SundryShop Showcases Patriotic Hand Blown Glass Ornaments for Veterans Day
Today, SundryShop.com recognizes the service of all military men and women veterans who have served their country. As Elmer Davis states, “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”
Veterans Day offers Americans an opportunity to showcase beautiful patriotic home decoration displays. SundryShop.com offers some of the most collectible hand blown European glass ornaments available on the Internet. You'll find Christopher Radko, Patiricia Breen, Kurt Adler Polonize by Komozja, Larry Fraga, and Vaillancourt Folk Art patriotic ornaments that will allow you to honor American veterans by creating unique and memorable home decorations. Not only do these keepsakes make meaningful gifts, but they also frequently end up on the holiday tree!
In honor of Veterans Day, SundryShop.com has created an original biographical story about an amazing 93 year old Veteran, Harold Van Heuvelen, who will witness today the first performance of a forgotten Symphony that he wrote over 67 years. The symphony is Harold's story about the World War II experience. The U.S. Army Orchestra will perform symphony during the morning of Veteran’s Day at Brucker Hall, For Myer, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. It’s an all American story, and we hope that you enjoy it. We’ve provided links of the actual performance at the end of the story.
Van Heuvelen's Forgotten Symphony No. 1, Opus 7: SundryShop's Original Biographical Veterans Day Story
An Aura of Sadness
The weather took a dramatic turn in Miles City, Montana as an early Chinook wind that had raised temperatures well above 60 degrees departed. Billowy, dense clouds formed as the cold air met the warm. Snow was expected the next day.
Harold Van Heuvelen leaned the full weight of his body against the window jamb as his head came to rest on his lifted forearm. He gazed outside the window as darkening billowy clouds gathered about his home. A burst of wind swayed a large, leafless cottonwood tree growing next to a creek. Relaxing his grip, the newspaper that he held by his side slipped to the ground. The headlines, declaring war with Japan following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, seemed to thunderously reverberate throughout the room as the ominous clouds suddenly flashed lightening and emitted deafening cracks. Rain exploded from the bowels of the sky and pounded the ground with fury, soon creating a barrage of rapidly changing concentric circles in the enlarging puddles. Franklin D. Rosevelt was speaking on the radio, “…a date that will live in infamy!”
As he watched the raindrops splatter, Harold began hearing within his mind musical notes of melodies that he had created when but eight years of age. The rain intensified and danced about with even greater animation, bringing to his remembrance the violin concerto that he had written when a music major during his junior year of college. Suddenly, he began imagining that he would write a symphony celebrating the end of the war that had just been declared.
Harold thought about how the symphony would also express the ambivalence that he, like many Americans, experienced prior to Japan bombing Pearl Harbor. He yearned for peace but also wanted to take action to end the horrible atrocities that were occurring in Europe. As horrible as Pearl Harbor was, it broke the implicit double bind that held Americans captive and, instead, forced them to enter the war.
As though broken from a trance, Harold stood up, amazed that the falling rain had turned to sleet. He turned, and headed toward the door so as to enlist before the weather became even worse. Even as Roosevelt continued his speech, Harold’s symphony occupied his inner musical ear as he imagined the citizenry of the United States uniting and preparing for war. And, momentarily recapitulating to the scene he had just witnessed, he envisioned the flash of light and thunder produced by blasting weaponry and the gleam of determination in the soldiers’ eyes as they advanced to overcome the enemy.
Military Life – Battles, The Horror of War, and Victory
After Roosevelt’s December 8 speech, Winston Churchill would write in his memoir notes, “The fate of the Empire rests on this enterprise. Every man must devote himself totally to the task in hand." Although Harold saw himself among the soldiers sent to Europe, he would never see action overseas. Instead, fate would lead him to New Orleans where he would train newly recruited officers at the 37th Army Air Force Base Unit.
The four years that ensued during his state side duty felt like an eternity as death tolls for his trained officers mounted and increasing evidence surfaced about the horrors of the German concentration camps and the deaths of huge numbers of civilians in heavily bombed cities throughout Europe.
