When Gerard Cornielje claims to be a shy person it does not take too much time to call his bluff. The man is a thorough entertainer on stage and off, and rumour has it that he does a killer Sinatra “New York, New York” imitation.
Born in Holland in 1962, Gerard picked up the saxophone when he was 13 years old but his association with music goes back a few more years when he dabbled with the piano and the clarinet. Gerard is in the city for a show organised by the Toe To Heart Foundation. He says, “I found the whole package interesting – the work they do, and the transparency with which they do it.”
Gerard had just returned from Delhi where he played a concert at the Dutch Embassy to celebrate the Dutch cricket team. “There was a man there who pointed at my saxophone and called it a bagpipe, and when I explained it's a saxophone, he insisted and said that in India they call it bagpipes.”
“My father was a saxophone player and my mother sings, so music is in my blood. And at a very young age I got the opportunity to perform with several professional musicians and by 15, I was playing in a professional band,” says Gerard who makes his living making music and writing poetry.
Playing the saxophone does not restrict Gerard to only the blues or jazz, although that is what he enjoys playing most. “A lot of rock and pop music also use the saxophone; for example Tina Turner or even Sting. I have written a lot of dance and lounge music where I have incorporated the saxophone.”
At 16 Gerard became a published poet and to date has five books to his name, “My poems are half in English and half in Dutch and it has to do with all things that are typical of a musician's life – travelling, women, music and some more. My travels to different countries bring the colour to my poetry,” he says.
Although he writes poetry, Gerard does not write songs, “I know I could but I haven't. Right now I am taking jazz standards and translating them in the dialect that belongs to my town in Holland and putting it to music.”
Gerard's schedule for the next couple of months is as exhausting as it is exciting. He travels to Thailand, Morocco, Switzerland and so it goes on. “If there was one thing I could change about the way I work, I would meet my kids more often. It is the hardest thing in my life, that I don't see them enough,” says Gerard.
“I am a businessman in a sense but a musician at heart. And there is so much reward in the field, you get to go to so many new places and meet so many new people,” he says giving us the up-side to his career.
“Until I came to India I did not care too much for cricket, but now I really like it. Now I eat some peanuts, have a drink and sit for six hours in front of the television,” says an animated Gerard. “I know Netherlands lost against India the other day but if it was a football game, Netherlands would have won,” he laughs.
The concert will be held tonight at 8 p.m. at the Rain Tree Hotel, St. Johns' Road. Entry is free and open to all. For details visit www.toetoheart.org
Keywords: jazz music