the ensemble took centre-stage in a jazz concert that included a tribute to Duke Ellington. The climax of the evening, however, was the world premiere of the suite 'Parcival', a composition by flautist Chris Hinze. Het Vrije Volk’s reviewer was not very impressed by Hinze's avant-garde creation, but had words of praise for the Metropole Orchestra. “Most certainly, the Metropole Orchestra showed itself here in an unusual, yet refreshing guise; an excellent big band.”

In the 1970s, Dolf van der Linden’s professional activities were not limited to the Metropole Orchestra. Admittedly, the requests from foreign radio orchestras were not as numerous as previously, although he still regularly travelled to London, Dublin, and Belfast for guest performances. On the other hand, Van der Linden was now increasingly commissioned to conduct concerts with several so-called ‘provincial’ orchestras in the Netherlands, minor classical orchestras, most notably the Overijssels Philharmonisch Orkest and the Gelders Orkest. Invariably, the repertoire he got to work on consisted of lighter work, such as Viennese waltzes and Broadway musical excerpts.

Two years after his last involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1971, a new international music competition appeared on the horizon for Van der Linden, the Nordring Festival. A project originating in the early 1960s, Nordring was a partnership between public radio stations from countries around the North Sea; Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and West Germany. Soon Denmark, Finland, and Ireland joined as well. Radio makers from the countries involved were hoping to give a more permanent shape to the loosely existing exchange programmes, which had existed since the early post-war years. Under the flag of Nordring, vocalists and instrumental soloists were sent out to work with radio orchestras abroad. The exchange programme resulted in several joint productions every year.

In 1973, the decision was taken to give the Nordring cooperation a new impulse by organising a competition in which each broadcaster presented a 45-minute long piece of music, with each country bringing its own soloists and conductor. For this first edition of the so-called Nordring International Popular Music Festival, in which eight countries took part, the venue chosen was distinctly low-key, a small theatre in the provincial town of Dronten, Netherlands. Naturally, producer Joop de Roo wanted Dolf van der Linden and his orchestra to provide the musical accompaniment to the event. Explaining the idea behind the Nordring Festival to a journalist, De Roo said, “This is an opportunity to get away from the beaten track of the usual radio programming in the summer months. With something different on offer from each participating country, we all take home 360 minutes of radio which otherwise couldn’t have been produced by each station on its own. In other words, it’s a wonderful way to reduce costs for all eight of us.” Although Rita Reys, one of the singers performing the Netherlands’ entry, won the best vocalist award, the production prize – and thus final victory – went to Norway and their producer/conductor Sigurd Jansen.

At the first edition of the Nordring Fetival, held in 1973 in Dronten; Van der Linden flanekd by producer Theo Ordeman and singer Edwin Rutten, with Louis van Dijk at the piano

The second edition of the Nordring Festival was also held in the Netherlands. In Groningen, 1400 spectators witnessed how the British and their conductor Robert Farnon walked off with all awards. Although press and public interest in the new festival remained low, the event proved its worth. In the course of the 1970s, the festival increasingly became a stage for symphonic jazz. For the 1975 edition, held in Oslo, the Netherlands submitted a programme with music by Harold Arlen, which had been broadcast on Dutch TV earlier that year. Conductor Dolf van der Linden was accompanied by a true star ensemble; vocalists Greetje Kauffeld and Mark Murphy with instrumental soloists Piet Noordijk, Ferdinand Povel, and Ack van Rooyen. In Norway, Kauffeld won the prize for best vocalist.

“The nice thing about this festival was that you got to know many jazz music colleagues from other European countries,” Greetje recalls. “You spent a few days together in an atmosphere which was relaxed. You weren’t in it for fame and fortune, but because of the music which was so beautiful. Each time I was asked to participate, I confirmed without knowing what the theme of our entry would be. After all, the arrangements were by Jerry van Rooyen, which was a guarantee for the highest quality. In Oslo, we had a great time. In Dolf and Gerda's hotel room, we spent an evening chatting with the entire Dutch team. Because alcohol was so expensive in Norway, someone from the NOS had smuggled two or three bottles from the Netherlands. Dolf enjoyed such moments… he was at ease in the company of fellow-musicians, so much was clear. The next morning, when rehearsals got underway, he was completely composed again, focusing on the music.”

Dolf van der Linden loved his Nordring involvement. This event brought him more artistic satisfaction than Eurovision, which had been dominated by commercial pop music from the mid-1960s onwards. In Nordring, music was judged by its quality rather than by its commercial value. “Although the Nordring Festival isn’t commercially attractive”, Van der Linden acknowledged, “it still provides an enormous stimulus to music professionals, because everything musicians love comes to the fore here. As such, Nordring has the potential of exerting a major influence on contemporary light music”.

In the meantime, in Hilversum, Van der Linden seemed to be gradually losing control of his orchestra. Until the mid-1970s, Dutch guest conductors had never been a familiar feature at the Metropole Orchestra. When he was ill or on holiday, Van der Linden ensured that he was almost always replaced by foreign colleagues, especially Robert Farnon and Belgian radio conductor Fernand Terby. 

“Terby and Farnon were men who Dolf looked up to,” cellist Hans Bonsel explained. “This was certainly true for Terby, who was classically trained. He felt they deserved their place in front of his orchestra. Furthermore, because their stay in the Netherlands never lasted longer than a week or two, they were no threat to his position. Gradually, however, pressure from Hilversum’s broadcasters increased. They wanted to work with their own favourites for the orchestra. For example, AVRO producer Fred Oster usually worked with Harry van Hoof as his music director. Harry de Groot was NCRV’s preferred choice. With all he had in him, Dolf fought against those guys being given a chance. He felt they should keep their hands off his orchestra.”

The desire of Hilversum broadcasting companies to work with other conductors was not only related to the personal preferences of producers. In certain circles, it was also felt that Van der Linden stood in the way of a much-needed modernisation of the orchestra. In particular, percussionists Bill van den Heuvel and Gerrit Middendorp, personal friends of Van der Linden who had been with the orchestra from the outset, had difficulty keeping up with modern jazz and pop arrangements. For Metro's Midnight Music, Bill van den Heuvel was sometimes replaced by a younger drummer. In addition, over a decade after The Beatles had burst onto the music scene, the Netherlands’ main light-music orchestra still did not have a specialist bass guitarist in its ranks. In Van der Linden's opinion, double bass player Ger Daalhuisen, the oldest member of the orchestra, was perfectly suited to play any electric guitar part which presented itself. According to many, the rhythm group sounded rather antiquated. Tony Nolte, leader of AVRO big band The Skymasters, mockingly referred to the Metropole Orchestra as 'The Swinging Dry-Dock’.

“That image of our orchestra was partly justified,” Ernő Oláh, who succeeded Guus Valten as concertmaster in 1972, acknowledges. “Drummers like Bill van den Heuvel and Martin Beekmans… they were guys from Dolf's generation. This also applied to the double bass players, Harry Meyer and Ger Daalhuisen. Those guys may have wanted to keep up with the times, but they had no idea how to. Especially when we had to play pop... given that contemporary pop music became more and more rhythmic, it required considerable energy and power from the orchestra. The older gentlemen around me wanted nothing of it. When Ger Daalhuisen picked up that bass guitar, it caused quite a commotion among my colleagues in the string group! From their perspective, such an instrument did not have a place in a real orchestra. At a certain point, we were beyond hope. I'm sure Dolf saw it too, but he didn't want to let down his old comrades. He would never have dared to tell Middendorp or Van den Heuvel that they had better cede their place. This was a real problem, because it was clear that the orchestra would have to move with the times in order to survive.”

While Van der Linden was having a hard time holding his own in music terms, he could also no longer escape the fact that decades of unconditional commitment to the Metropole Orchestra were beginning to take their toll on his physical condition. Around the age of 60, he had to deal with several acute health problems in a short period of time. He began experiencing heart failure, while somewhat later it turned out he also suffered from Meniere's disease, which causes deafness and balance disorders – a disastrous cocktail for a conductor. To make matters worse, a malignant tumour manifested itself in 1977. Van der Linden balanced on the edge of death, but he kept his failing health a secret from almost everyone, including his orchestra members.

The Netherlands' Nordring representatives rehearsing their performance in Oslo, from left - Greetje Kauffeld, Mark Murphy, Ferdinand Povel, and Piet Noordijk (1975)

Miraculously, the conductor recovered, but he had to have himself replaced for large swathes of 1976 and 1977 nonetheless. The broadcasting companies were keen not to waste this crisis, allowing a younger generation of orchestra leaders – Ruud Bos, Harry van Hoof, and Rogier van Otterloo – to make their debut as guest conductors with the orchestra. In cases when Van der Linden himself was given the choice, he put forward other names. In early 1977, when he was sick in bed, he persuaded his employers to fly in his Norwegian counterpart Sigurd Jansen for a week. Around the same time, a young, promising Dutch conductor with a completely classical background appeared on the scene, Jan Stulen. In 1975, Stulen first worked with the Promenade Orchestra, the broadcasting orchestra specialising in light classical work – and he earned himself a permanent contract as chief of that ensemble the following year. In 1976, Van der Linden chose Stulen for a very special assignment with the Metropole Orchestra: the international final of the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest, held in The Hague.

In the autumn of 1977, Van der Linden had sufficiently recovered to resume his work with the Metropole Orchestra. In the meantime, however, he had come to realise that he could not go on with his conducting job forever. This realisation was difficult for him, as he admitted to a journalist, “I do put things into perspective; after all, no one is indispensable, but making music is not the same as making a chair – with all due respect to the carpenter. The music is in you, and it's practically impossible to unstick yourself. Sooner or later, though, you have to stop and I'm gathering courage to face up to the facts.”

Each year, some time in August or early September, Dolf van der Linden could leave broadcasting politics and worries about his orchestra behind for a week. This was when he was part of the Netherlands’ delegation to the Nordring Festival. In 1976, due to illness, he had had to miss the edition in Inverness, Scotland, but, a year later in Copenhagen, he was back. For the Dutch entry, 'A Simple Song', arranger Jerry van Rooyen had drawn inspiration from Bernstein’s theatre work 'Mass'. In Denmark, the Netherlands was awarded first prize. Furthermore, the musicians of the Danish Radio Orchestra had a special tribute in store for Dolf van der Linden, who had just recovered from a major intestinal operation. In an unofficial contest, they proclaimed him the best conductor of the festival. Apart from a certificate stating the election, he took home a statue specially designed for the occasion.

In the following years, Dolf van der Linden remained involved in the competition. In the 1980 edition in Helsinki, there was Dutch success again. The Netherlands submitted a creation by Jerry van Rooyen, a piece of music inspired by a book about Bhagwan. In an interview, Van der Linden recalled it well, “Jerry's brother Ack and his American wife found it; a simple, fairytale theme. Exceptionally beautiful. Afterwards, there were at least ten seconds of dead silence in the auditorium. People were speechless. An amazing experience. Then a huge round of applause erupted.” The jurors were as impressed as Van der Linden and the Finnish audience. The Netherlands won no fewer than three trophies; in addition to the overall winner’s award, the arrangement prize was bestowed upon Jerry van Rooyen, while Greetje Kauffeld walked off with the award for best vocalist.

After this second Dutch victory, Van der Linden could no longer support the lack of attention given to the event in the national media. “No newspaper was there. The news was passed on to our largest news agency, but nobody seemed to take an interest. I only found a five-line announcement in De Gooi- en Eemlander, probably because that newspaper is read primarily in and around Hilversum. This is symptomatic."

Although aware that he would have to leave at the age of 65, Van der Linden must have had a hard time seeing the personnel of his orchestra change rapidly in the course of the 1970s. In 1974, modest flautist-arranger Joop Elders passed away unexpectedly, as did double bass player Ger Daalhuisen not much later. Moreover, in the second half of the 1970s, a large number of the original set-up retired. Benny Behr, Bill van den Heuvel, Gerard Middendorp, Tony van Hulst, and others left. They were replaced by a younger generation, including second concertmaster Rami Koch, percussionists Evert Overweg and Rob Meyn, bass guitarist Rob Langereis, and alto saxophone giant Piet Noordijk. In the early 1980s, finally, there was a considerable influx of women, especially in the string section. The era of an almost exclusively male orchestra was over.

However, all of this did not mean that Van der Linden was willing to cede his orchestra to just anyone. In a 1977 newspaper interview, he stated, “There are bandleaders and conductors. There is a big difference. When leading a combo, you just do a count-in, which gets the train rolling. An orchestra is altogether different, though it’s hard to explain. It could be perceived as demeaning to certain people. There are few talented musicians in the Netherlands – and the little talent there is does not really having a feeling for light music. Their ambition is to conduct symphony orchestras. Roger van Otterloo? I've never really seen him conduct an orchestra, so I don't know anything about his abilities in that respect. I hope that if I stop, my successor will be someone who can hold on to what has been achieved.”

This was a clear message; whoever would succeed him, Van der Linden preferred a classically-trained conductor. Between the lines, it is obvious that he could muster little enthusiasm for Rogier van Otterloo, preferring men who had more conducting skills like Sigurd Jansen and Jan Stulen. These two musicians were among Dolf’s favourites. While he let Jansen know in an aside that he wished he could succeed him, Stulen, who regularly returned to the orchestra as a guest conductor after his unexpected Eurovision job in 1976, heard about Van der Linden’s plans with him only years later. 

“Dolf would have liked me as his successor,” Stulen comments, “but, admittedly, my main ambition never was the Metropole Orchestra. The Promenade Orchestra was my core business. I always loved working with the Metropole Orchestra once in a while, just because it added so much variety to my work, but my heart has always been in classical music. I also felt that I knew too little about part of their repertoire – jazz in particular. Rogier… well, Dolf was very sceptical about his conducting abilities. He called him a cake baker and a bicycle repairman… and I am quoting verbatim. Dolf is by no means the only conductor who couldn’t stand his successor. Haitink was the same. It's not as absurd as you might first think. Spending years creating your own sound with an orchestra, you suddenly have to give up all that to someone who, quite understandably, chooses a completely different approach. Dolf must have thought, ‘So much for my legacy!’ I can imagine that feeling very well.”

In reality, for all those involved – with the exception of Dolf van der Linden himself – there was only one serious candidate; Rogier van Otterloo. Van Otterloo may not have been a good conductor in a technical sense, but he was a prolific composer and arranger. His soundtracks for feature films Turkish Delight and Soldier Of Orange were very popular. In addition, many of the Metropole musicians had already done television gigs with freelance orchestras led by him. Most of them liked working with him. His first stints as guest conductor with the Metropole Orchestra were also appreciated by many in the orchestra.

“There was no question; Rogier was the person we were looking for,” Ernő Oláh recalls. “As a conductor, he was far inferior to Dolf – he simply didn’t have the flair with which Dolf had always stood up in front of the orchestra, but Rogier was a well-known media figure and his music appealed to many people. At the request of the orchestra, I visited Rogier to find out how he would feel about taking over as chief conductor. At first, he was a bit hesitant; to his mind, the rhythm section in particular was a tad old-fashioned. We dragged him over the line by promising him that he would be given the opportunity to reshape the orchestra in his image.”

Rogier van Otterloo had been approached without the knowledge of Dolf van der Linden himself. In a joint decision of the workgroup Light Music of NOS – NOS being the Netherlands’ umbrella organisation of all public broadcasters following a 1969 merger of radio and television services, NRU and NTS respectively – and the so-called orchestra committee of the Metropole Orchestra, the decision was taken to appoint Van Otterloo in November 1979 as assistant chief under Van der Linden, preparing his final succession in mid-1980. This decision was made while Dolf was on holiday. Upon returning home, he found a letter from the NOS in which he was brought up to date.

The winning Dutch team of the 1980 Nordring Festival in Helsinki, from left - Jerry van Rooyen, Charly Mariano, Ronald Snijders, Ack van Rooyen, Gé Titulaer, Greetje Kauffeld, Dolf van der Linden, and Jasper van 't Hof

Indignant, Van der Linden wrote a letter back in which he criticised the decision, explaining how he expected genres like operetta and light-classical music to be taken off the repertoire under Van Otterloo. He also feared the string section would suffer in the long run, because Van Otterloo’s pop arrangements saw the strings often put in a subservient role. Van der Linden foresaw his orchestra being recreated as a big band with a string section loosely attached. With that, he felt, the soul would be snatched from 'his' Metropole Orchestra.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, Dolf disliked Van Otterloo on a personal level. As he saw it, his successor was not just incapable, but arrogant as well – a case of the pot calling the kettle black perhaps, given that Van der Linden himself refused even to have a conversation with him during the period when Van Otterloo acted as his assistant. Ernő Oláh remembers a telling anecdote from those uneasy months. “Rogier refused to accept that Dolf wanted nothing of him. He was keen to exchange ideas about the future of the orchestra. Rogier gave him a call, but Dolf simply threw the receiver back onto the telephone immediately… and a second time – same story. Then he said, "It might be better if I pay him a little visit." I advised him against it, because you didn't just drop by at Dolf's. Having a chat with him while enjoying a glass of beer was just not for him. Though a very sweet man, Dolf also was a bit distant. Rogier felt I was just being negative, deciding to go ahead with his plan undeterred. When he rang the bell, Dolf opened the door only to slam it in his face. After that, Rogier gave up. Nothing had ever happened between them, but Dolf just needed time – time to come to terms with the fact that he had to leave his orchestra to someone else.”