Then military events rapidly unfolded beginning in late April through May 8, 1945, the official V-E date that ended the war in Europe.
But World War II was not over as long as the Allies continued battling the Japanese. The rumor was that the officers at his camp would be shipped to Japan. Harold pored over the newspapers, reading the details of the Pacific battles, uncertain from one day to the next if he would be called away from his young wife, Fran, to fight in Japan.
When Harold had time to himself, he would play his violin, particularly favoring the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major. Playing music broke the monotony of his soldierly work and offered him a respite from the war fatigue that invariably affected every enlisted man, whether overseas or on duty in the US. On August 6, 1945 while sitting next to an open window as Fran read a McCall magazine, Harold again afforded himself this luxury. A warm August breeze offered a meek respite from the sultry, humid summer heat that had settled on the camp. The melancholic tune seemed to spill out of his violin and, embracing the modest wind’s offering, drifted over the roofs of the barracks to the distant Louisiana swamps where it caused a gator to pause briefly from devouring its newly caught kill.
Harold stopped to swat a fat fly that had found its way from a barrack latrine and landed on his violin, the same Andreas Guarnerius violin that his father and brother bought for him in 1933 for $1000. With his free hand, he rolled up the magazine abandoned by Fran and left on the sofa, patiently waited for the fly to land some where other than his beloved violin and dealt it a deft, deadly blow.
Unexpectedly, Harold heard his men’s voices excitedly erupt. He joined them as they were gathering, yelling and jumping about in the same compound where they met daily to practice their drills, producing a deafening sound.
“Settle down!” Harold yelled. “What’s going on, Jon?” Harold asked of a newly recruited soldier.
Jon responded, “We’ve bombed Hiroshima! The Pacific war’s gonna end!”
Harold remembered seeing Hiroshima on the map. It was a large city in Japan’s mainland.
Jon continued, “It’s an A-TOMIC bomb, bigger than anything the Japanese ever seen! One bomb wiped out the entire city!”
Harold was only beginning to comprehend the immense devastation inflicted on these two Japanese cities when the Japanese emperor announced Japan’s surrender on August 15. Just as abruptly as the war began, it had ended. Again thinking about his symphony, he understood that he would want to give a cacophonous, raucous voice to the third movement to signify the war’s vast toll on humanity
The Gift of Peace
Over night, life on the base dramatically changed. No longer receiving new officer candidates to train, the soldiers had a great deal of free time that they could use at their individual discretion. Some of the men began drawing plans of homes they wanted to build. When Jon asked Harold what he was doing, Harold responded, “Composing the symphony I had intended to write before I enlisted”.
Harold worked on the symphony during his work hours and at night, during his private time. He completed most of his composition within three months, but polished it further for several more years.
In the early 1950s, Harold was accepted to Tanglewood, a prestigious academy in Lennox, Massachusettes and the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer residence. Not only did Harold meet Aaron Copland, another student, but he also studied conducting with Leonard Bernstein. Seizing an opportunity, Harold presented the master score to Bernstein who flattered Harold greatly by carefully reading all 208 pages. Looking askance at Harold, Bernstein commented, “Your music sounds a lot like Brahms”. For some time Harold puzzled over Bernstein’s comment since Harold believed that the only common propensity that he share with Brahms was ruminating about his music during longs walks.
Ultimately, Harold abandoned promoting his symphony when he decided to earn his living by teaching high school music in Bismark, North Dakota from 1946 to 1988 and raise his family. The huge amount of work required to promote the symphony took a backseat to other important duties in his life.
Life Transitions – Consolidation and Discovery
Almost sixty years later, Harold’s son, Bob, a successful attorney and businessman, and his brother helped Harold clean out his Montanan cabin. Harold’s wife Fran had passed and it was time for Harold to downsize.
When growing up, Bob was aware that his father had stored on a library shelf an original symphony that he had composed, but Bob and his brother never sought to learn more about it. Eventually, the music score book was forgotten and merely collected dust along with other books. But now, the brothers' curiosity was sparked when they came across the hand-bound scripted score music. Bob queried, “What’s this, Dad?”.
