Johan B. Kok, a Dutch mandolin pioneer

Johan B Kok (1889-1954)
from "The Guitar & Mandolin"

Johan B. Kok was born in Amsterdam on the 1st of March in 1889 and died in 1954. He was educated as a musician and only after his graduation as a professional violinist he devoted his free time to the guitar and the mandolin.

The Amsterdam music publisher Seyffart issued J. B. Kok's first published compositions for mandolin orchestra in a special music album. It was such a success that five more of these were published in the next two years. Arround 1920 he also wrote a two-volume tutor titled "Populaire Mandoline School" (64 pages) that was edited by Cor B. Smit"s Musicshop in Amsterdam. From that time onwards Johan B. Kok was commissioned many times to write compositions for mandolin orchestra. As an active mandolinist Kok worked together with other musicians to give the first performance of Daniël Ruyneman's (1886-1963) Hiëroglyphen, a work for 3 flutes, 2 mandolins, 2 guitars, harp, clocks, celesta and piano. He also performed with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orkest (Koninklijk Concertgebouw Orkest) under the direction of Willem Mengelberg (1902-1984) in a. o. Mahler's 8th Symphony "Veni Creator".

In 1930 J. B. Kok founded the "Radio Mandolin Orchestra" with whom he, as conductor, gave more than 150 concerts. All of them being broadcasted "live" by Radio Hilversum, Holland. During the years 1940-1945 Johan b. Kok wrote a new mandolin tutor known as: "De nieuwe mandoline-school". This 100-page volume was published (c. 1946) by the XYZ Publishing House in Apeldoorn (the Netherlands) and had because of its popularity, several reprints. It is still to be found for sale at music shops in the Netherlands.

Johan B. Kok was not only active as a teacher, composer, conductor and as a jury member; he also established a special conductor course (for those who wanted to be trained as conductors for plucked instrument orchestras), that from the very first classes in 1930 up to this day still exists. Furthermore he was one of the initiators who in Hilversum (c. 1945-46) set up the "Gids voor Mandoline and Guitar", a periodical that was created to inform the Dutch mandolin and guitar players and that soon became the official magazine of the "Nederlands Verbond van Mandoline Orkesten" (Dutch Uniun of Mandolin Orchestras). In 1957 the name of the magazine changes in what it still is called today "Mandogita".

As a conductor he not only gave concerts at home, he also travelled abroad. One such an event was the trip to Luton (England), which he undertook with the Dutch Excelsior Mandoline Orkest in 1951. Here he met Miss Irene Bone, the musical director of the Luton Mandolin Band and the daughter of the well-known author Philip J. Bone of the book "The Guitar & Mandolin", to whom he had dedicated his Concert Overture "Lutonia". Philip J. Bone later wrote in his book that this composition was performed at a public concert where both orchestras were combined together. The British Federation of Mandolinists and Guitarists (BMG) invited J.B. Kok several times later.

His experience as a conductor of mandolin orchestra's also led to jet another book; his "Leidraad voor Mandolinespelers en Orkesten"(1955?) still serves as a source for those who are interested in conducting a mandolin orchestra and how to set up such an ensemble/orchestra, work and perform with it.

Johan B. Kok wrote more than 200 compositions. Many are played and known by mandolin players all over the world. Some of his most favourite compositions (and of course one should see this in its time) are the "Andante Grazioso", "Elegie", "Veritas Vicit", "Rapsodie", "Con Tenerezza e Passione", "Tredici", "La Festa Splendora", "Ballalaika Souvenir", "Torrebellino", "Greetings from Holland", "Donna Carla", "La Frisonette", "Dorpsfeest", "Spagnolino" and to close with "Vita Mandolinistica".

This all made Johan B. Kok a distinguished person of international importance in the world of the mandolin.

"The Guitar & Mandolin", 2e edition, by the English mandolin player Philip J. Bone and published in 1954 by Schott & Co. Ltd, London.
"Geschiedenis van de Mandoline" by the Belgian guitar and mandolinist Robert Janssens and published in 1982 by Metropolis, Antwerpen, Belgium.

Some of the more popular Kok's work are listed below (compiled by Martin Jonas of North Wales):

Con Brio (Marcia)
Mascotte (Concert-ouverture)
Katinka (Mazurka)
Toledo (Tango)
Avanti (March)
Joska (Zigeuner-romance)
Monmartre (Valse musette)
Spanola (Valse espagnole)
La Margarita (Tango)
Benjamine (Valse lente)
The Showman (Novelty dance)
Polskaja (Polonaise)
Promenade (Mars)
Las Palmas (Paso doble)
Dancing Doll
No. 1 Excelsior Marsch (Op. 140)
Borodjanka (Russische mars)
No. 2 Suite van Volksdansen (Op. 141)
No. 5 Fialka (Valse russe - Op. 133)
No. 6 Rasluka (Marche russe - Op. 136)
No. 1 Il Mandolino (Marche espagnole - Op. 92)
No. 2 Jong-Apollo (Marsch - Op. 98)
No. 3 Andante amoroso (Op. 100)
No. 4 Bridal-rose (Boston - Op. 99)
No. 6 Fantaisie Rhapsodique (Op. 101)
No. 7 Vroolijk Kerstfeest (Fantasie voor Mandoline orkest - Op. 144)
No. 1 Concert-Ouverture No. 12 (Op. 145)
Don Armando (Paso doble)
Segovia (Tango)
Minka (Czardas)
Paraat (Mars)
Cupido (Valse musette)
Amulette (Concert-ouverture)
Rataplan (Marche)
Andrejevna (Valse slave)
Don Jose (Valse espagnole)
Theodora (Overture)
No. 2 Concert Ouverture No. 7 (Op. 82)
No. 3 Gilly-Flower (Boston - Op. 84)
No. 5 Donna Lina (Bolero - Op. 80)
No. 6 Andante Religioso (Op. 81)
No. 8 Palvu - Marsch (Op. 71)

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