In spite of his chagrin about Van Otterloo, Dolf van der Linden seemed to thrive in the last months of his chief conductorship. In 1980, he was involved in significantly more productions than in previous years, including four concerts away from the studio. The last of those was his official farewell concert in Amsterdam. The show was recorded for television as well. With radio announcers from the early years of the orchestra, such as Joop Reinboud and Karel Prior, making an appearance, the occasion was given a nostalgic and somewhat melancholic touch. In terms of repertoire, the programme offered the variation in genres that Van der Linden had always found so important, ranging from operetta to chanson, from gospel to jazz. Soloists that evening included Frans Halsema, Toots Thielemans and Bruce Low.

When interviewed by a newspaper journalist, Dolf van der Linden refused to touch the subject of his farewell. After all, he claimed, he would continue to work with the orchestra as a guest. Given that the Metropole Orchestra had now existed for 35 years, he preferred calling the concert an ‘anniversary celebration’. All the same, he was willing to acknowledge that the orchestra would choose a different direction under its new chief – but would it be a change for the better or for the worse? "I have no opinion on that," he replied curtly. “At the end of the day, I no longer exert any influence. From now on I’m just one of the guest conductors. Maybe that's a good thing, because the times of the Metropole Orchestra as we have known it are probably over for good.”

At his last concert as chief conductor, listening to former KRO radio announcer Joop Reinboud (1980)

‘My orchestra meant the world to me’ (1980-1999)

Following his departure as chief conductor of the Metropole Orchestra, Dolf van der Linden did not have to wait long to meet his old colleagues. Merely three days after the television had broadcast his farewell concert, he was back as a guest to conduct recording sessions for Metro's Midnight Music with Swedish jazz trumpeter Rolf Ericson. Van der Linden was also regularly asked back for AVRO’s radio show Muzikaal onthaal – partly because Rogier van Otterloo preferred not to get involved in this type of popular entertainment. Moreover, Dolf had a good relationship with NOS producer Piet Daalhuisen, who regularly chose to work with him for his programmes. In the period up to 1985, Dolf van der Linden worked a total of 15 to 25 days per year with his old orchestra.

As long as he had a say in the choice of programmes and soloists, Van der Linden was happy to do the work. In the meantime, he had to watch passively as the Metropole Orchestra, his life's work, was overhauled by his successor. Under the impulse of Rogier van Otterloo, the modernisation of the ensemble took shape. The new chief wanted to get rid of the perceived old-fashioned sound of the orchestra. A new approach was long overdue, Van Otterloo felt. In his first years, he expanded the string group and created a separate rhythm section for pop productions. He also made the musicians work much harder during rehearsals.

“In Dolf’s days, we were used to two rehearsals often being combined into one,” percussionist Rob Meyn recalls. “This meant we could go home at 1pm. Rogier wanted more effort from us. Furthermore, his musical predilections were different to Dolf’s. We got to play more jazz and pop. Rogier brought many of his own compositions. In more classically-oriented music, however, his conducting technique let him down. All those rhythm changes and ritenutos were too much for him. That’s where he had hoped Dolf would help him, teaching him how to approach those styles. In fact, we played operetta music with Rogier a couple of times, including a concert in Nijmegen, but that didn't go well. I was ashamed of how badly we actually did. Gradually, operetta was completely taken from our repertoire.”

As Van Otterloo gradually reshaped the orchestra, most of the older musicians felt unhappy – but Van der Linden’s departure was regretted by some younger players as well, as a comment by young oboist Martin de Ruiter, who had joined the orchestra in 1978, proves. “Unlike many others in the orchestra, I was mainly classically oriented. As a result, I didn't have to get used to being conducted by Dolf. He had everything I was looking for in a conductor. His gestures were as fluent and natural as you would expect from a classical conductor. There was talk in the orchestra about his health failing him, but I never noticed a thing. He was as energetic as ever. Moreover, Dolf was a warm personality who interacted with the orchestra in a very natural way; a really nice man to work with. When he left, I really missed him.”

Completely focused during a Nordring Rendez-Vous in London (February 1981)

In spite of his technical shortcomings as a conductor, especially in comparison with Van der Linden, Rogier van Otterloo created wonderful programmes. Almost everyone agreed that the orchestra received fresh impetus under its new chief, but Dolf van der Linden would bite his tongue rather than speak in a complimentary manner about his successor. The changes in the orchestra worried him. During his spells as Van Otterloo’s stand-in in the first half of the 1980s, he did not hold back sharing his reservations with the musicians. “Despite everything that had happened, Dolf still felt responsible for the orchestra,” Rosetty Verwoerdt recalls. “During breaks in between studio rehearsals, he sat with the people he still knew from his time, like Ernő and me. Dolf was terribly worried that the orchestra would fall apart into a big band with a separate string orchestra. He felt Rogier didn’t have the right to change anything about the orchestra as he had conceived it.”

Dolf van der Linden may have had his reservations about the course the orchestra took under Van Otterloo, but this did not impede him from enjoying his spells as guest conductor to the full. There were still moments of undivided happiness. Also after Van Otterloo took over, Van der Linden continued being the musical director for the Netherlands’ Nordring entry. Until the demise of the festival in 1983, he conducted three more Dutch entries, including ‘Ages’, which was declared the winner of the competition in 1981 on Jersey, Channel Islands. Moreover, the AVRO invited him in 1983 to conduct the orchestra in a concert in Utrecht organised on the occasion of the broadcasting company’s 60th anniversary. Martin de Ruiter remembers the occasion well.

“It was really amazing to see with how much respect Dolf was treated with by that whole television crew. They were very deferential to him. All he had to do was say, “Guys, hurry up,” and it happened. With Rogier, and also with Harry van Hoof, TV directors often made us wait a very long time before we could start rehearsing. When Rogier or Harry asked if they couldn’t speed it up a bit, they were usually told off rather brusquely. One way or another, those crews had much more respect for Dolf, probably because of his enormous track record. Without having to raise his voice even once, he was in complete control of things.”

“Really, Dolf still enjoyed working with the orchestra even after his retirement,” concertmaster Ernő Oláh adds. “No doubt he was bitter about what had happened, but when he got onto that platform, you saw that great conductor at work again. For a while, he bore a grudge against me because I had approached Rogier to take over the orchestra, but at some point he forgave me. Our relationship was as good as it had been before.”

On May 5th, 1982, Van der Linden conducts the Noordelijk Filharmonisch Orkest in Groningen at a Liberation Concert attended by Queen Beatrix and Claus, the prince-consort, who are welcomed by the conductor with Royal Commissioner Henk Vonhoff looking on

In 1980, Dolf van der Linden became a freelancer. His activities were not limited to the Metropole Orchestra. In fact, with some exaggeration, he once stated that he was "more active than ever." In the Hilversum studios, he regularly worked as a guest with Jan Stulen's Promenade Orchestra. With this ensemble, he played excerpts from musicals and operettas, but his own instrumental compositions as well. 

Van der Linden also continued being in demand with radio orchestras abroad. In 1981, he travelled to Glasgow for film music recordings with the Scottish Radio Orchestra, while he performed for the BBC Concert Orchestra for the renowned radio programme Friday Night Is Music Night in 1984. Moreover, he led this same orchestra in some editions of the so-called Nordring Rendez-Vous. After the Nordring Festival had been discontinued in 1983 due to lack of interest from the participating radio stations, exchanges under the Nordring umbrella continued to be organised for several more years, mostly involving programmes with jazz soloists.

Van der Linden’s most important involvement, however, was with the Noordelijk Filharmonisch Orkest in Groningen. The first commission he received from this provincial orchestra was in the autumn of 1980, when the ensemble did a small tour of five light music concerts. During the rehearsal period, when asked about the repertoire by a journalist, he declared, “The musicians like this light symphonic music as a variation. I must say I’m very pleased with this approach. Working with a symphony orchestra for the first time could be compared to sitting on a new bicycle, but you get used to it soon enough.” In 1982, Van der Linden was appointed musical advisor to the ‘Northern Philharmonic’ for the National Liberation Celebration Concert, which was broadcast live on national TV from Groningen’s Martinikerk in the presence of Queen Beatrix and the Prince Consort, Claus. In addition, Van der Linden appeared several more times as a guest conductor with the orchestra around that time. 

On May 30, 1985, a few weeks before his 70th birthday, Dolf van der Linden made a radical decision. He had had enough. He had spent that day working with the Metropole Orchestra, recording instrumental versions of two pieces by the group he had initially hated, The Beatles, for NCRV radio. Was he unhappy about the style of the arrangements? The reasoning behind his decision remains shrouded in mystery, but it was clear that he wanted to draw a line. He felt the urge to “close the door behind him for good,” he later said. “I wished the orchestra members a happy holiday, then went home and said to my wife, “I'm not going back. I'm done with it, I've worked with the orchestra for 40 years now. This is the end!” In a letter, Van der Linden informed the NOS about his decision. When the broadcasting service’s management proposed him a farewell concert, he declined. He preferred to go quietly.

A guest performance with the Promenade Orchestra and singer Jenny Veeninga (1982)

Contacts with the Northern Philharmonic Orchestra were also broken off by Van der Linden. He even relinquished his place in the plagiarism committee of copyright organization Buma/Stemra. Instead of rehearsing arrangements or consulting with musicians, Dolf van der Linden now helped his wife Gerda keep the garden tidy. Rosetty Verwoerdt, who also lived in Hilversum, occasionally made a conscious detour on her bike past Dolf's house. “In the summer, I would regularly find Dolf and Gerda busy in the garden. Then I stopped to have a chat. Being very curious, Dolf wanted to know everything, also about me personally. That was very nice of him. I always asked if he didn't miss the orchestra. He never even came back to the studio to say hello. “Yes, I do miss it,” he would reply, “but then again, I had a wonderful time with the orchestra”.”

Meanwhile, Dolf van der Linden's successor had fallen seriously ill. In January 1988, Rogier van Otterloo passed away. He was only 46 years old. Finally laying aside his grudge against Van Otterloo, Van der Linden wrote a letter of condolence to Rogier’s widow Willy, “Dear Will, We were saddened to hear about Rogier’s passing. Unfortunately, the contact between me and your husband was never as it [should] have been, but time blurs all imperfections. We would like to express our sympathy, hoping that you will accept it. Best wishes, Gerda and Dolf van der Linden.” All of a sudden, the Metropole Orchestra was left without a chief conductor. After much deliberation, it was decided not to designate a definitive successor yet, with Jerry van Rooyen being appointed on an ad interim basis. This decision was made partly on the advice of Dolf van der Linden.

After a long period of uncertainty, the orchestra found a new artistic director in the shape of Dick Bakker. In 1992, Bakker also took over the chief conductorship. Finally, the Metropole Orchestra could look forward again. Although Van der Linden was not involved in Bakker's appointment, he felt relieved that the orchestra had found a new lease of life. In a note to the orchestra in thanks for congratulating him on his 77th birthday, he wrote, “As the founder of the Metropole Orchestra, of which I was the sole conductor for 35 years (and then for another five years after my retirement), I must confess that your orchestra has never been out of my thoughts. I have just heard that the Metropole Orchestra has a good chance of survival. This was the best gift on my birthday. Keep up the versatility. That was and is the foundation of the Metropole Orchestra. Good luck!"

Although Dolf was happy that his orchestra was still around, the sadness about what he had had to give up seemed to surface more and more over time. Daughter Anneke remembers how her father suddenly broke down on the way back from a visit to his son Kinge in faraway Drenthe, “I always took my parents to see my brother. That was a nice outing for dad, I thought. He sat in the front seat next to my husband. For miles, he just sat there, staring silently into space. Just out of the blue, we heard him say, “I have a fine wife and lovely children, but my orchestra meant the world to me.” I sat in the backseat and didn’t know what to say… The Metropole Orchestra was his child. Even after all these years, he was exclusively focused on that orchestra. He was still so sad about it.”

Having a chat with Jan Stulen (centre) and Joop de Roo (1989)

After avoiding the radio studios for several years, the former conductor showed his face again from the early 1990s onwards. In 1991, for example, he was a guest at the closing concert of a Metropole Workshop with music academy students. One of them was Louise Dijkman, granddaughter to Dolf Karelsen, the man who had been Van der Linden's musical mentor before being murdered by the Nazis. At the time of the workshop, Dijkman was a student of percussion at the Hilversum Conservatoire.

“To my great surprise, Dolf van der Linden was introduced to the audience before our concert,” she recalls. “Wow, there he was – in the front row! It was so special, because I knew he had been a friend of my grandfather. After the concert was over, I felt this was too good an opportunity to pass up. I noticed that he was looking very old. How lucky I was to meet him! I walked up to him and introduced myself as Dolf Karelsen's granddaughter. Almost immediately, he started telling a poignant story about my grandfather – how, after he had already been arrested, he had been seen in his smart suit collecting cigarette stubs from the gravel in front of the AVRO Studios… and that German soldiers with guns stood around him as he was sitting in the gravel. His colleagues had watched on helplessly from behind a window. While Dolf van der Linden was telling all this, his eyes got wet. He felt the emotion after all those years. It was only a short encounter, because as a special guest he was soon absorbed by other people, but for me it is the most impressive memory involving my grandfather and the war. In fact, I have never been closer to my grandfather than at that moment.”

Dijkman was not the only one to notice that Dolf had aged quickly after his retirement. In the first half of the 1990s, his health deteriorated rapidly. The heart complaints that had plagued him during his last years as chief conductor returned. To make matters worse, in 1994 he became very forgetful. As it turned out, he was suffering from dementia, an irreversible disease.

In 1995 Van der Linden turned 80. After speaking to Dolf’s daughters Anneke and Ineke, Fred Dekker, the orchestra’s manager at the time, decided this occasion was the right time to pay tribute to the founder of the orchestra one last time. Another opportunity might not present itself. With a pretext, the Van der Linden couple was lured to the studio. The entire orchestra with chief conductor Dick Bakker was waiting there. A large number of former orchestra members had been drummed up as well. Dolf was very tense, but those nerves turned into an emotional outburst, as the studio doors opened and the orchestra started playing ‘Parklane Serenade’. In vain, the old conductor and his wife tried to fight back their tears.

Conducting the Metropole Orchestra at his 80th birthday (1995)

Subsequently, Dolf was persuaded by concertmaster Rami Koch to conduct the orchestra one more time. Dick Bakker handed him his baton. “We held our breath,” daughter Ineke recalls. “Daddy really wasn’t well; and there he was, in front of the orchestra. Would he understand what was going on? To our delight, it went very well. He conducted ‘Parklane Serenade’, just as he had done all those times before. It was as if nothing had changed. For a moment, the orchestra was 'his' orchestra again. He had missed it so much! Tears ran down my cheeks – and I certainly wasn’t the only one. It was so touching!”

It was a moving moment for the orchestra as well. The musicians saw a confused old man, overcome by emotions, suddenly regaining his former splendour. After making a little joke, he started the orchestra flawlessly. Behind the celesta sat sound director Hugh den Ouden. “That was very cheeky of me, because I wasn’t part of the orchestra,” Den Ouden admits. “In fact, there wasn't even a part for celesta in ‘Parklane Serenade’! However, when I heard that this tribute would take place, I wanted to be there. I just played by ear. I had met Dolf in the early 1980s, when he regularly performed as a guest conductor with the orchestra; an endearing, stately man. Of course, Rogier van Otterloo and Dick Bakker were good orchestra leaders, but Dolf van der Linden had the stature and charisma of a real conductor. That 80th birthday was a special moment. The emotion felt by him spilled over to the orchestra. You could even hear it in the way the melody was being played.”

The year 1995 entailed a jubilee not just for Dolf, but for the Metropole Orchestra as well, as the ensemble completed its 50th year. This prompted the Conamus Foundation (non-profit organisation promoting music from the Netherlands – BT) to award the ensemble the Golden Harp as a prize for its support for Dutch music in the past 50 years. At the Conamus gala, on the stage of Studio 21 in Hilversum, the award was received by Dick Bakker and Dolf van der Linden, the personifications of the orchestra in past and present.

