Almost seven decades ago, a young Harold Van Heuvelen, found himself with considerable free time from his teaching job at a U.S. Army officer candidate school, after the end of World War II.
“They said we can do anything we wanted to,” Van Heuvelen, now 93 years old and a retired colonel in the Army Reserve, told CNN. “I decided to write a symphony.”
This week, his composition, “Symphony No. 1, Opus 7,” was finally performed in public, as part of the U.S. Army Orchestra’s Veterans Day concert, thanks in large part to his son Bob, a former chief of staff to Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND).
According to Roll Call, the younger Van Heuvelen discovered the work following the death of his mother, Harold Van Heuvelen’s first wife. Bob Van Heuvelen digitized his father’s symphony, then sent a copy to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Levin, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, subsequently petitioned the Army to have it played.
But according to Major Tod A. Addison, who conducts the orchestra, “Opus 7” made it to the stage on its own merits.
“It was a tonal piece of music, very accessible, very melodic, neo-romantic,” Addison said.
The elder Van Heuvelen, who studied under famed composer Leonard Bernstein at the Tanglewood music academy in Lennox, Massachusetts, did express some semblance of regret at not pursuing music as a full-time vocation, noting it would have taken “a lot” of courage.
“With hindsight, I wish I would have gone right to work [promoting the symphony] and had it played,” he said. “I should have just somehow taken a leave of absence from my teaching job or something, taken the time to do it. But that’s hindsight. You can’t go back and do it.”
Listen to parts of “Opus 7” in this CNN report, published Sunday, below.