Charles Emile's other interests
Charles Emile’s other interests

1. Music
Charles Emile was musically gifted. He was a pianist, a composer and a music organizer.  

Unfortunately no complete list of his compositions was kept, but the author of this biography is familiar with the following compositions composed by him:
  1. Trio in C Dur (C Major) for piano, violin and violoncello by Charles Benjamins 1931,  published by G. Alsbach & Co, Amsterdam. See annex 5  
  2. The Diana Suite for full symphonic orchestra, 1938, which was performed on 3 May 1939 in Groningen by the GOV, the Groningen Municipal Orchestra conducted by Kor Kuiler, the orchestra’s permanent conductor. See annex 5
  3. A Ballade for baritone and piano on a mediaeval poem.
  4. An Elegy for piano which was played during his cremation on February 1940
  5. A Christmas Cantata for voices, violin, violoncello and piano.
    NB. This Christmas Cantata was several times performed in grand mother’s house in Groningen by her seven grand children during the Christmas celebrations in the years 1950–1955.

Pianist and chamber music player
According to grandmother, Charles Emile played every evening from 7 to 8 on his beautiful Steinway grand piano, before he withdrew to his study to work on his medical papers or on his compositions.

He regularly played chamber music with members of the professional Groningen Municipal Orchestra. Reviewing his music library we found many 18th and 19th century piano trios, quartets, and other chamber music pieces including the Trout quintet by Schubert. Many of the scores in his music library were marked with his annotations, indicating an intensive use. Every year he organized several house concerts to which he invited his friends.

Charles Emile was chairman of the board of the Groningen Municipal Orchestra from 16 April 1925 till his death in 1940. During his chairmanship several new issues were introduced in cooperation with Kor Kuiler, the permanent conductor of the orchestra at that time. An example is the traditional annual performance of the St Mathew’s Passion by J.S. Bach during the week before Easter by the orchestra and the local Bekker choir, which tradition was introduced by him in 1928 and which is still kept today, 2006.
On May 3, 1939 his Diana suite for symphony orchestra was performed by the orchestra with much success. A review of the concert of 3 May mentioned that orchestral coloration had been very skillfully composed and that it was a pleasure to listen to the Diana suite; “Professor Benjamins is a very gifted musician”- 4 May edition of  “The Nieuwe Provinciale Groninger Courant”, a local newspaper.  Charles Emile described this composition in the program booklet for the concert as follows: “A hunting horn motif forms the basis for the suite, which is a musical description of a hunting scene in which Diana, goddess of hunting, leads a hunting procession through the forests.”

Such was the appreciation of the orchestra and its public that on the first concert after his death the program was adjusted and started with the “Marcia Funèbre”- the funeral mars from the Eroica Symphony by Ludwig von Beethoven after which there was a moment of silence to commemorate him.   

Charles Emile’s Concert Organ
When grandfather passed away in 1940, he left a considerable amount of money to the orchestra, deposited in the Professor C.E.Benjamins G.O.V. Fund, to be made available after grandmother had passed away. Grandmother died in 1976. The original intention of Charles Emile was for the Fund to make special concerts possible, which were beyond the budget resources of the orchestra. During Charles Emile’s stay in Groningen in the 1920s and 1930s the orchestra was a private association. The limited funds of the association did not allow hiring top class soloists or guest conductors. Therefore, Charles Emile hoped that with his funds it was possible to hire high class soloists and conductors occasionally to improve the programs of orchestra’s weekly concerts.    
When the funds finally came available in the late 1970s, the Groningen municipal orchestra had become a semi-government institution, whereby the orchestra was entirely subsidized by the municipality.
At that time, in the mid 1970s, a new concert hall had been built for the orchestra. The concept for the new concert hall included originally a concert organ. Unfortunately, due to budget restrictions, ultimately the concert organ had to be scrapped. The sad situation created a big problem for the many choirs, which form a very faithful though often somewhat conservative section of the Groningen music world. These choirs traditionally perform 18th & 19th century oratorios -among which oratorios by Bach, Haydn, Handel and Mendelssohn for choir and symphony orchestra, whereby a concert organ is essential. In view of this situation the board members of the Municipal Orchestra, together with a special concert organ committee, tried to find a solution for the lack of a concert organ.
In the 1970s the price of a concert organ was already high and amounted to about Є 250 000 in today’s prices. Under the existing Dutch government art subsidy system, subsidies are only granted when the applicant of the subsidy can show a substantial initial capital. In a similar way private donors, such as companies, also require a substantial initial capital of the applicant, before donations are made. Initially, the attempts to find funds for a concert organ appeared hopeless.
Suddenly, however, in late 1976 when my grandmother, Charles Emile spouse, had passed away at the age of a hundred years, his funds became available to the board.  In view of the urgent need for funds to buy a concert organ, the orchestra’s board asked the heirs permission to use these funds as the initial capital for a new concert organ. This was agreed to by uncle Han and my mother. After these funds came available, the board could finally arrange the required government subsidies and donations from industries. The well-known Dutch organ builder Leeflang from Apeldoorn was subsequently asked to build the organ.
In the end we may conclude that financing of the concert organ with the funds of Charles Emile is thus in complete agreement with his sincere wish that his legacy was to be used to organize concerts which would otherwise not have been possible. Many generations of choir singers in Groningen since then enjoy performing their oratorios with the support of the concert organ, which without Charles Emile’s funds would have never have been possible.
The organ was completed in early 1980. The first concert with the organ was on 14 March 1980. The program included organ pieces by Mozart, Schuman, Andriessen, Poulenc and Cesar Franck. Some of pieces the organ played together with the orchestra while other pieces were for organ solo. The newspaper reviews praised the organ for its artistic qualities, in particular its possibilities for symphonic music, including oratorios and found that the new organ was a considerable enrichment of the music world of Groningen.
2. Motorized vehicles
Charles Emile was not very fond of automobiles. In Semarang he still used horse drawn coaches to visit his patients. In Groningen he preferred to use a light motorcycle to travel to his clinic. When, at a later age, he developed heart trouble, grandmother had to kick start his motor cycle every morning. To reach his clinic he started his travel along de Hereweg, the main entrance road to the town of Groningen. After about one and a half kilometer when he approached the railway-viaduct the traffic-police officer on duty stopped all traffic to allow grandfather to safely climb the steep viaduct with his light motor cycle and resume his way to his hospital. On the way home his motorcycle was started by Eelco Huizinga, his senior assistant and later successor.

His retirement and passing away
After having suffered from a debilitating liver disease for several years, Charles Emile felt increasingly ill and decided to resign at the end of 1939. He gave his public Farewell Address on 12 December 1939 and was knighted as Ridder van de Nederlandsche Leeuw, a high decoration for services to the country in science and culture, granted by her Majesty, Queen Wilhelmina.
Charles Emile passed away on Monday 5 February 1940, at the age of sixty six years. Several articles were written for his commemoration and many attended his cremation, during which occasion his own composition Elegy was played. He was remembered as a very gifted man: witty and polite and with a great interest in and helpful to his fellow man.