In a nice coincidence, the host of the gala was none other than Corry Brokken. In 1957, she had won Eurovision with Dolf conducting the orchestra for her. In her memoirs, Brokken wrote, “When he walked onto that stage with Dick, Dick radiant and in the prime of his life and Dolf, (…) a bit confused by the occasion, I had to bite my tongue to control my emotion. He hugged me and stammered that he was so thrilled to see me again after all these years and that he hadn't been expecting me to be there; and that he was so happy with his award. At that moment, a curtain opened on a side-stage and there was the entire Metropole Orchestra. Dolf hadn’t been told about their presence. They played the well-known and grandiose signature tune that had been the start of many hundreds of radio broadcasts back in his day. Dick accompanied him to the stage, Dolf raised his arms as usual, conducting the piece one last time. Although it was very hot in the room, I got goosebumps. Afterwards, all the musicians stood up to applaud their old master. The hall cheered him. He and his wife Gerda cried. Rocking both of them in my arms, I took them back to their table.”

On stage at the Golden Harp Gala with host Corry Brokken (1996)

After the Golden Harp Gala, Dolf withdrew from the public eye. He was sometimes seen roaming the streets of Hilversum with his wife. At home, he could sit at the piano for hours. In the autumn of 1998, he wrote his last composition, as daughter Ineke recalls, “Retaining his perfect pitch until the end, he never forgot how to play the piano. When my parents stayed with my brother in Drenthe for a few days, Kinge urged him to compose something on a synthesiser which he had bought. Dad then sat down and actually composed a piece of music. Back home, he kept on playing that melody endlessly on his own piano. That's why I once sat down with him, taking out an empty sheet of music paper. Because I insisted he put it on paper. Poignantly, he didn’t sign it as 'Dolf van der Linden', but with his own name, David.”

Although music still played a part in his life, Dolf sank further and further into lethargy. Because Gerda was also getting older, taking care of her errant husband became too much of a burden for her. It was decided to find a nursing home for him. In the late autumn of 1998, a place was found for him at Hogewey in Weesp, a home specialised in the care of Alzheimer's patients. Despite the good care he received, Dolf did not like his new home. His children often visited him. “He was always overjoyed to see us,” Ineke recalls, “because the atmosphere there was usually sub-par. When we made a couple of jokes, he felt happy again. Fortunately, he always recognised us, although somewhat vaguely in the end. To the last, he was that David Niven-like gentleman, who took my coat and didn’t sit down until I had taken a seat. Dad's piano moved with him. At Hogewey, he once accompanied an old lady-singer who was in the same department. He still knew how to play the piano, reading the music off the paper without a second’s hesitation.”

In the second half of January 1999, Dolf's health took a rapid downward turn. It was clear that the end was near. He was transferred to the infirmary, where family members took turns watching over his bed for three days and three nights. In the night from Friday 29th to Saturday 30th January, Dolf van der Linden passed away in the presence of his wife Gerda and his four children. He was 83 years old.

Before the press was informed, a telephone call was made to the Metropole Orchestra. Manager Fred Dekker then had the task of sharing the sad news with the orchestra. “They were in the studio rehearsing,” he recalls. “The musicians felt the importance of the moment. The realisation that the man who started it all was no longer there was very sharp on everyone’s mind. Dolf was the man who had built the orchestra from scratch. In those early days, he had been writing arrangements by himself all through the night because there was nothing else, rushing to the studio the next morning to rehearse the new material with his men… After I had brought them the message, the orchestra members observed a minute's silence. That was impressive! Their respect for him was immense. After all, without Dolf van der Linden there would never have been a Metropole Orchestra.”

Dolf's last composition, signed 'David'


No event during his long career in music brought Dolf van der Linden more name recognition than the Eurovision Song Contest. From the start, he was involved as a conductor in the international festival set up by the European Broadcasting Union as a means to promote the new medium of television. The successful festival of San Remo in Italy had provided the inspiration. The Netherlands was one of seven 'founding fathers' of the new event.

In April 1956, Dutch umbrella TV broadcaster NTS held a national preliminary round to determine which two songs would form the Dutch representation at the first international final in Switzerland. It was probably the first time Dolf van der Linden and his radio orchestra appeared on television. At the start of the show, held in the AVRO Studios, host Karin Kraaykamp welcomed the viewers, introducing them to the Metropole Orchestra and its conductor. Whereas Dolf and his men usually worked on radio broadcasts dressed in shirt sleeves and without a tie, orchestra members were now neatly dressed in a suit with a bowtie. There were three vocal soloists to perform the entries, Bert Visser, Corry Brokken, and Jetty Paerl. 

While opinions about the quality of the participating songs were divided, the orchestra received universal praise. For example, the reviewer of daily Algemeen Dagblad wrote, “Last night, we had the opportunity to fully enjoy the excellent Metropole Orchestra, which leaves an even greater impression when it can be seen playing. The cameramen understood the wishes of the viewers, surprising the audience with good shots of the orchestra members.”

Gathering the results took almost two weeks. Long before the term televoting came into use, the NTS had decided to give viewers the opportunity to express their preference by means of postcards. In the count, it turned out that the choice of the public had fallen on ‘Voorgoed voorbij’, performed by Corry Bokken, a song by VARA’s staff composer Jelle de Vries, and 'De vogels van Holland', charmingly interpreted by Jetty Paerl. This second song was written by Annie M.G. Schmidt and Cor Lemaire, the duo responsible for writing the immensely popular VARA radio serial, De Familie Doorsnee.

Corry Brokken accompanied by the Metropole Orchestra at the first edition of the National Song Contest (1956)

Exactly one month after the preliminary round in the Netherlands, the first international Eurovision final was held in Lugano with fourteen participating songs from seven countries. Accompanied by a small NTS delegation led by chef de mission Piet te Nuyl, Jetty Paerl and Corry Brokken travelled to Switzerland by train. “If everything goes as planned, Dolf van der Linden will conduct the Swiss TV radio orchestra,” according to an article in De Telegraaf a few weeks earlier. However, not everything went as planned. In Lugano, Jetty Paerl and Corry Brokken were conducted by Swiss chief conductor Fernando Paggi. Why did Van der Linden stay behind in the Netherlands? “When the date for Lugano transpired, I had to say no”, he stated dryly in a radio interview almost 30 years later, “because we had an appointment that day to play an afternoon concert for the marines in Loosdrecht – the boys of our navy. They had been looking forward to our performance so much, so I didn't want to cancel that."

Corry Brokken in particular suffered from Van der Linden's absence, as De Telegraaf judged the day after the festival; according to that newspaper, Brokken, dead-nervous, had not been nearly as convincing in Lugano as during her preliminary performance in Hilversum. “The young singer really missed the support of a Dutch conductor,” the reviewer thought, “and it is a pity that the NTS did not put aside a small budget to send a conductor when it turned out that Dolf van der Linden was unable to attend.”

If Van der Linden had given priority to the Eurovision Song Contest, he would have been the first conductor in festival history. After all, Jetty Paerl's song came out first when lots were drawn to determine the running order. In retrospect, Jetty, better known as 'Jetje of Radio Oranje' thanks to her appearances in wartime radio broadcasts from London, could muster a degree of admiration for Van der Linden's choice of priorities, as she said in a 2007 interview, “This story tells a lot about Dolf van der Linden’s character – cancelling the festival in Lugano, because he already had another appointment (…). Great! A principled Dutchman if ever there was one. He wasn’t an easy man to work with; very correct, but very distant as well. At the same time, he was a great musician, especially from a technical point of view.”

In most participating countries, the first edition of the Eurovision Song Contest passed without much commotion. In the Netherlands too, attention from the media and the general public had remained limited, partly because Corry Brokken and Jetty Paerl did not win. Perhaps partly for this reason, the 1957 national final was even more low-profile than the year before. Finding close-ups superfluous, director Ben Steggerda only worked with cameras standing in the back of the auditorium. Naturally, the Metropole Orchestra was there to provide the musical accompaniment. Choosing from eight songs, television viewers picked the chanson-like ‘Net als toen’, interpreted by Corry Brokken. The piece was written by renowned songwriters Guus Jansen and Willy van Hemert. The eye-catcher in Bert Paige's orchestration was a spectacular violin solo, performed by one of the most prolific instrumentalists of the Metropole Orchestra, Sem Nijveen.

Dolf van der Linden conducting Willy Berking's orchestra for Corry Brokken's winning performance of 'Net als toen' at the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest, with Sem Nijveen taking care of the violin solo

This time, Dolf van der Linden's agenda did not throw a spanner in the works. With Corry Brokken and Sem Nijveen, he flew to Frankfurt, where the international festival final was held. In the memory of the only 24-year-old Corry Brokken, the orchestral rehearsals went well, also because she could put so much trust in Dolf van der Linden. In her memoirs, she compared him to his rival, Jos Cleber, under whose direction she had previously performed regularly in broadcasts for AVRO radio, “Dolf was a completely different person to Jos Cleber. He also behaved himself differently in front of the orchestra. Dolf was an artistically sensitive man who wrote beautiful compositions and made very interesting arrangements, but something about his appearance was more controlled; it didn't have the wildness which characterised Jos Cleber. A tall slender man with a thick moustache, Dolf looked a bit like an Englishman due to the way he dressed. He had an elegant way of conducting, his emotion was not overwhelming, not Burgundian like Jos, but was characterised by a restrained tension, in which the orchestra truly came into its own.”

That evening in Frankfurt, Corry Brokken gave a perfect rendition of ‘Net als toen’. Thanks to the orchestration and Sem Nijveen's beautiful violin part, the song sounded melancholy and contemporary, even swinging, at the same time. Although their performance garnered huge applause from the German audience, the trio assumed their work was done. “Now that’s that over with. I'm going to pack my violin,” Sem Nijveen said, laconically. Dolf van der Linden made himself comfortable backstage, “I was reading a newspaper. Then one of the floor managers came running at me, exclaiming, 'You are top of the scoreboard!'” Sem Nijveen then went looking for the singer, eventually finding her in her dressing room while she was taking off her long gloves. “I thought he was making a joke,” Corry Brokken said, “and because I didn’t believe him, he almost got angry – “No, no, it's not a joke, hurry up!” Half stumbling on my high heels and running down the hallway and up the stairs, I had to put those gloves back on. There I stood for a second time, ready to plunge into those light beams. My impression was that the audience was much more enthusiastic than the first time – but then, of course, they were applauding the winners now!”

‘Net als toen’ had defeated all other entries by a wide margin of jury points. With composer Guus Jansen, who had travelled to West Germany at his own expense, the Dutch delegation had a drink in Corry Brokken's hotel room; the next morning, the owner of the hotel turned out to have placed an extra bouquet of flowers on the breakfast table. Back in the Netherlands, the winning delegation, including Willy van Hemert and producer Piet te Nuyl, was honoured in a special broadcast hosted by Karin Kraaykamp; and the following week, Brokken performed 'Net als toen' in the radio entertainment show Showboat with Dolf van der Linden’s own Metropole Orchestra. That was just about the end of all publicity following the Netherlands’ first Eurovision win – not too surprising, considering the fact that in 1957 no more than a few hundred thousand Dutch households had permitted themselves the luxury of their own TV set.

As winner of the year before, the Netherlands took on the organisation of the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest. Prior to that, however, a Dutch entry had to be picked. In order to whittle down the huge pile of submitted songs to just eleven for the pre-selection show, Dolf van der Linden invited producer Piet te Nuyl and director Gijs Stappershoef to his house sometime in November 1957. Pianist Dick Schallies, who had just joined the Metropole Orchestra, had to plough himself a way through the sheet music of all entries at the piano in Dolf's study. A room away sat the makeshift jury. “We listened to the entries without knowing who the composers were,” Van der Linden later explained. “Dick Schallies played the songs one by one while we were listening. After each song, he mentioned the title which we wrote down, adding a vote. If we didn't like a song, we looked at each other, shaking our heads. Next to me was a copper canister containing a poker for the stove. I rattled back and forth with that, which was the sign for Dick to stop and move on to the next entry.”

Dolf van der Linden arm in arm with several of the artists taking part in the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest in Hilversum; at the far left, the eventual winner of the festival, France's singer André Claveau, who is flanked by Danish soloist Raquel Rastenni and Swiss composer-condutor Paul Burkhard; Dolf himself is flanked by Lys Assia (left) and Liane Augustin, the candidates for Switzerland and Austria respectively; on the far right, Austrian conductor Willy Fantel

The same procedure was adhered to in the following years, although there were occasional personnel changes in the composition of the jury. Arrangers Bert Paige and Pi Scheffer were also called in for their verdict in some years, but pianist Dick Schallies had to work his way through piles of sheet music year after year, as he recalled years later. “And there I was, playing on and on, one song after another – a hundred in a row – until I heard them shout, 'Well that's hopeless'; or, 'Go on, next please!' Sometimes, it became a bit too much for me, all those songs. At one point, being rather bored, I played the melody of ‘When I Fall In Love’ (a Nat King Cole song – BT). Almost immediately, Piet te Nuyl and Dolf stood in the doorway with a hopeful look in their eyes. ‘Finally something interesting,’ they thought, because many of the songs submitted for the contest weren’t very interesting.”

The anecdote is a telling one, as it shows how seriously Van der Linden took the Eurovision Song Contest in those early years. He referred to the selection process as “a sport.” The priority was clear; first and foremost, he was looking for good songs. Picking soloists was secondary. When a newspaper journalist complained that popular songstress Mieke Telkamp had yet again not received an invitation, Van der Linden's defence was simply that there was not a single song among the selected entries which suited this singer’s vocal abilities. “We would like to advise those who are responsible for the production of this programme to take into account the wishes of others next time, who would like to take part in such a programme and really deserve a chance as well,” the anonymous journalist grumbled. The vocalists who were invited to sing in the national final included – yet again! – Corry Brokken, but also Greetje Kauffeld, one of the singers of radio big band The Skymasters. In addition, Van der Linden managed to persuade his personal friend Bruce Low, who had lived and worked in West Germany for years, to perform two entries. For Low, it was the first time in nine years that he had worked with the Metropole Orchestra.

Only 18 years old at the time, Greetje Kauffeld, made her debut in front of a television audience in this edition of the National Song Contest. She performed two songs, ‘Een afscheid zonder meer’ and ‘Stewardess’. In the latter entry, interspersed with international phrases, she was dressed as an air hostess. Illustrating to what extent vocalists were made subservient to the repertoire in those years, Greetje explains, “As a soloist, you had no say whatsoever about which song you would get to sing. But then, I was so young! How could I know what was good for me? Gijs Stappershoef and Dolf made that choice on my behalf, paying attention to which melodies best suited my voice. All vocalists were invited to Hof van Holland, a restaurant in Hilversum, where Dolf sat at the piano, playing the songs for us. This allowed you to get a first impression of the melody and the lyrics. Also present were arrangers Bert Paige and Pi Scheffer, who usually subdivided the arranging work between themselves. Discussing the songs with Dolf, they made notes about how to approach the arrangement.”

For the third time in succession, the ticket for the international final went to Corry Brokken. No fewer than 8,148 of the more than 20,000 postcards received from viewers all over the country indicated a vote for her interpretation of ‘Heel de wereld’, composed by Benny Vreden. As in the previous year, the arrangement of Brokken’s song included an instrumental solo. Whereas Sem Nijveen had been given the opportunity to prove his worth on the violin the previous year, it was up to Dick Schallies to show his abilities on the piano halfway through the song. “That song was more or less written with me in mind,” Schallies recalled. “In the arrangements for those Eurovision songs, the capabilities of the instrumental soloists in the orchestra were taken into account. Given that I had a reputation for being a good improviser, a wide flared piano solo was included in the arrangement.”

A view of the stage of the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest in Hilversum, with host Hannie Lips on stage in front of the scoreboard

Before Corry Brokken got to compete in her third Eurovision, NTS Television had to prepare the organisation of the international final. Choosing the AVRO Studios in Hilversum as the place of action, producer Piet te Nuyl decided to give more prominence to the Metropole Orchestra than had been allowed to the Eurovision orchestras in the two previous editions. At the beginning and end of the programme, Dolf van der Linden and his men played an instrumental melody by Pi Scheffer, especially written for the occasion. “In Lugano and Frankfurt, there was no head or tail to the programme,” Te Nuyl told a reporter, “and the viewers will certainly agree with me that the show we are preparing for them has more unity.” In addition to the overture, ten participating entries had to be rehearsed – not an easy task according to guitarist Tony van Hulst, “Such a Eurovision project took us two weeks, and we had to give it our all! Sometimes, having done two rehearsals, we had to come back for a third one in the evening hours – really hard work!” 