“Well, that’s the symphony I wrote! You remember me telling you about it?” Harold asked, glancing at his sons in hopes that the music might hold some interest for them. Instantly, Harold’s head filled with the music that consumed his post World War II life. The content of the symphony spanned America’s milieu before and during war. It resonated the tragedy and suffering experienced by both the defeated and the victor. And it culminated with the American victory and hopes for enduring peace.
Harold glanced down, reflecting on those days. He shared, “I was so happy when the war ended! Shame! The hard fought-for peace didn’t last. Other wars followed. The United States is still at war, this time with a very different type of enemy, the “terrorist”.
His sons were silent as they carefully turned the yellowed pages, not knowing what to say, humbled by the sheer volume of the work and the passionate effort required of his father to create the symphony.
They looked at his father, an octogenarian World War II veteran whose kind eyes still radiated warmth and energy and whose grin spread from ear to ear. Harold returned his sons’ gaze. “I was young,” Harold replied. “Even when I learned that Pearl Harbor was bombed, I dreamed of writing the symphony when the war ended. It was a promise that I made to myself and kept”.
For a few silent minutes Harold stared at the forgotten, never performed score, collecting his thoughts. He continued,
“I can now understand better why Bernstein said my symphony sounded like something Johannes Brahms might have written. Every day, your mother would see me off to work and never know if I would be shipped out to Japan that afternoon. To ease the nerve-raking uncertainty, we’d often play on a Victrola the only four records that we owned, and one of them was a Brahms recording. The Brahm’s music was not only part of the soundscape of our early-married years during the war, but it came to operate in the background of my symphony, even though I never duplicated a note.”
Harold again paused, still looking at the music score. As tears swelled in his eyes, one trickled down side of his cheek. He blinked and continued,
“My symphony might have sounded a bit out of date for Bernstein, but, for me, it had to be written with a kind of romantic sensibility. I lived through the war as a young man and served my country that I love. I fell in love with a wonderful woman whom I married after the war began, but I was also heartbroken in having witnessed the ravages of the war.”
The sons looked at their father, born on 1919. The symphony was conceptualized by their father at the onset of World War II and written right after the war ended. It was their father’s personal story of the American World War II experience. Bob spoke, “I’d like to take this to someone who knows about music and see what they have to say about it. Is that fine with you?”
Harold swept away his tears and burst into a laugh, “Sure, no harm in doing that! You never know, maybe it’s a masterpiece!” he winked.
The Dream Comes True
In 2011, Bob created a digitized DVD of the symphony. Capitalizing on contacts, he shared his father’s story and the DVD with Senator Cari Levin, a classical music devotee and chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Other senators joined Cari Levin in requesting that the army perform the symphony.
On November 11, 2012, Veteran’s Day, Harold’s dreams of hearing his symphony performed will be fulfilled. The U.S. Army Orchestra will perform his neo-romantic symphony during the morning of Verteran’s Day at Brucker Hall, For Myer, Virginia. The now 93 year-old Harold, his new wife Alma, a fellow musical student at Hope College back in the 1930s and whom he married at 87 years of age in 2007, and over a dozen members of his family will be among the audience to hear the first live performance of his Symphony No 1 in Virginia. Of their relationship during their golden years and the common musical background that they share, Alma once stated, ""Music is almost like magic," she said, "Magic that never ends." In addition to their relationship, both the intergenerational connectivity evident in Harold's family and the recognition of his symphony attest to the powerful truth of Alma's statement.
After Harold left active duty, he spent another 30 years with the Reservist Army, rising to the ranks of Colonel. SundryShop.com not only celebrates Harold Van Heuvelen ‘s first live performance of his Symphony No. 1, 67 years after its completion, but also pays tribute to Colonel Harold Van Heuvelen, an American veteran and a true American patriot.
[SundryShop.com reserves all rights pertaining to this original story. While this is a biographical story, the author has exercised poetic license and fictionalized certain components of the story without violating overriding truths. SundryShop.com hopes that the fictionalized portions of this story will lend insight into Harold’s life and the times in which he lived, as well as represent Harold and his family with all the dignity and respect that they deserves.]