On the evening of Wednesday, March 12th, 1958, the full Metropole Orchestra, dressed in blue jackets, was sitting ready in a stage full of Dutch tulips and daffodils. After host Hannie Lips had welcomed European viewers in three languages, room was made for the soloists from the 10 competing nations. Italy’s Domenico Modugno performed his San Remo hit ‘Nel blu dipinto di blu (Volare)’, while Switzerland’s Lys Assia, winner of the first contest in 1956, sang the distinctly upbeat ‘Giorgio’. In his capacity as musical director, Dolf van der Linden not only conducted Corry Brokken, but the soloists from West Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg and Belgium as well, because these four countries did not bring a guest conductor. Fud Leclerc, Belgium’s candidate, expressed his delight with the Metropole Orchestra during rehearsals, “I find it so much more pleasant and easy to sing my song here than in our national final, the reason being that fantastic orchestra of Dolf van der Linden.”

Halfway through the song presentation and prior to the voting, the Metropole Orchestra played two interval pieces, ‘Wedding Dance’ and ‘Cielito lindo’, with flashy instrumental arrangements which had become the trademark of the orchestra in the Netherlands. But there was more; in between the song presentations, Van der Linden let his orchestra play on in transitional melodies, as the conductor had also done a few months before in a programme which had been relayed by the BBC. All in all, the orchestra delivered a magnificent performance. With the festival being won by 'Dors mon amour', the stylish chanson with which André Claveau represented France, the fact that Corry Bokken finished last was no more than an afterthought for De Volkskrant’s reviewer, because, according to him, “Dolf van der Linden's Metropole Orchestra had been the success of the evening.”

More compliments poured in. A week after the festival, Dolf van der Linden received two letters of thanks from Kai Mortensen, his colleague and friend from Copenhagen who had conducted the Danish entry. The first included a profuse expression of gratitude to “dear Dolf, old boy.” The second note was addressed to the musicians in his orchestra, "Back again from a wonderful trip to Hilversum, I would like to thank all of you for the happy time we had together. It is not only the famous musicianship of yours I appreciate, but also the friendly way in which you helped me all the time." What was more, remarkably, a letter from a viewer from Italy came in, who had taken the trouble to write to Van der Linden, explaining that he had found the Metropole Orchestra perfetta.

Playing the melody of a song picked for the 1959 National Song Contest with Greetje Kauffeld and arranger Bert Paige listening attentively

For the 1959 national final, the troika Stappershoef - Te Nuyl - Van der Linden selected eight songs. A novelty that year, each entry was interpreted by two soloists in two different arrangements. For example, Tony van Hulst sang ‘Kleine zilv’ren ster’ with the Metropole Orchestra, while Corry Brokken performed the same song accompanied by Eddy de Jong's small combo. It can be assumed that this idea was thought up by Dolf van der Linden, the man who never tired of explaining that a song festival first and foremost was a competition between composers. To his mind, the importance of the performance was secondary. Thanks to the ‘double performance’ devised for the 1959 national final, the conductor felt “the song (and that's what it's all about!) is given the opportunity to come into its own in every way.”

Instead of a vote of the general public by postcard, a jury had been put together. The choice fell on ‘Een beetje’, a cheerful shuffle by Metropole pianist Dick Schallies with lyrics by Willy van Hemert which were refined and a little mischievous at the same time. Schallies had had two more irons in the fire with ‘Kleine zilv’ren ster’ and ‘Iedere dag met jou’. He wrote ‘Een beetje’ at the very last moment, as he told a radio reporter, “After I had submitted that romantic song, ‘Zilv'ren ster’, for the festival, Dolf and others said to me, “Can’t you write something which is a bit more smooth and catchy? We know you have it in you!”

As he explained in an interview decades later, Schallies then allowed himself to be inspired by an Italian acquaintance from Amsterdam, whom he had heard using the word 'mangiare' (the Italian verb for 'to eat' – BT). “Italians never tire of talking about food! Anyway, one day I was sitting in my car, on my way to a day of rehearsing with Dolf and the orchestra in Hilversum, toying with that Italian word, “Mangiare, da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, mangiare”… and that was the chorus of the melody which eventually became ‘Een beetje’. I started working on it. I finished it in a matter of no time at all, which was striking, given that one of the other songs for that National Song Contest, 'Kleine zilv’ren ster', took a lot more effort – a much more melodic entry, but that finished last! ‘Een beetje’ certainly isn’t one of my best songs.”

In the pre-selection show, John de Mol Snr performed 'Een beetje' accompanied by the Metropole Orchestra, but a special vocalist jury unanimously chose the other performer, Teddy Scholten. This singer was called in as a replacement at the very last moment, after Mieke Telkamp had withdrawn. At the time, Scholten was working in the theatre as part of the cast of the famous revue ‘Snip & Snap’, but her producer René Sleeswijk had already been talked into giving her permission to take part in the contest by his TV colleague Piet te Nuyl.

Orchestral rehearsal in Cannes with Teddy Scholten (Eurovision 1959)

Now that Teddy Scholten was to perform ‘Een beetje’ with Franck Pourcel’s orchestra at the international festival final, a new arrangement had to be made for her. To make sure the orchestration was flawless, Dolf van der Linden called on the help of composer Dick Schallies and his two master arrangers Bert Paige and Pi Scheffer. Ultimately, it was Paige who put everything on paper. He took Pi Scheffer’s orchestration made for John de Mol as a starting point, but in fact the orchestral part played in Cannes was the result of the input of the four men combined. Although Paige was a fast writer, the lack of time forced him to rush things a bit. “It was very short notice,” he said. “The score had to be sent to Cannes in a hurry.”

With Piet te Nuyl, Dolf van der Linden travelled ahead to Cannes. Upon arrival, the conductor was soon disappointed by the French orchestra he got to work with. “Kapellmeister Van der Linden could hardly be enthusiastic about Franck Pourcel’s orchestra,” reporter Bert Pasterkamp wrote in Het Vrije Volk. “In his ears, it was pretty hopeless, “Did you hear those violins! Awful, plain awful.” The reason behind this below-par orchestra was found pretty quickly. This wasn’t Pourcel's regular band. All he brought with him from Paris were some brass instrumentalists and the rhythm group. It would have been too expensive to bring the orchestra as a whole. The others, including fifteen violinists who had never worked together before, were drummed up on the Riviera. Van der Linden got his restoration works underway. He was given half an hour, in which he managed to improve the sound considerably.”

Teddy Scholten was only flown in two days before the festival was due to take place. Picked up at the airport in Nice by Te Nuyl and Van der Linden personally, she was immediately taken to the auditorium for much-needed rehearsal time. At the TV concert on Wednesday evening, March 11th, Teddy performed fifth in a field of eleven participants. “Her presentation was simple, charming, and memorable,” the reviewer of Het Parool stated. “After what had been heard until then, it was clear this was a pleasant song, which was given an attractive interpretation. The big surprise, however, was the musical performance. With Dolf van der Linden as conductor, it seemed as if a completely different orchestra was at work than before. Suddenly, the orchestra of Radio Television Française had a lush, vibrant sound, with the musicians playing with inspiration, to which the excellent arrangement certainly had its contribution.”

Despite her limited vocal range, but helped by a confident interpretation, Teddy Scholten managed to convince the European juries, notwithstanding competition from, among others, the Kessler sisters from West Germany and Italy’s Domenico Modugno with his new San Remo hit 'Piove'. To everyone's surprise – including her own – she won the contest with 21 votes.

France's chief conductor Franck Pourcel handing the giant 'baguette' to Dolf van der Linden, while Teddy Scholten is waiting to sing 'Een beetje' on stage behind them

Given first place had not been expected by anybody, the excitement in the Dutch camp was enormous. John de Mol, Teddy’s co-performer of ‘Een beetje’ in the pre-selection, had travelled to Cannes to witness the contest, enthusiastically waving red, white, and blue ribbons while Scholten was being called back onto the stage to receive her medal. Immediately after the broadcast, Teddy Scholten and Dolf van der Linden ran to the ridge of the auditorium, where Piet te Nuyl had provided the commentary for the Dutch TV viewers. From there, the singer reported on her experiences in a live interview with the studio in Bussum. After the host had asked Teddy a few questions, he wished her a pleasant rest of the evening (“Because I assume that you’ll have a glass of wine… or, er, milk…”). Then, Piet te Nuyl dragged Dolf van der Linden to the microphone. In a deadpan manner, he accepted the congratulations from the Netherlands – then coming up with a pun on the titles of the two Dutch Eurovision winners, “Het is een beetje net als toen, hè?!” (“It's a bit like back then, isn't it?!” – BT).

The following day, Teddy Scholten travelled back to the Netherlands, receiving a hero's welcome at Schiphol Airport. While the singer resumed her work as a revue artist, her conductor enjoyed a one-week holiday. In his absence, concertmaster Guus Valten got to conduct the popular radio show Plein 8 uur 13, for which Dolf and Piet te Nuyl managed to sign the runners-up in Cannes, UK duo Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson. Meanwhile, Dolf van der Linden had moved into the fashionable hotel Beau Rivage in Menton. When he returned home, he found a congratulatory telegram from Dutch cabaret duo Corry Vonk and Wim Kan among the mail items waiting for him, “No orchestra leader could stand in the shadow of Van der Linden!”

After the second victory in four years, there was genuine festival fever in the Netherlands. Press coverage of the success of ‘Een beetje’ in Cannes had been much more extensive than was the case with Corry Brokken’s win in Frankfurt two years previously. In the run-up to the National Song Contest and the international final of 1960, media attention for the event was sky-high. The national final again followed Van der Linden’s favourite format, with each song performed in two different arrangements. Radio stars like Karel van der Velden, Marcel Thielemans, Annie Palmen, and Herman Emmink were on the list of candidates, but victory went to Rudi Carrell. In the pre-selection, the cabaret artist from Alkmaar, who had won national fame thanks to his participation in the radio show Week uit, week in, performed the orchestral version of 'Wat een geluk'. The previous year's winning composer, Dick Schallies, had written a cheerful melody in bossa nova style. Yet again, Willy van Hemert took care of the lyrics. More or less unanimously, the press judged that the jurors had reached the correct decision. “Indeed, Rudi Carrell was the singer who most deserved a return ticket to London,” one newspaper article read.

For budgetary reasons, Dutch television had declined organising a second international final, leaving the honours to the BBC. Dolf van der Linden travelled to London a few days before Rudi Carrell. For the first time, his wife Gerda came with him, which she would continue to do in subsequent editions. A journalist from the daily Algemeen Dagblad reported on the first rehearsal, in which he watched Dolf van der Linden setting to work with Eric Robinson's 42-piece orchestra, “Dolf van der Linden walks between the music stands to get acquainted with the musicians. Rudi Carrell is sitting next to me in the front row (…). Dolf has started, playing ‘Wat een geluk’ twice. ‘Stop. There’s a mistake with that saxophone four bars before the A.’ They restart from the beginning. Rudi has stood up, dancing and making small gestures along the front row, ‘The sound is nice and light, don't you think?’ I agree. Pi Scheffer's lighter arrangement creates a lush sound in the Festival Hall.”

Not without a sense of pride, Van der Linden watches as his pianist Dick Schallies (with glasses) and lyricist Willy van Hemert are congratulated by host Piet te Nuyl after their creation 'Wat een geluk' has been voted the winner of the 1960 National Song Contest

Indeed, Pi Scheffer had been given full freedom to create an improved version of the orchestration of ‘Wat een geluk’. Compared to the preliminaries, the score played in London had a longer instrumental interval, in which the brass group of the English orchestra played the main part. Following the rehearsal, Dolf was optimistic, especially after the starting order of the 13 countries was announced. The Netherlands was drawn in 10th place, favourably in the second half of the field of participants. “We stand a good chance with that place,” Van der Linden reacted.

In the end, the result turned out to be not nearly as good as expected. Rudi Carrell did not succeed in disguising his mediocre vocal technique on the international stage. “Rudi always had a tendency to sing lower than the orchestra,” composer Dick Schallies resignedly noted. As the year before, Schallies had to follow the event on television. His song finished second-last. The result came as a blow for the Dutch delegation, especially given that a considerable number of journalists had travelled to London. Dolf van der Linden could not help but take the result lightly. “I bought myself a new tuxedo especially for the occasion, but I was caught with my trousers down,” he joked. Rudi Carrell also showed considerable grace in defeat, taking the title of his song (“Wat een geluk” meaning “How fortunate” – BT) as a starting point. “How fortunate that I wasn’t dead-last,” he sang in a TV performance shortly after coming back from London. The singer gave Dolf van der Linden a beautiful photo of the London Eurovision stage, signing it with his name on the back and a line reading, “How fortunate to have such a conductor!”

Following the disappointing outcome in London, producer Piet te Nuyl decided to take a different approach. All the media frenzy in the Netherlands around the event might have been a bit too much. Some vocalists declined to take part, dissatisfied with the fact that they exerted so little influence over the choice of songs. Following all this, in 1961, the Netherlands’ Eurovision entry was picked without a public selection show. A committee of heavyweights, including Dolf van der Linden, Pi Scheffer, and well-known author Simon Carmiggelt, was charged with selecting a suitable song. Eventually, the choice fell on a composition by the Metropole Orchestra’s pianist, Dick Schallies, who had also penned the music to the winning entries of the two previous National Song Contest editions. Strikingly, Schallies submitted his song as an instrumental melody, without lyrics. “Piet te Nuyl had asked me to make a song that would stand out at the Eurovision Song Contest,” Schallies explained. “Something in a tempo which wasn’t so very straight; something which would be more jazzy. That gave me the idea to make a rather unusual song, including somewhat more rhythmic elements. The first sixteen bars are very punchy, followed by sixteen bars with some chord changes.”

Greetje Kauffeld, who had made such an impression at the National Song Contest the previous year with a sweet ballad called ‘Niet voor mij’, was the designated singer. She had to wait for the final version of the lyrics until a few days before leaving for the Eurovision final in Cannes. Put together at the last minute by Pieter Goemans, they bore the title ‘Wat een dag’. Greetje had to learn them by heart after writing them down in a telephone call she received from Goemans. “I must say I didn’t really like those lyrics,” Greetje admits. “There even was a sentence about ‘picking flowers.’ No, that wasn’t very good, but the melody was very nice and well… I was a young singer and very happy to be given this opportunity. Once in France, our delegation settled down in Auberge du Relais Impérial in Golfe-Juan. We were with a small group; Piet te Nuyl of course, who rehearsed the facial expressions of my performance with me in the hotel room, and also Dolf, Gerda, and their youngest daughter. Dolf and Gerda took on a relaxing visit to Antibes the evening before the show. The rehearsals with Dolf and the orchestra went well. He was a very nice man to work with.”

"How fortunate to have such a conductor" - Rudi Carrell of the Eurovision stage in London's Royal Festival Hall with Dolf van der Linden conducting the orchestra for him

Like the Netherlands’ Eurovision entries in previous years, ‘Wat een dag’ also had an instrumental intermezzo, which in this case took up more than half a minute. Dolf van der Linden commissioned his arrangers – Pi Scheffer, in this case – to write scores which allowed the orchestra to take centre-stage along with the singer. It fitted in with his image of how a Eurovision song should sound, but like in London, the result was disappointing. In Cannes, ‘Wat een dag’ finished in a mid-table position. Partly due to the song having been chosen without a National Song Contest, interest for the event in the Netherlands was relatively low. Bert Pasterkamp of Het Parool was one of the few Dutch journalists present. He was present in the auditorium, as Parisian crooner Jean-Claude Pascal won the festival for Luxembourg with the romantic ‘Nous, les amoureux’. The Netherlands did not come close to first prize, but Pasterkamp reported that Dolf van der Linden, in his way, was a winner as well. “If there had been a prize for the best conductor of the festival,” the journalist quoted one of the musicians from Franck Pourcel's orchestra, “it would have been his.”

In 1962, the annual rendezvous took place in Luxembourg. The Dutch representation was chosen in a reinstated National Song Contest. There was a surprising winner in the shape of a male duo from Rotterdam that had been added to the list of participants at the last moment, De Spelbrekers. They sang ‘Katinka’, a happy tune composed by Joop Stokkermans. Originally, the song was due to be performed by the Padre Twins. However, on closer inspection, this duo did not think the song was good enough. They had withdrawn at the eleventh hour. Huug Kok, one of De Spelbrekers, told how he received a sudden phone call from Piet te Nuyl. “The next day, we found ourselves at the house of Dolf van der Linden, listening to the melody on a tape recorder. When we heard it, we immediately confirmed our willingness to step in, even without having heard the lyrics.” When De Spelbrekers won the selection, Dolf van der Linden expressed his satisfaction with the result. “I think it’s great for those guys. They are easy-going and unpretentious; I’ll definitely accompany them in Luxembourg.”

In turn, Van der Linden earned the respect of Huug Kok and Theo Rekkers of De Spelbrekers during rehearsals with the Luxembourg orchestra. Many years later, when asked about their days in Luxembourg, Theo Rekkers commented, “From those rehearsals, I only remember that Dolf van der Linden was able to point out that one violinist in the entire orchestra whose strings were set too low. That man was unbelievable! He had perfect pitch – and a very amiable guy too.”

Radio announcer Aad Bos was part of the Netherlands’ delegation in Luxembourg. In the meantime, Bos had become acquainted with Dolf’s eldest daughter Anneke, who he would marry later that same year. Drawing from his memory about the international festival in Luxembourg, Bos recalled, “Dolf moved about in those international circles in his very charming and slightly formal way. That's just how he was. He had huge admiration for Franck Pourcel, who conducted the French entry. He loved how Pourcel arranged the popular songs of the day. Franck Pourcel was an exceptionally nice man – and he spoke enough English to have a meaningful conversation with Dolf.”

Conducting the instrumental break in 'Katinka' for De Spelbrekers in Luxembourg (1962)

The 1962 Eurovision Song Contest took a disastrous turn for De Spelbrekers. Due to a technical error, the television picture went almost to black during their performance, the result being that viewers could only see their shiny white teeth. Not even Bert Paige's punchy orchestration could save the song. In the voting, ‘Katinka’ did not pick up a single point, finishing joint-last. Nevertheless, the singing duo had won the hearts of the Dutch. Their song was a commercial success.

Nonetheless, interest in the Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands seemed to be on the decline. After the festival, Dolf van der Linden stepped into the breach for the event. According to him, despite undeniable shortcomings, it did have its value. “Each year, the competition results in a number of good international songs coming to the fore, which is a stimulus for composers and lyricists,” he argued in an interview, in which he also spoke about the contempt the contest had been met with in the Netherlands recently. “I'm sorry, but that’s only happening in the Netherlands. In all other countries, interest has grown,” he stated – not entirely truthfully.

In 1963, Dolf van der Linden missed the Eurovision Song Contest. Just as that year’s Dutch entry was about to be determined, all Hilversum orchestra musicians went on strike to negotiate higher rates for participation in TV programmes. Van der Linden declared solidarity with ‘his’ lads. As a result, public broadcaster NTS had little other option but to cancel the national final, in which Annie Palmen was to perform three songs. Now, a committee opted to send her to London with what she believed to be the weakest of the three, 'Speeldoos'. Dolf van der Linden was not there with her. Why was that? When asked about the matter by a newspaper journalist, he grumbled, “There are already enough scandals going on around every Eurovision. I don't want to contribute to them. Just write that I'm too busy. And I prefer not to comment any further.”

In reality, the NTS had judged it superfluous to send Van der Linden along with Annie Palmen. After all, he had not played a part in a national final. The singer did not have a say in the decision. For Palmen, the Eurovision adventure ended disastrously. She finished last without a single point in the international Eurovision final. “My song ‘Speeldoos’ was played in a tempo which was much too slow," she later explained with regret. "This wouldn't have happened with Dolf van der Linden; now I had to work with [BBC conductor] Eric Robinson.” Although of no comfort to Annie Palmen, Van der Linden still got his festival trip later that same year. He got to conduct the Dutch team at the North Sea Festival, an international music competition held in the Belgian seaside resort of Ostend. There, he was accompanied by some of the best soloists from his orchestra, including Dick Schallies and flautist Ko Ikelaar.

Having a chat at the 1962 contest in Luxembourg with his good friend and colleague, Denmark's conductor Kai Mortensen

In 1964, the NTS managed to catch teen idol Anneke Grönloh for a Eurovision participation. Without a doubt, Grönloh, who had had four number one hits after her breakthrough in 1962, was the most popular singer of the moment. In Utrecht’s Tivoli Theatre, she performed three songs. Back after a one-year absence, the Metropole Orchestra provided the accompaniment to this National Song Contest. As was to be expected, Dolf van der Linden did not like the formula, in which a soloist had already been chosen in advance, but he expressed his criticism in veiled terms. “It's just a bit disappointing that the spotlights at the festival are focused so firmly on the vocalists. Composers and lyricists remain in the background,” as he explained to a journalist. To avoid causing an uproar, he added the somewhat obligatory line "that the quality of the songs submitted was higher than in previous years."

Begging the question, why were only three songs admitted to the national final then? The answer is not that difficult to find. No doubt Grönloh's record company Phonogram-Philips wanted to make sure their star singer would not be sent out with a song that was commercially uninteresting – and this risk would have been much higher with more entries in the running. It cannot have been a coincidence that Anneke Grönloh's regular arranger, Ger van Leeuwen, was added to the selection committee. At the time, Van Leeuwen had an exclusivity contract with Philips.

Although Dolf van der Linden would not have regretted his orchestra being given the opportunity to bring their own instrumental arrangements in between the three participating songs to fill up the 1964 National Song Contest, he must have followed the developments with dismay. Years later, he stated, “In the first years [the Eurovision Song Contest] was an event which went on in an extremely fair manner. Although I can't blame them, record companies soon saw the potential to earn lots of money on the back of the contest, though. They began exerting their influence, initially in a cautious way, but later with more insistence – the result being that it remained an NTS affair on paper, but with the record companies having a huge finger in the pie.”

Coincidence or not, the new single by Anneke Grönloh was available in record stores the day after the National Song Contest, containing the winning entry ‘Jij bent mijn leven’, and with the song finishing second, ‘Weer zingt de wind’, on the flipside. The arrangement of the studio version of ‘Jij bent mijn leven’, made by the aforementioned Ger van Leeuwen, differed on a number of points from the orchestration which Bert Paige came up with for the national final. For example, the version with the Metropole Orchestra lacked the fashionable electric guitar parts that Van Leeuwen had written for the song. In those days, no amplified instruments were used in Metropole arrangements. Still, an electric guitar was added to the Danish orchestra accompanying the international final. The songs from Italy and the United Kingdom finishing first and second respectively, had arrangements which used the electric guitar to great effect.

Anneke Grönloh performing with the Metropole Orchestra at the 1964 National Song Contest in Tivoli, Utrecht

Half a century later, Anneke Grönloh felt too emotional about her experiences with Dolf van der Linden to comment in person. When asked about the matter, her manager Bart Peeters, who knew the affair well, claimed that she and her entourage in Copenhagen had been perplexed to note that the electric guitars from the record arrangement had been replaced by strings, but there is conclusive proof that this is far from the truth. As can be heard on a tape recording which surfaced recently, the song was performed to the exact same arrangement at the national final in Utrecht.

On the other hand, for the National Song Contest, Van der Linden usually got to work with an ‘extended’ Metropole Orchestra, to which he could add instrumentalists at will if the arrangements so required. However, an electric guitar did not fit his image of how light-entertainment music should sound. To his ears, the pop repertoire that became popular from the 1960s – "or perhaps not even popular, but at any rate well-known," as he once put it in his characteristic way – all sounded "very unmusical." Undoubtedly, in his opinion, the orchestral sound that Bert Paige had devised for ‘Jij bent mijn leven’ lifted the song to a higher level. In the opinion of Phonogram and Anneke Grönloh, however, the fresh teenage sound was gone, with the song suddenly sounding hopelessly old-fashioned. The orchestration could have been altered for Copenhagen, given that an electric guitar was available in the orchestra, but Van der Linden did not feel like adapting the arrangement.

At the international Eurovision final, Dolf van der Linden made his comeback at the event after an absence of one year. At the first rehearsal, NTS delegation leader Piet te Nuyl Jr. introduced the Dutch artist and her conductor to the Danish orchestra. Whereas Anneke Grönloh had never previously worked with the orchestra musicians, Te Nuyl faced a barrage of laughter from the orchestra when he introduced Van der Linden to them; as a Dutch newspaper wrote, “After all his guest performances here in Copenhagen, at least ten, they knew the Dutch kapellmeister like the back of their hand. It was a warm reunion.” In this context, it is fair to say Te Nuyl made a faux-pas, because Van der Linden had already made his debut with the orchestra of Danish Radio as a guest conductor twelve years previously.

Different stories are told about Van der Linden and Grönloh in Copenhagen. Dolf himself later revealed to a journalist that he had enjoyed working with the singer, but, again according to Anneke's manager Bart Peeters, this judgment was not mutually shared. As he explained, Grönloh had received a sneer from Van der Linden at the first rehearsal from the orchestra pit, “It is pretty obvious that you aren’t used to working with a conductor – instead of looking at me, your face is directed into the hall.” Anneke's fiancé, Veronica disc jockey Wim-Jaap van der Laan, exploded, shouting, “… and it is pretty obvious that you aren’t used to working with a soloist!" Later, back in the hotel, Jaap Stamer, representative of Phonogram, allegedly also gave the conductor a piece of his mind. How had he dared address his star artist so disdainfully? For the remainder of the festival week, contact between Anneke Grönloh and her conductor was kept to an absolute minimum.

What looks like a rather unpleasant conversation between Van der Linden and Grönloh - Copenhagen, Eurovision 1964

When confronted with this story, Ronnie Tober, colleague and confidant of Anneke Grönloh for decades, reacts in disbelief, “I can't imagine that Anneke didn’t get along with Dolf. In later years, we regularly performed together in the radio show Muzikaal onthaal, accompanied by Dolf and his orchestra. She never told me that she didn't like working with Dolf – or that she had such an unpleasant run-in with him. Furthermore, there was no sign of a disturbed relationship between the two. Listen, if Dolf felt it necessary to adjust an arrangement, he could do so. After all, he was the conductor. It was his job at the Eurovision Song Contest to make sure the music sounded right, wasn’t it?”

In the voting in Copenhagen, 'Jij bent mijn leven' finished in a modest tenth place with 2 jury points. The career of Anneke Grönloh suffered a blow; after the event, the singer never achieved the same degree of popularity with the Dutch public as in her heyday. This may have contributed subconsciously to the fact that she looked back on the Danish episode with little pleasure, finding an easy scapegoat in her straightforward conductor.

Whatever the truth of all the claims from Grönloh’s camp, Dolf van der Linden clearly saw himself confronted with a new reality. From his early years onwards, he had always been accustomed to orchestras performing with their own regular soloists. Most of the vocalists taking part in the first editions of the National Song Contest, such as Corry Brokken, Dick Doorn, Karel van der Velden, and even young Greetje Kauffeld, were products of this tradition. In Anneke Grönloh, however, the conductor found a singer who had acquired fame not through her performances with radio orchestras, but through her records. From now on, record companies created their own stars.

Years before, Van der Linden had already spoken his mind about "the awful situation of the general public thinking of the winning singer [of the Eurovision Song Contest] as a kind of national heroine." For him, the Eurovision Song Contest was and remained a competition for songwriters. In Copenhagen, as always when working with vocal soloists, the conductor gave Grönloh a sign with his hand when she had to start, but she had been looking into the camera instead. To her, his directions were superfluous. At the contest in Denmark, Van der Linden must have realised that the world of music as he knew it was changing; with such artists, pushed forward by the record business, the Eurovision Song Contest – and entertainment music as a whole – took a path that was not his. He was left with the choice; did he want to join in or would he give up this pop genre completely?

Anneke Grönloh surrounded by press photographers in Copenhagen, with Dolf van der Linden looking on at the sidelines

Eventually, Dolf van der Linden jumped onto the train. In the following years, he remained involved in the contest as the conductor of the Dutch entry, but otherwise his role in the competition had been marginalised. From now on, he was only involved in the song selection as non-voting chairman. His enthusiasm for the event had plummeted. When asked about his Eurovision involvement in an interview with De Haagsche Courant in 1965, he was obviously reluctant to comment, “The Eurovision Song Contest? Do you really want to talk about that? Well, what I find most attractive about it is the opportunity to exchange ideas with others. You get to talk a lot to foreign colleagues, which is a good thing.” That sounded rather measured given that the subject was an event that he had defended by fire and sword in the past.

For the 1965 Netherlands’ Eurovision pre-selection, five artists were invited, each of whom was given the opportunity to perform three songs – ideal for a release on an EP, a vinyl format popular at the time containing four titles. Young Ronnie Tober, who had lived in America for 16 years before returning to his native country, was part of the field for the first time. He did not win with the cheerful tune ‘Geweldig’, but the song enjoyed hit success afterwards. It was also the first time Tober got to perform with the Metropole Orchestra.

“At the time, I had only just returned from America,” the singer explains. “I had trouble with the pronunciation of Dutch, especially with the letter W in the title, ‘Geweldig’. During rehearsals, Dolf was very fatherly to me, patiently explaining how best to sing that word. He really took the time for that. Being only aged 20, I looked up to him enormously, literally, because he was much taller than me, but also figuratively… a very likeable man! After finishing runner-up in the voting, he came to me with Teddy Scholten. Teddy hosted the show. Dolf said, 'I’m not allowed to say anything about my personal favourites, but there were songs that I liked. And I really liked your song!' That was a wonderful thing for him to say! From that moment on, I came back regularly to work with the Metropole Orchestra. The National Song Contest was a nice way for me to start my career in Hilversum.”

In the 1965 Dutch Eurovision heats, Ronnie Tober lost out to Conny van den Bos with an up-tempo melody, ‘’t Is genoeg’, which stood out in part thanks to the striking bongo solos in the arrangement. To everybody’s surprise, it turned out afterwards that the song, composed by accordionist Johnny Holshuysen, had lyrics by Karel Prior, who also happened to be the producer of this edition of the National Song Contest. To avoid an uproar, Prior had submitted the song using the name of his wife Joke van Soest. Some commotion ensued, but Conny van den Bos did not have to give back her ticket to the international final, held in Naples.

Counting in his orchestra at the 1965 edition of the National Song Contest, with concertmaster Guus Valten (far left) and fellow-violinists Lucien Grignard, Lex Cachet, and Jan Pet in the first row

According to reports in various Dutch media in the weeks and days prior to the festival, Dolf van der Linden had been given a special additional role in Italy. Officials of the Irish broadcaster RÉ, which made its debut at the festival in Naples, had asked the Dutch conductor to also lead the orchestra for their entry, the melodic 'I'm Walking The Streets In The Rain', performed by Butch Moore. RÉ was probably working on a shoestring budget, thus deciding against an extra expense for sending along its own conductor with the soloist. Given that Van der Linden, who spoke excellent English, had become a popular guest conductor in Dublin with the Radio Éireann Light Orchestra, he seemed a good alternative.

In the end, it did not work out quite the way RÉ officials had envisioned. Usually, delegations not bringing along the guest conductor of their choice to the contest were automatically assigned the chief conductor of the organising country. Italian broadcaster RAI may have protested because their own conductor was passed over or the European Broadcasting Union may have pointed out Eurovision rules to the Irish – whatever the truth, Butch Moore had to perform with the orchestra being placed under the direction of Gianni Ferrio, musical director of the contest. It is unclear whether Van der Linden worked with Moore in rehearsals in Naples, but given that, even on the day of the festival itself, his name still appeared in Dutch newspapers as the conductor of the Irish entry, it is not so unlikely.

This left the conductor with the task of guiding the musical accompaniment for just the Dutch contribution. At the start of the rehearsal week in Naples, however, it seemed for a moment that he would also have to have himself replaced in this capacity due to  acute hearing problems, as he told a journalist.

“When I woke up this morning, I immediately felt something was wrong. I forgot about the pain. For one very gloomy moment, I thought, ‘I’d better pass on that baton to someone else on Saturday.’ But, thank God, matters turned out a little less serious. At 9 am, I called for a doctor. By 11am, he still wasn’t there. Then I decided to go out and have lunch with my wife and my daughter. I returned to the hotel at 3pm. While I was pushing the elevator button to get back upstairs, a little guy bumped into me, throwing me a very poisonous look. All right, the both of us were rushed up to the sixth floor, but as I’m about to get out, this little Italian with his little suitcase happens to want to do the same thing. Once again, I unintentionally gave him a slap in the face. Snorting with malice, he stormed into the hallway, knocking on the door of room 603. That's where I'm staying! He is very surprised when I courteously let him in. Inside, he stands before me with a frown; a very small doctor facing a very tall conductor. As he sees the cotton wool ball in my ear, he looks at me from head to toe – eventually shaking his head, sighing, ‘Pays-Bas...’.”

Trea Dobbs interpreting 'Ploem ploem jenka' at the 1965 National Song Contest, a song which did not win the ticket to Naples, but enjoyed considerable chart success nevertheless

Judging by the light-hearted tone of the conductor's anecdote, which he told before the start of one of the rehearsals, the situation had not been that serious. For the Eurovision final, Van der Linden, having consulted with Johnny Holshuysen, cut off a few bars at the beginning and end of Bert Paige’s arrangement. Apart from the Italian orchestra and soloist Conny van den Bos, he also guided bongo player Wim van der Beek through the performance. Van der Beek took a seat in the rhythm section of the Italian orchestra for the Netherlands’ performance. At the first rehearsal, Van den Bos and Van der Linden had received a round of applause. “For the first time, some life came to the lukewarm studio,” as one Dutch newspaper wrote. “The orchestra members clearly made an effort for Dolf van der Linden. They had no other choice with such a complicated arrangement.”

Still, rehearsals of ‘’t Is genoeg’ did not go smoothly. Although the Netherlands were the only delegation to provide a shot list drawn up in Italian, Karel Prior and director Fred Benavente, who had come along from Hilversum, did not get a foot on the ground. “We tried everything,” said Prior, but the [Italian] director didn't care. In our opinion, the direction was very poor. Really, we were shocked by the images shot by this man.” And that's not all, “The sound was bad too. There was just one microphone for all the brass players in the orchestra. The rhythm section had no microphone at all. At one of the rehearsals, Dolf van der Linden wanted to go into the control room to listen to the result – and you know what? He wasn't even allowed in."

Eventually, Conny van den Bos finished in a fairly anonymous mid-table position. Thanks to commentator Teddy Scholten, we also know which of the participating songs was Dolf's favourite; Portugal’s 'Sol de inverno', a harmonically interesting, but also somewhat dated ballad performed by Simone de Oliveira, which got even fewer points than the Netherlands’ contribution. For the first time in festival history, the most commercial song in the competition won first prize, 'Poupée de cire, poupée de son', performed by France Gall for Luxembourg. With a delay of a few years, teenage music also conquered the Eurovision Song Contest.

In 1966, the National Song Contest followed the same formula as the previous year, but most journalists following the event bluntly stated that the songs and soloists were of considerably lower quality. As usual, Dolf van der Linden kept a low profile in discussions of this type. “There were some very bad songs again,” he stated, “maybe more than in other years. But I thought the songs which reached the final were of a very decent standard.” In response to this, Hendrik-Jan Oolbekkink of Het Parool noted laconically, "That is a very kind statement by Van der Linden, although one wonders to what extent he believes it himself." Although confirming that Van der Linden made a ‘fresh’ impression on him, another journalist even wondered – adding more than a pinch of irony – whether the conductor had not better discontinue his involvement in such a trivial event, “Sometimes, I’ve been afraid that Dolf would one day find himself turned off by the contest (after all, the man is a musician), but, every time, you find that he is back again.”

Congratulating Milly Scott on her win in the 1966 National Song Contest

On the night, the national final was won by jazz singer Milly Scott, although the song she performed, 'Fernando en Philippo', could not be farther removed from her usual repertoire, being an attempt at a parody of Latin American folk music – with even two guitarists dressed in Mexican sombreros accompanying her on stage. At the international Eurovision final in Luxembourg, the song made little impression, finishing near the bottom of the scoreboard. Between rehearsals, Milly Scott had been spending some time with Dolf's wife Gerda, but contact with the conductor himself was limited to the necessary, as Milly herself recalled.

“Admittedly, I didn’t really get to know Dolf van der Linden at that Eurovision Song Contest. He always immersed himself in his work, keeping his distance. You didn't really get to speak to him. How different the situation was when I teamed up with Frans de Kok, another TV conductor with whom I often worked in those years. Frans was a gentleman conductor you could have a nice conversation with… just a pleasant guy who wasn’t so concerned with making a career. Otherwise, there was nothing wrong with Van der Linden, you know – to me, he was a correct conductor, but nothing more… and what a pity that he gave the orchestra in Luxembourg a tempo which was too fast.”

Like Anneke Grönloh, it cannot be ruled out that, after her disappointing result, Milly Scott consciously or unconsciously sought to put the blame on others. Years later, the singer, who was the first black artist in Eurovision history, even stated bluntly that she had scored so few points due to the jurors’ racism. It apparently did not occur to her that her song was a no-hoper from the start, lacking all the qualities of an international success.

After the festival in Luxembourg, most followers concluded that Austria’s Udo Jürgens was the deserved winner, but there was much talk about the voting procedure, with Northern European countries in particular exchanging votes enthusiastically. Backstage, Van der Linden could not believe his eyes. “This is the biggest nonsense I’ve ever seen,” is his uncharacteristically fierce comment. “There are voting blocks – like Scandinavia – passing each other points. We were roaring with laughter here, when the Irish jury chairman chuckled as he awarded [the maximum] 5 points to Great Britain. A voting procedure like this one makes no sense. Complete rubbish! This is not a correct way of judging the quality of the songs or the singers.”

At the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, the Netherlands are represented by Thérèse Steinmetz with 'Ring-dinge-ding', a song composed by Johnny Holshuijsen (in middle, behind Steinmetz) with lyrics by Gerrit den Braber (to her right)

Although Van der Linden clearly had reservations about developments in the contest in the 1960s, he usually defended the event when asked about it, if somewhat perfunctorily. “The fact that it is a stimulus for Dutch songwriting is enough for me,” he lectured a radio journalist in early 1967. “Moreover, each year, there are a number of songs which are really worth performing! Additionally, the event is a wonderful opportunity for our Dutch soloists to get in touch with foreign conductors, radio and TV stations, and impresarios. I would also like to emphasise once again that I am a neutral, non-voting chairman of the selection committee – and I’d like to put a stress on the word ‘neutral’! My final conclusion would be not to overestimate the Eurovision Song Contest, nor to exaggerate its significance, but let’s not deny its value either!”

For the 1967 contest, the NTS’s selection committee decided to invite classically trained singer Thérèse Steinmetz, who had just scored her first hit in the popular genre. As it turned out, five of the six songs she performed in the pre-selection had lyrics by Gerrit den Braber. A conflict of interest was suspected, and Van der Linden admitted that he and his fellow committee members had been “scared to death when the envelopes were unsealed by the notary.” As the songs had been submitted anonymously, the selection committee could not be blamed for the situation. Unfortunately, none of the songs was really suited to the singer's considerable vocal abilities – least of all ‘Ring-dinge-ding’, chosen as the winner by the general public in a postcard vote. At the time, the singer wisely kept her opinion about the song to herself; as she explained shortly before her departure for the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, she was perfectly happy, “I have a lot of support from the people around me here in the Netherlands. Dolf van der Linden is a special character. He takes on so much workload. Honestly, I would have a hard time coping without him. I’m confident of doing well.”

In spite of the singer’s confidence, 'Ring-dinge-ding' did not convince the international juries. In Vienna, Thérèse Steinmetz only picked up 2 votes. For the umpteenth time in a row, the Netherlands had to settle for a position in the lower part of the scoreboard. However, unlike Anneke Grönloh and Milly Scott, Steinmetz has very fond memories of her collaboration with Dolf van der Linden. When we did an interview with her in 2014, we confronted her with Anneke Grönloh’s testimony. Thérèse's reaction is firm.

“There may not have been a good click between Anneke and Dolf, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a good or pleasant conductor. Before my festival participation, I had often worked with large orchestras. Maybe that's why Dolf and I were such a good team. Dolf was everything I expected from a conductor; he was calm, exerting a self-evident control over the orchestra… a man with natural charisma, who commanded respect even if you had not exchanged a single word with him. When he rehearsed with an orchestra, all he had to do was raise his baton and all the musicians were at attention. It was a pleasure to work with him. At the time, I wasn’t too happy with the song I had to sing, but I couldn’t tell you anything negative about Dolf van der Linden; he was a natural-born conductor!”

At the first rehearsal of the Netherlands' entry at Vienna's Hofburg, Thérèse Steinmetz is introduced to the Austrian orchestra by her conductor 

Due to the Netherlands’ poor results in those years, the NTS changed course almost annually – and so, after Thérèse Steinmetz had been handed the ticket to the festival without competition, a selection system with several vocalists was devised for the 1968 edition of the contest. Some of the invited artists, however, pressured by their record company, withdrew at the last minute. Chaos reigned. In the end, only four candidates remained, from whom Ronnie Tober won first prize with 'Morgen', a composition by Joop Stokkermans. The arrangement was written by Jack Bulterman. Although there had been no complaints in the national final, it was decided to radically adjust the score in the run-up to the international contest.

“It’s very unfortunate how it all turned out,” Ronnie Tober comments. “Beforehand, my producer Rine Geveke, Jaap Stamer, who was my company’s A&R manager, Jack Bulterman, and Dolf had come to an agreement of how the song should be dressed up. There was a stylish piano intro which I loved instantly. Joop Stokkermans and his lyricist Theo Strengers were also happy with it… but then there was a hitch. The Blue Diamonds released an English cover version of my song with a rival company. That was against Eurovision regulations, because no song was allowed to be commercially released prior to the contest. I was almost disqualified for it, but what could we have done to prevent it? Their version had a brand new arrangement by Tony Eyk. He had given it his own twist. One of the elements added was a Bach trumpet, something that was very fashionable at the time.”

“Subsequently, there was a new meeting of my production team with me and Dolf van der Linden also attending. There was a feeling of slight panic. Compared to the Blue Diamonds’ version, Jack Bulterman's arrangement suddenly sounded a bit soft and old-fashioned. Perhaps I should have been more insistent at the time about sticking with the old arrangement, but both Dolf and Philips’ representatives felt that the song could do with a bit of spicing up. Bulterman then made a completely new arrangement, very different from the version played by the Metropole Orchestra in the pre-selection – and which, meanwhile, had also been recorded in the studio. With that new arrangement, written in a faster tempo and with louder drums, we went to London. Looking back now, that was a mistake. Our score was too wild, which didn’t fit the song at all.”

With Dolf van der Linden at his side, Tober travelled to London. That year, the festival was held at the Royal Albert Hall. After the first rehearsal, the conductor had nothing but praise for the freelance orchestra, put together by renowned English conductor Norrie Paramor. Ronnie Tober remembers how Van der Linden introduced him to Paramor and host Katie Boyle.

Ronnie Tober during his winning performance of  'Morgen' at the 1968 National Song Contest; in the Metropole Orchestra behind him, flautist Ko Ikelaar, clarinettist Cees Verschoor, and drummer Bill van den Heuvel can be recognised

“Of course, Dolf was a stately man, always in a suit, charming and fun to talk to. He spoke with them as if they were old acquaintances. Then he called me into the conversation, introducing me as the Dutch candidate. It was very nice to have a conductor who showed me the ropes a bit. Dolf was really there to help me. In my memory, he had a big smile on his face all week. That was reassuring. Away from rehearsals, we also did some sightseeing in London and went out for dinner one evening. Jaap Stamer and Elles Berger (who did the TV commentary for the NTS – BT) were also there. A tiny delegation of only four people. You can hardly imagine how it was back then, but bear in mind that we’re talking about an era long gone.”

In the live broadcast, Ronnie Tober’s voice was more or less cancelled out by the ferociously loud rhythm group of the orchestra. BBC’s sound engineering team did not do a great job on the song, perhaps thereby impacting on the result. ‘Morgen’ finished joint-last, picking up just 1 vote. However, unlike some of the previous Dutch candidates, the singer refuses to point an accusing finger at Dolf van der Linden, “At a Eurovision Song Contest there are winners and losers, that’s how it works. Afterwards, there was a reception, with all participants attending. There, Dolf said to me, ‘Oh, we did our best!’ That’s how he was; a gentleman, always polite. I can only speak highly of him. He was incredibly musical and had a complete grasp of the orchestra. He may have been much older than me, but in all the times I worked with him, I never had the impression that I was dealing with a musician from a previous generation.”

After Teddy Scholten's victory in 1959, the Netherlands’ festival candidates had finished in the lower half of the scoreboard every time – often near or at the bottom. It comes as no surprise that, nationally, the image of the contest had suffered. Whether he liked it or not, Dolf van der Linden was still asked about his role as Eurovision conductor in every newspaper interview. For the outside world, he was inextricably linked to the event after all these years. In 1969, however, he skipped a year. In his own words, he was too busy preparing the monthly television programme Muziek om naar te kijken, the recording sessions of which coincided with the Eurovision Song Contest. When asked, he emphasised that he had also had to cancel the Grand Gala du Disque and the Singing Europe Festival in Scheveningen due to his overloaded agenda. At those two events, Van der Linden was replaced by his BRT colleague Francis Bay and Charlie Nederpelt, leader of the VARA Dance Orchestra, respectively.

There were some other stories doing the rounds as well. Another newspaper article claimed that the conductor, who had been critical of the standard of the songs in the national selection as well as the international final the year before, "wasn't really looking forward to the prospect of doing another Eurovision after all these years." However, another consideration also played a part, as Van der Linden acknowledged years later. That year, the Eurovision final was held in Spain, ruled by dictator Franco at the time. Van der Linden refused to work in a country with a government for which he had nothing but contempt. Sometimes, Van der Linden could be very principled. “We never went on holiday to Spain either,” his daughter Anneke confirms. Although being involved in the initial preparations for the National Song Festival in 1969, Van der Linden may have allowed all considerations mentioned above to play their part in his eventual decision to withdraw.

The first-ever edition of the National Song Contest without the Metropole Orchestra being involved - in 1969, Frans de Kok forms a freelance orchestra to accompany all entries, including 'Heartbeat' interpreted by Anneke Grönloh and her backing group, The Hearts of Soul

To replace Van der Linden in the national final as well as in Madrid, NTS delegation leader Warry van Kampen asked Frans de Kok, a sought-after TV conductor in the 1960s. De Kok put together a freelance orchestra for the National Song Contest – much to Van Kampen's liking, because, as we read in Het Nieuwsblad van het Zuiden, the organising committee had already been on the lookout for “a young orchestra with a modern style.” An undisguised sneer at the ageing Metropole Orchestra, of which most members were in their 40s or 50s.

Like other orchestra leaders in Hilversum, Frans de Kok was not very close to Dolf van der Linden, whom he thought back of as “a stiff man.” When De Kok had been trying to get a foot in the door in Hilversum as a young arranger back in the 1950s, violinist Carlo Carcassola introduced him to Dolf van der Linden. Van der Linden had then asked him to write a score for the Metropole Orchestra.

“So I got to work,” De Kok said in an interview in 2006. “I came up with something I had really worked hard on. But no matter how long I waited, I heard nothing from Dolf van der Linden. That is, until I ran into him at a rehearsal of the Metropole Orchestra. He said, 'Oh yes, Mr De Kok, we played through your arrangement, but if I may say so, we’ve long forgotten about it.' I stood there with the full orchestra in attendance. I never forgave the man for that. I was furious. That was the last time I had anything to do with him. Of course, he was very good at his job – mind you, he got that Metropole Orchestra off the ground after the war. But the way he treated me was bad. In a way, though, that moment was a wake-up call for me. It gave me an extra incentive to keep going. And later, of course, he must have noticed that I was successful…”

His withdrawal notwithstanding, Dolf van der Linden sat in the hall at the 1969 National Song Festival, held in Scheveningen’s Circus Theatre. A reporter asked him if he thought about a comeback the following year. Van der Linden’s reaction was surprisingly honest, “Maybe yes, because I didn't feel well when I saw Frans de Kok standing there in front of the orchestra.” The competition was won by young Eindhoven singer-songwriter Lenny Kuhr with her creation 'De troubadour'. As one-time conductor of the Dutch entry, Frans de Kok was lucky. At the festival final in Madrid, this stately Dutch entry finished in joint-first place with three other countries. After years of festival malaise, the Netherlands was back. For De Kok, his involvement in Madrid felt primarily like a payback on Van der Linden.

At the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest in Amsterdam, discussing the orchestral score of 'Waterman' with the Maessen sisters, who represent the Netherlands as Patricia & The Hearts of Soul; behind them, producer Theo Ordeman

De Kok, who also ran a record store in Tilburg at the time, took full advantage of the situation. “On the day of the festival, I had a full-width advertisement placed in the local newspaper in Tilburg, “We also provide the music from Madrid. Watch the Eurovision Song Contest tonight!” My business grew like crazy in that period. That contest in Madrid was a huge boost. It was then that I spoke the winged words, “Everybody’s happy now, except for Dolf van der Linden and Dankers Disco”. Dankers ran a rivalling record store here in Tilburg. Yes, of course, now I had my revenge on Dolf van der Linden!”

Understandably, when asked by journalists, De Kok declared that he would like to be involved in the Eurovision Song Contest more than once, but it would not come to pass. By drawing lots, the EBU determined that the Netherlands would organise the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest. It goes without saying that the NOS – the 1969 merger between NTS Television and the Dutch Radio Union (NRU) – wanted the Metropole Orchestra to provide the musical accompaniment, with Dolf van der Linden automatically becoming chief conductor of the festival. After twelve years, a new opportunity presented itself to put his orchestra on a pan-European pedestal. The conductor was looking forward to making his return, as he declared, “I already said last year that I was terribly sorry that I couldn't come. Now I’m happy to come back – all the more so, because the contest will now be held in Amsterdam.”

The place of action chosen for the event was the modern RAI Congress Centre. The atmosphere at the spectacle was slightly hazed because 5 countries had withdrawn out of dissatisfaction with the voting procedure in Madrid, with only 12 participants remaining. One of the countries which stayed on board was Yugoslavia, its entry being composed by Mojmir Sepe, who also was his country’s conductor in Amsterdam. When the Slovenian composer was asked in 2015 about his sharpest memory of the festival in the RAI, he did not have to think long. “I remember the overture, an arrangement by Rob Pronk. That was a really great piece of music. His music combined wonderfully with the TV images of the city of Amsterdam in the opening film… real craftsmanship!”

The piece of music Sepe referred to is a jazz arrangement to one of the most popular melodies written about Amsterdam, ‘The Canals Of Amsterdam’ (‘Aan de Amsterdamse grachten’ in its original Dutch version). The striking arrangement by Rob Pronk, who had been added to the arranger team of the Metropole Orchestra in the mid-1960s, ensured that anyone labelling the ensemble as old-fashioned was proved wrong right at the start of the broadcast.

During rehearsals of the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest in Amsterdam

In the Amsterdam festival, the Netherlands was represented by sister trio The Hearts of Soul and their song ‘Waterman’ (incidentally written by Pieter Goemans, who also composed ‘The Canals Of Amsterdam’). Of course, Dolf van der Linden was the conductor of the home team. However, because the Irish broadcaster had not sent a guest conductor for budgetary reasons, Van der Linden also stepped in for the Emerald Isle’s entry –  the sweet ‘All Kinds Of Everything’ by 18-year-old Dana. To the surprise of many, this song won the festival.

When asked about Van der Linden, Dana turns out to have vivid memories of her one-off collaboration with him, “Usually, Noel Kelehan was the conductor for Ireland, but, for some reason, he was unable to attend. I have to say I was quite nervous about working with a conductor I didn't know. At the time, I was studying music with the intention of becoming a music teacher. I was therefore acutely aware of the vital importance of the conductor... what if he got the tempo wrong?! The first rehearsal put me completely at my ease; although I was only a schoolgirl, Mr Van der Linden was very respectful of my thoughts regarding the arrangement and the tempo of my song. He had a very relaxed and friendly manner. If I picture his face now, which I can still do, he is smiling and watching up at me attentively from the orchestra pit, in complete command of the musicians around him. Mr Van der Linden is a vital part of my Eurovision experience and I will always be grateful to him. He was a gentleman, confident in his own abilities, and considerate of those he worked with – and yes, he got the tempo exactly right!”

Dolf van der Linden had a soft spot for the modest girl from Ireland who knew how to express her musical wishes without airs and graces. In fact, he had tipped Dana for first place, thus winning the poll among NOS employees. Young violinist Ernő Oláh, who was in the orchestra as a replacement, remembers his conductor being one of the few to see the potential of the Irish entry.

“Dolf knew what he was talking about, didn't he! We, the guys in the orchestra, all thought, "Oh, what a sweet girl Dana is, but of course she can’t win." Katja Ebstein participated for Germany, while Julio Iglesias represented Spain. They were both convinced they were going to win. Afterwards, they were shocked by the result; especially Julio became very theatrical indeed. Backstage, we all got to follow his antics from close by. For me, that Eurovision Song Contest was a wonderful gig. I earned more than the regular guys in the orchestra, who had a fixed salary. Because I was freelance, I was paid per country which broadcast the show. I made thousands of guilders a day, incredible really! Dolf also liked doing that contest. He exuded calm and confidence. It didn’t seem to take much of an effort from him.”

Ireland's singer Dana performing the winning 'All Kinds Of Everything' on the Eurovision stage in Amsterdam, accompanied by Dolf van der Linden and his Metropole Orchestra

After the show, Dana was not the only one happy with the performance of the orchestra. “For me, Dolf van der Linden and his Metropole Orchestra are the real winners,” a delegation member from one of the participating countries said. Later that year, the conductor explained in a retrospective that he still derived a degree of satisfaction from his Eurovision involvement. “I’m happy to keep a low profile, allowing the artists a chance to shine. Other than that, of course, I’ve got my own thoughts about the songs. But that’s what it is about – giving young people an opportunity. (…) And I’m willing to help them as much as possible.” With such an attitude, Dolf van der Linden could have a future in the world of Eurovision for years to come. However, it was not to be.

The following year, in Dublin, Van der Linden again conducted the Dutch festival entry, ‘Tijd’. A song in fado-style penned by Joop Stokkermans and Gerrit den Braber, the piece was performed by Saskia and Serge. The duo, who had finished second in the national final the year before, were now pre-invited by the NOS to represent the Netherlands at the festival. At Schiphol Airport, prior to their departure, the young singing duo and their conductor willingly posed for press photographers. “We flew to Ireland with Dolf and our manager Benny Vreden,” says Serge. Their wives were also there. Benny and his wife were good friends with the Van der Linden couple, so there was a great click from the start. Together, we roamed the streets of Dublin during our stay there. We already knew Dolf from the year before, when we made our debut in the National Song Contest. That was pretty stressful for us, because we had never performed with an orchestra, but Dolf immediately put us at ease. In Dublin, there was absolute serenity on his face as well.”

Dolf van der Linden knew Dublin well thanks to his regular visits as a guest conductor of the broadcasting orchestra. De Telegraaf even reported that, as soon as the conductor stood up in front of the RTÉ Orchestra at the first rehearsal, the musicians spontaneously burst into applause. At those rehearsals in the tiny Gaiety Theatre, where the festival was held, a funny incident occurred. “It’s all so cramped here that I knocked over the music stand with my left arm while conducting,” Van der Linden told a reporter. He also expressed his satisfaction with the standard of the participating entries. “A few years ago, Eurovision really was at a low point,” he explained. “At the time, there were people up on stage of whom I thought, “What the hell are they doing here?” There is now so much quality on offer that it’s difficult to predict a winner. I think Sweden is very good, while Monaco’s song isn’t bad either.”

In another newspaper, Van der Linden was also quoted as giving his top marks to the harmonically interesting 'Vita vidder' by Swedish vocal group Family Four. In the end, Monaco's chanson was voted in first place, while Sweden and the Netherlands finished in joint-sixth place. The placing of the Dutch entry was above expectations, but Saskia and Serge were not completely satisfied. At the start of their performance, a hiccup occurred in the sound mix.

With Saskia & Serge backstage at the 1971 Netherlands' Eurovision pre-selection

“When Saskia had just started singing, a nasty whistling sound could be heard,” Serge recalls. “As a result, the first verse largely went unheard. Saskia continued to sing, because she assumed that sound could only be heard in the hall and not on TV. Later, it turned out that it had been heard all over Europe. And yes, in retrospect we regret that Dolf van der Linden didn’t stop the orchestra to restart. That would have been a stunt, wouldn’t it? In fact, we could have made an indelible impression, but let’s not make too big a deal out of it. We were indeed quite satisfied with the result. In later years, we regularly performed with Dolf on the radio programme Muzikaal onthaal, but the incident in Dublin was never brought up again by him or us. It never affected our impression of him. We’ve always thought he was very pleasant to work with – an amiable and very skilled musician who knew how to lead an orchestra. He fully deserved his excellent reputation.”

Nothing indicated that the festival in Dublin marked Dolf van der Linden’s last appearance in the Eurovision Song Contest. In November 1971, Het Vrije Volk even published an article in which Warry van Kampen was interviewed; the delegation leader could not reveal any details yet about the Dutch entry, but there was complete clarity as regards the accompanying orchestra, “It is certain that Dolf van der Linden’s extended Metropole Orchestra will accompany this 17th National Song Contest. Dolf van der Linden will also join the delegation in Edinburgh.” As usual, the conductor took his seat on the committee that assessed the songs submitted. In the end, the decision was taken that Sandra and Andres, the star duo of record company Philips, would perform three songs in a preliminary round without other artists competing. The eventual winner was the outspokenly commercial up-tempo song ‘Als het om de liefde gaat’, with lyrics and music by Hans van Hemert.

On 27th January 1972, most Dutch newspapers published a short article taken from the country’s largest press agency, “The singing duo Sandra & Andres have broken a tradition; instead of Dolf van der Linden with his Metropole Orchestra, a freelance orchestra led by conductor Harry van Hoof will provide the accompaniment during the 17th National Song Contest in Amsterdam on February 16th. It is expected that Van Hoof will also lead the orchestra in the Eurovision Song Contest in Edinburgh. Dolf van der Linden will probably accompany the Netherlands’ team to Scotland as a musical advisor.”

Harry van Hoof himself was not involved in the replacement of Dolf van der Linden, so we contacted several other music professionals involved in the decision. Hans van Hemert, who was not just the songwriter of Sandra & Andres’ entry, but their producer as well, has vivid recollections of what happened.

Saskia & Serge in Dublin interpreting 'Tijd', the Netherlands' 1971 Eurovision entry 

“Given that Sandra & Andres were booked to sing all entries in the competition, I thought it was perfectly logical that we would have our arranger conducting the orchestra. That man was Harry van Hoof. Harry had proven his worth as someone able to write very good arrangements for our type of songs – that is; pop songs. He was a contemporary pop musician; something which couldn’t be said about Dolf, with all due respect. At the time, I was involved in writing many chart successes, which gave me the confidence to stand up for my wishes. Don’t get me wrong, I looked up immensely to Dolf van der Linden and we weren’t afraid that we would get in trouble if he had conducted the orchestra for us, but I felt Harry deserved my loyalty. That's what I told Fred Oster. Fred then made sure my wishes were pushed ahead with, I suppose.”

At the time, Fred Oster was the producer of the National Song Contest. When asked about the matter, Oster largely confirms Van Hemert’s story. “It was a complaint which was heard more often in those years; young artists didn’t like working with Dolf van der Linden and his Metropole Orchestra. Dolf was no longer in touch with the new generation of artists and pop music. He had become a bit old-fashioned and the same could certainly be said of the percussion group of his orchestra. Before being approached by Hans van Hemert, I had already been toying with the idea of substituting Dolf for the Eurovision job, replacing him with Tony Eyk or Harry van Hoof. I had worked with Harry before and I knew he could be relied on. So when Sandra & Andres' entourage knocked on my door, I took the leap and asked Harry. I’d like to stress that this was my decision and definitely not the record company's. This also meant that I had to speak with Dolf. Of course, it was hard for him having to come to terms with making way for someone else after so many years. I can imagine he was unhappy. After all, he had been involved in the contest for so long.”

Van der Linden himself claimed to have learnt of the news in his morning newspaper. When asked about the matter in a radio interview thirteen years later, he claimed he hadn’t lost any sleep over it. “In those last few years, I didn’t feel much rapport with the type of songs that were being played in the contest. The music took a completely different direction. As you are aware, the repertoire I had developed with my orchestra over the years was varied and wide-ranging. This meant that I felt less at ease at the Eurovision Song Contest in those last years I was involved in it. So I didn't mind that much [about being replaced]… it was just that the way in which it ended was not so elegant. In fact, never in my life have I been kicked out in such an inelegant fashion!”

Dolf's eldest daughter Anneke knows for a fact that her father had actually been much angrier about the matter than he was willing to admit in public. “It was all very painful for him. You could say that, in a way, the Eurovision Song Contest was his baby. He had helped build up the festival in the Netherlands. Now, this child was brutally wrested from his hands.”

Whereas Sandra & Andres were accompanied by conductor Harry van Hoof at the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest, Sandra Reemer had worked with the Metropole Orchestra and conductor Dolf van der Linden (standing behind her) for the National Song Contest two years previously

“I had the impression that Dolf saw the writing on the wall,” Fred Oster reacts, “but I could be wrong about that. When I spoke to him, he didn't get angry. I always stayed on speaking terms with him. Later on, I interviewed him in a radio broadcast and that went well… but let’s face it, it had to be done – everything must pass eventually. Years later I had the same experience as a quiz master. I was considered too old to host a TV show; I had to make way for a younger generation. Personally, you never know when your time is up. There are always others around you who take the decision on your behalf. Trust me, you can't turn back the hands of time, that's just the way it is.”

“I remember the moment Fred Oster asked me very well,” Harry van Hoof says, when asked about his Eurovision debut. “We were on the road together, on our way to Brussels – I have no idea what kind of appointment took us there. “Hey 'Har'”, Fred said, “if I asked you to succeed Dolf van der Linden in the Eurovision Song Contest, what would you say?” At first I thought he was kidding, so I said, "Don't be silly man!" But as it turned out, Fred was dead serious, "If you say 'yes', this job is yours for the next 25 years." At that point, I was convinced and so I accepted. Fred just said, “Well, that’s settled then,” and that was the end of it. That is how I became the Netherlands’ conductor in the Eurovision Song Contest.”

“Fred never explained to me why they wanted to get rid of Dolf van der Linden. I didn't ask him about it either. I don't remember whether it was Fred or Warry van Kampen, who was Head of Entertainment at the broadcasting service, but one of them told me that Dolf had agreed on having me conduct the orchestra instead of him. They were probably looking for a fresh face… and I was much in demand as a TV conductor at the time. Being honest, I think Dolf had become a bit old-fashioned too. The approach to popular music had changed. Just as an analogy, let’s say the Netherlands select a hip-hop artist as our representative in the contest now – well, do you think they would ask me to work with him? Of course they wouldn’t, because I don’t like that type of music at all. Along that same line, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dolf lacked rapport with the pop songs which were popular at that time. As a matter of fact, I have a distinct feeling that the repertoire of Sandra & Andres wasn’t his cup of tea.”

When asked to reflect on his decision now, Fred Oster doesn’t hesitate a moment. “Of course it was the correct thing to do! Harry was very serious about that Eurovision job. Furthermore, I noticed that he treated the artists in a different way than Dolf. Dolf was a fatherly figure, while Harry was someone from the same generation as the people on stage; simply a youngster, just like they were. Lastly, he knew the world of pop music well through his work for the record companies. Harry was an excellent music professional who knew what was required of him in any job you asked of him.”

With Eurovision wrested from his hands, Dolf van der Linden focuses on a new annual music competition from 1973 onwards, the Nordring Festival. Here he can be seen rehearsing with his orchestra at the first edition of the contest, held in Dronten, flanked by producer Theo Ordeman and vocal soloist Rita Reys

In press reports, Warry van Kampen was quoted as saying that Dolf van der Linden had been offered the opportunity to come along to the international festival final in Edinburgh to be the musical supervisor for the Netherlands’ delegation. Whether Van der Linden took the decision by himself or whether the decision was made on his behalf by broadcasting authorities can no longer be determined – but it is clear that the old conductor stayed home.

Coincidentally also in 1971, the year of Van der Linden’s last festival participation, singer and comedian Frans Halsema recorded a song about Dolf van der Linden as the Netherlands’ pillar of strength in the Eurovision Song Contest. For the lyrics, Halsema teamed up with Michel van der Plas. “Who plays the tunes for our girls, who can always be talked into doing that? / Who plays so skilfully, who maintains his dignity, even when the song is a complete flop? / Dear festival friends, this is and always will be honest Dolf, wonderful Dolf, indispensable Dolf van der Linden!”

After he had been thrown out in such an unclassy way – at least, that’s how he looked back on it himself –, Van der Linden kept himself completely aloof from everything that had to do with the Eurovision Song Contest. From 1973, he was given the opportunity to put his efforts into the Nordring Festival, a new music competition between radio stations from various Western and Northern European countries in which jazz music was in the foreground. When the Eurovision Song Contest came back to the Netherlands in 1976 – and ‘his’ Metropole Orchestra was commissioned to accompany it –, Van der Linden personally chose Jan Stulen to be his replacement, probably to prevent someone else from being picked for the job who he felt did not deserve his place up on that rostrum. In 1975, Stulen had become conductor of the Promenade Orchestra, which specialised in light classical work. In addition, the 34-year-old conductor was also musical director of the Nederlands Danstheater orchestra at the time. According to Stulen, Van der Linden never considered a Eurovision comeback, because he had his fill of pop music and pop singers.

“A few years before, on some TV show, he had gotten into a discussion with Vicky Leandros, who thought she could teach him a lesson about how to conduct his orchestra. Dolf didn't feel like putting up with such over-confident teenagers – and quite rightly so, if you ask me. He nominated me to replace him. I had never worked with the Metropole Orchestra before; and what was more, I had never been involved in light-entertainment music my entire life, but apparently he thought I was a young talent who deserved his chance up there. Before I even came in, Dolf and the orchestra had rehearsed the music that I had to conduct at the beginning and end of the show. That was very sweet of him. He also invited me to his house, taking a full afternoon to prepare me. Nothing could go wrong now! Everything went smoothly. At that Eurovision Song Contest, I got to work with all those old gentlemen who had been in the orchestra from the very beginning. Many of them were close to retirement, but they still played damn well. This Eurovision gig went so well that I was regularly asked back to do programmes with the orchestra. This resulted in a very pleasant and long-term collaboration!”

With Jan Stulen (c. 1979)

Until shortly before his passing in 2017, Stulen was a regular – and much-appreciated – guest conductor with the Metropole Orchestra. Four years later, in 1980, the Eurovision Song Contest also took place in the Netherlands, but by then it was beyond Van der Linden’s control to handpick a replacement. His retirement being due in the fall of 1980, he already had to tolerate working alongside a successor-elect, Rogier van Otterloo; one year prior to taking Van der Linden’s place, he had been appointed as his assistant – an uncomfortable situation for both men, given that Van Otterloo was not exactly the apple of his eye. At the same time, this made Van Otterloo the obvious choice for musical director of the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest.

Concertmaster of the Metropole Orchestra since 1972, Ernő Oláh noticed how Van Otterloo adjusted less naturally to an international event like the Eurovision Song Contest than his predecessor. “When trying to think of a reason, I would say that Rogier was more an exclusively Dutch phenomenon than Dolf. In his long career, Dolf conducted abroad countless times, working with artists from all over the world. He was flexible and knew exactly how to put a soloist at ease. Rogier was different. He was very big in the Netherlands, but had little international experience. Moreover, he was just a bit more unbending than Dolf in these kinds of circumstances. That could be a liability at a song festival, because you had to deal with guys conducting the orchestra who were very amateurish. They didn’t have a clue. This could lead to tricky situations; sometimes, the orchestra had to guide the conductor instead of the other way around. I had spoken about this with Rogier beforehand. He could be rather blunt, tactless even, while I was used to working with guest conductors. We agreed that he would leave it up to me to speak with them if problems arose; I took them aside, giving them fatherly advice on which gestures to make to help the orchestra players. Rogier was present during rehearsals, but more as a supervisor, welcoming all conductors on behalf of the orchestra.”

After his retirement in 1980, Dolf van der Linden remained associated with the Metropole Orchestra as a guest conductor for five more years. Among the most important assignments that Van Otterloo left to his predecessor were the Nordring programmes, in which Van der Linden had the opportunity to put all his international experience to good use. He continued to follow the Eurovision Song Contest, but from a distance. At the request of the few journalists who visited him, he was quite willing to look back on what he once called his ‘three-minute job’. “You were in a foreign city for three days. You had a lot of free time, you did a lot of walking about, and eventually you had to work for three minutes.” When asked about musical developments in the contest, his judgment in an interview from 1990 followed a familiar tone. “Gradually, I started to feel less and less at home in the genre that was being played. Being classically educated, I thought the music lacked depth. Strikingly, I could give you a list of titles of good songs from the first years of the contest that didn't make it, but that were still very good. In my opinion, the songs were much more melodic than they are today. Nowadays, it’s just an endless circle of rhythmic figures. You no longer hear a nice, smooth melody in the vein of ‘Net als toen’ by Corry Brokken."

In total, Dolf van der Linden was involved in thirteen editions of the Eurovision Song Contest between 1957 and 1971, conducting three winning entries as well as fifteen other competing songs. Only three conductors in festival history conducted more entries – Ireland’s Noel Kelehan, Ossi Runne from Finland, and Dolf's French contemporary, Franck Pourcel.

With singer Frans Halsema at his farewell concert in 1980; on the occasion, Halsema performed a song entitled 'Dolf van der Linden', dedicated to the conductor's long-year involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest


In 1960, aged 22, opera singer Marco Bakker made his professional singing debut in the choir of the Dutch staging of My Fair Lady. “Dolf had put together the choir for My Fair Lady. The show ran for about two years and then Dolf (…) picked me out to sing with the Metropole Orchestra. He not only asked me to sing Broadway melodies, but also let me have a go at Negro spirituals, operettas and ballads (…). Those performances with the Metropole Orchestra were the start of my media career. Radio performances were soon followed by invitations from TV. I owe it all to Dolf. He was a very pleasant man. He was always open to my input, while I always found him well prepared – and his timing was perfect. I learned a lot from him.” (2014)

When Dolf van der Linden fell ill in 1976, he invited various conductors from abroad to replace him. One of them was the Norwegian radio conductor and producer Sigurd Jansen. “The invitation came as a surprise to me. I was contacted by the Head of Light Music of the Netherlands’ broadcasting service. It was a great honour for me to replace Dolf, who I had met regularly at Nordring meetings. He was a charming fellow, who was popular with his musicians, but commanded their respect at the same time. My stay in Hilversum coincided with a guest appearance by bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen from Denmark, with whom we recorded a great programme. I felt very welcome at the Metropole Orchestra. The concertmaster even invited me to dinner at his house.” (2014)

Jazz trumpeter Ack van Rooyen was the younger brother of Jerry van Rooyen, who, with Rob Pronk, became one of the Metropole Orchestra’s main arrangers from the late 1960s onwards. “Those jazzy charts by Rob Pronk and Jerry… that was a different way of arranging than had been customary with the orchestra up to that point – more in the style of American orchestras, especially in terms of brass. Sometimes, Rob was asked for a production, then Jerry… and very often they worked together on the same programmes. Dolf admired those two hugely; even though he wasn’t a real jazz man by nature, he heard what those two guys could bring to his orchestra. There is no better proof of his respect for Jerry than the fact that he once asked my brother to write a new arrangement for his own ‘Parklane Serenade’. On the other hand, Jerry also had a great deal of respect for Dolf, but everyone did. He was a good conductor, a great musician… and a good guy too.” (2014)


Country – Netherlands
Song title – "Net als toen"
Rendition – Corry Brokken (feat. Sem Nijveen, violin)
Lyrics – Willy van Hemert
Composition – Guus Jansen Snr
Studio arrangement – Bert Paige
(Metropole Orchestra conducted by Dolf van der Linden)
Live orchestration – Bert Paige
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 1st place (31 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Heel de wereld”
Rendition – Corry Brokken
Lyrics – Benny Vreden
Composition – Benny Vreden
Studio arrangement – Jos Cleber
(studio orchestra conducted by Jos Cleber)
Live orchestration – Bert Paige
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden (MD)
Score – 9th place (1 vote)

Country – Luxembourg
Song title – “Un grand amour”
Rendition – Solange Berry
Lyrics – Monique Lanièce / Raymond Roche
Composition – Michel Eric
Studio arrangement – none
Live orchestration – unknown
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden (MD)
Score – 9th place (1 vote)

Country – Sweden
Song title – “Lilla stjärna”
Rendition – Alice Babs
Lyrics – Åke Gerhard / Gunnar Wersén
Composition – Åke Gerhard
Studio arrangement – none
Live orchestration – Bengt Hallberg
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden (MD)
Score – 4th place (10 votes)

Country – Belgium
Song title – “Ma petite chatte”
Rendition – Fud Leclerc
Lyrics – André Dohet
Composition – André Dohet
Studio arrangement – Willy Albimoor
(studio orchestra conducted by Willy Albimoor)
Live orchestration – Jack Say
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden (MD)
Score – 5th place (8 votes)

Country – West Germany
Song title – “Für zwei Groschen Musik”
Rendition – Margot Hielscher
Lyrics – Walter Brandin / Fred Rauch
Composition – Friedrich Meyer
Studio arrangement – Friedrich Meyer
(studio orchestra conducted by Alfred Hause)
Live orchestration – Friedrich Meyer
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden (MD)
Score – 7th place (5 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Een beetje”
Rendition – Teddy Scholten
Lyrics – Willy van Hemert
Composition – Dick Schallies
Studio arrangements – Jan Corduwener / Jack Bulterman
(studio orchestras conducted by Jan Corduwener & Jack Bulterman)
Live orchestration – Pi Scheffer / Bert Paige / Dick Schallies / Dolf van der Linden
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 1st place (21 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Wat een geluk”
Rendition – Rudi Carrell
Lyrics – Willy van Hemert
Composition – Dick Schallies
Studio arrangement – Harry Frékin
(studio orchestra conducted by Harry Frékin)
Live orchestration – Pi Scheffer
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 12th place (2 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Wat een dag”
Rendition – Greetje Kauffeld
Lyrics – Pieter Goemans
Composition – Dick Schallies
Studio arrangement – none
Live orchestration – Bert Paige
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 10th place (6 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Katinka”
Rendition – De Spelbrekers (Huug Kok / Theo Rekkers)
Lyrics – Henny Hamhuis / Lodewijk Post (Gerrit den Braber)
Composition – Joop Stokkermans
Studio arrangement – Bert Paige
(studio orchestra conducted by Bert Paige)
Live orchestration – Bert Paige
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 13th place (0 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Jij bent mijn leven”
Rendition – Anneke Grönloh
Lyrics – René de Vos
Composition – Ted Powder
Studio arrangement – Ger van Leeuwen
(studio orchestra conducted by Ger van Leeuwen)
Live orchestration – Bert Paige
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 10th place (2 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Het is genoeg”
Rendition – Conny van den Bos
Lyrics – Joke van Soest (Karel Prior)
Composition – Johnny Holshuysen
Studio arrangement – Bert Paige
(studio orchestra conducted by Bert Paige)
Live orchestration – Bert Paige
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 11th place (5 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Fernando en Philippo”
Rendition – Milly Scott
Lyrics – Gerrit den Braber
Composition – Cees Bruyn
Studio arrangement – Cees Bruyn
(studio orchestra conducted by Cees Bruyn)
Live orchestration – Cees Bruyn
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 15th place (2 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Ring-dinge-ding”
Rendition – Thérèse Steinmetz
Lyrics – Gerrit den Braber
Composition – Johnny Holshuysen
Studio arrangement – Bert Paige
(studio orchestra conducted by Bert Paige)
Live orchestration – Bert Paige
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 14th place (2 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Morgen”
Rendition – Ronnie Tober
Lyrics – Theo Strengers
Composition – Joop Stokkermans
Studio arrangement – Jack Bulterman
(studio orchestra conducted by Jack Bulterman)
Live orchestration – Jack Bulterman
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 16th place (1 vote)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Waterman”
Rendition – Patricia & The Hearts of Soul (Patricia Maessen / Stella Maessen / Bianca Maessen)
Lyrics – Pieter Goemans
Composition – Pieter Goemans
Studio arrangement – Herre Jager
(studio orchestra conducted by Ferry Wienneke)
Live orchestration – Herre Jager
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden (MD)
Score – 7th place (7 votes)

Country – Ireland
Song title – “All Kinds Of Everything”
Rendition – Dana (Rosemary Scallon)
Lyrics – Derry Lindsay / Jackie Smith
Composition – Derry Lindsay / Jackie Smith 
Studio arrangement – Phil Coulter
Live orchestration – Phil Coulter
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden (MD)
Score – 1st place (32 votes)

Country – Netherlands
Song title – “Tijd”
Rendition – Saskia & Serge (Trudy van den Berg / Ruud Schaap)
Lyrics – Gerrit den Braber
Composition – Joop Stokkermans
Studio arrangement – Bert Paige
(studio orchestra conducted by Bert Paige)
Live orchestration – Bert Paige
Conductor – Dolf van der Linden
Score – 6th place (85 votes)

  • Most of the source material for this article was taken from the book Dolf van der Linden. De vader van het Metropole Orkest by Bas Tukker, published in 2015 by Stichting Metropole Orkest, Hilversum. Bas Tukker is the author of the article above as well. The aforementioned book contains a complete and accurate source reference. Only additional sources, not used in this book, are mentioned below
  • A playlist of Dolf van der Linden’s music can be accessed by clicking this link
  • An interview by Bas Tukker with Dutch arranger and conductor Frans de Kok (†) (Balen-Wezel, 2006), published in EA-Nieuws, 2006-07, No. 3
  • An interview by Bas Tukker with Dutch pianist Dick Schallies (†) (Bussum, 2008), published in EA-Nieuws, 2008-09, No. 2
  • An interview by Bas Tukker with Slovenian composer, arranger, and conductor Mojmir Sepe (†): Ljubljana, juli 2015
  • Interviews by Bas Tukker in the early months of 2023 with Louise Dijkman / Martin de Ruiter / Harry van Hoof / Thérèse Steinmetz / Ernő Oláh / Ronnie Tober. Additionally, use was made of older interviews, also by Bas Tukker, with Anneke van der Linden (†), Fred Oster en Hans van Hemert, all previously used in an older biography of Harry van Hoof on this website
  • Mail exchanges by Bas Tukker with Milly Scott / Saskia & Serge: January-February 2023
  • Pierre van Daalen, “Heksenketel in sfeervol Gaiety Theatre te Dublin”, in: De Telegraaf, April 2nd, 1971
  • Pierre van Daalen, “Séverine kon eigen succes niet geloven”, in: De Telegraaf, April 5th, 1971
  • Ale van Dijk, “Frans de Kok dirigeert ‘Eurosongs’”, in: Het Vrije Volk, January 22nd, 1969
  • Ale van Dijk, “Dolf van der Linden terug bij songfestival”, in: Het Vrije Volk, January 10th, 1970
  • Ale van Dijk, “De grote vedetten willen niet meer”, in: Het Vrije Volk, November 4th, 1971
  • Ale van Dijk, “Songfestival: een circus als nooit tevoren”, in: Het Vrije Volk, January 28th, 1972
  • Piet van den Ende, “Elk Songfestival z’n eigen rel”, in: Het Parool, March 5th, 1968
  • Geert Groothoff, “Dolf van der Linden topfiguur in genre van lichte muziek”, in: Nieuwe Haarlemsche Courant, February 25th, 1964
  • Geert Groothoff, “Hier is Hilversum”, in: Nieuwe Haarlemsche Courant, April 1st, 1964
  • H.H., “‘Mies en Scène’ blijkt van goed gehalte”, in: De Volkskrant, February 7th, 1966
  • H.J. Oolbekkink, “Songfestival is een zaak van een vloek en een zucht en een nacht”, in: Het Parool, February 10th, 1966
  • Bert Pasterkamp, “Anneke onbekende in Deense hoofdstad”, in: Het Vrije Volk, March 20th, 1964
  • Hans van Reijsen, “‘Tijd’ met blokfluit en spinet”, in: Algemeen Dagblad, April 2nd, 1971
  • Teddy Scholten, “Kil festival”, in: Het Vrije Volk, March 22nd, 1965
  • R.T., “Ted Powders liedje naar Kopenhagen”, in: Algemeen Handelsblad, February 25th, 1964
  • (anon. 1956), “Refrain d’Amour”, in: De Telegraaf, May 25th, 1956
  • (anon. 1964 I), “Songfestival-enthousiast zal nu weer bij zijn”, in: Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, February 22nd, 1964
  • (anon. 1964 II), “Anneke naar Kopenhagen met ‘Jij bent mijn leven’”, in: De Nieuwe Limburger, February 25th, 1964
  • (anon. 1965 I), “Dolf van der Linden dirigeert ook Ier in Napels”, in: Het Vrije Volk, March 5th, 1965
  • (anon. 1965 II), “Conny van den Bos vol vertrouwen jubileumfestival tegemoet”, in: Leeuwarder Courant, March 20th, 1965
  • (anon. 1965 III), “Slechte organisatie, slechte regie”, in: Friese Koerier, March 22nd, 1965
  • (anon. 1965 IV), “Het was alles improviseren”, in: Het Parool, March 22nd, 1965
  • (anon. 1966 I), “‘Mies en Scène’ blijkt van goed gehalte”, in: De Volkskrant, February 7th, 1966
  • (anon. 1966 II), “Oostenrijker Jürgens wint songfestival”, in: De Volkskrant, March 7th, 1966
  • (anon. 1967), “Thérèse Steinmetz naar Wenen met ‘prettig, gezond’ liedje”, in: Limburgsch Dagblad, March 24th, 1967
  • (anon. 1968 I), “Songfestival: Trea Dobbs trekt zich terug”, in: De Telegraaf, February 13th, 1968
  • (anon. 1968 II), “Alles dreigt mis te gaan met ’t songfestival”, in: Het Vrije Volk, February 14th, 1968
  • (anon. 1968 III), “Spanning stijgt in Londen”, in: Het Vrije Volk, April 6th, 1968
  • (anon. 1969 I), “Slechte beurt van KRO en KNVB”, in: Tubantia, February 27th, 1969
  • (anon. 1969 II), “Met het oog op het scherm”, in: Het Vrije Volk, March 3rd, 1969
  • (anon. 1970), “Dana uit Ierland wint Songfestival”, in: Het Parool, March 23rd, 1970
  • (anon. 1971), “Séverine wacht speciale ontvangst in Monaco”, in: Tubantia, April 5th, 1971
  • (anon. 1972), “Sandra en Andres niet met Dolf van der Linden naar het songfestival”, in: Limburgsch Dagblad, January 27th, 1972
  • Photos courtesy of Rob Meyn, Edwin Nicasie, Thérèse Steinmetz, Anneke van der Linden, Ineke van der Linden, Rob van der Linden, Lion Groen, Fred Dekker, Rob Elders, Eddy Karelsen, Jan Stulen, Willy Fantel, Bart Peeters, and Ferry van der Zant
  • Heartfelt thanks to Mark Coupar for proofreading this lengthy manuscript

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