Frank Van Essen

Frank's Gear Page > Songwriter, musician Iona / 1990-1993, 1999-present
Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals Drums / Percussion / Violins / Vocals
Photos by Joe del Tufo, Janien Kommer, Lutz Diehl, Monica Duffels & Mike Anders
F rank was born in 1967 and was brought up with music, both his parents being professional musicians, and with a brother studying violin at the conservatoire of music.

Frank's first drums were his mum's pots & pans, and many buckets lost their bottoms, much of her dismay! Although clearly a rhythmic talent who could never sit still, Frank decided to pick up violin, probably brainwashed hearing his brother practicing scales for 6 hours a day! He was never a really good student (always too many other hobbies) but Frank turned out to be a very talented and natural violin player who developed his own style from very early on. He learned mainly from just copying what he heard his teachers play - and was caught years later when one of his teachers discovered he wasn't actually reading his music, but playing by ear!

His fascination with rhythm & drums was never gone. At age 15 he got the opportunity to take up the sticks, and started practicing like a madman - soon to be a better player than his first teacher!

From that time on he started playing in all kinds of bands (including his high school's big band whose favorite tune was the Muppet Show theme!) mainly playing worship and gospel music. His first band was called "Judah" - a Youth with a Mission band with Dave & Becky Durham, Fred & Mary Dallenbach and Celeste Yohai, together with Karen Lafferty.

From then on, Frank quickly became a number one choice for many sessions and live performances, including concerts with Margaret Becker, Rick Cua, Marcel McArthur, Jessy Dixon, Billy & Sarah Gaines, Susan Ashton, Julie & Buddy Miller, Nina Astroem, Adrian Snell, Chris Eaton, Ralph van Manen & many others.

He met Dave Bainbridge in 1989 while touring Adrian Snell's "The Passion" and was asked to join in 1990. The band played a few concerts at Flevo, Christian Artists, the Spoor 7 festival in Holland and a performance at the Leverkusen Jazz festival, and was featured in a 60-minute documentary by Dutch television which brought the band to and Mull.

It soon became evident that the logistics of having a Dutch drummer was a little too complicated for the band, so after one and a half years, their ways parted again. Frank had joined a well known Dutch worship band (the Ronduit -unpronounceable for the English, I know!- Praise Band) in the meantime as drummer, violin player and singer, and was soon asked to start writing songs and arranging for the band, something he really enjoyed and perfected in the years to follow. Some of Frank's songs became very well known and are sung regularly in Dutch churches. Frank rejoined in June 1998, soon after the departure of drummer Terl Bryant.

Over the years, Frank and his wife Marlou recorded many CD's in Dutch in their own studio, including a Christmas CD in Dutch titled "Immanuel", featuring Dave Bainbridge & Troy Donockley. At the moment of writing this (June 2011) they are working on their solo album which will be released towards the end of 2011. Frank and Marlou regularly lead worship in churches and conferences throughout the world, with their own band called "Dew" sometimes joined by members of (see ).

In 1997, Frank was asked to be music director for EO's Classic Festival which led him to writing and arranging for a small orchestra. From that moment on, he fell in love with writing for strings. Today he is regularly called upon as string arranger and performer for many well known Dutch artists (see ). His strings can be heard on several hit radio singles. At the moment, Frank is studying Orchestration with the Berklee School of Music in the USA to further develop his skills as arranger and orchestrator for full orchestra.

Frank's wide variety of musical activities include composition, arranging, producing, teaching, recording, mixing & mastering in his own studio.

Frank lives in Collendoorn with his wife Marlou and 5 cats.
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20th September 2018

Hi folks. The three peaks challenge is looming! Two days away. Yesterday I was back in Copper House studio with mate Stu Reid , working on three new songs for my interlude EP( between MAP Project Parts 1&2). It will have 4 new tracks and I’m going to add 3 from Uncountable Stars , on a similar theme. The new songs have been inspired by some personal accounts of refugee experiences. This will be exclusively a fundraising non profit project.
If you’d like to support the 3 Peaks challenge for charity R.A.I.N ( Refugee Aid International Network) that I continue my involvement with, then you can use the link below.

Thankyou again.
I’ll keep you posted on everything! ⛰🎶
Ps. The picture was taken yesterday as Storm Ali hit our north coast!

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14th September 2018

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30th August 2018

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12th June 2018

A few images from my recent trip to Lesvos island , Greece. There are close to 8000 refugees stuck here. Some have lived through two winters in this place. The sense of despair is so real and some surveys have revealed that one in three people , including children, have witnessed someone commit suicide in these environments. The conditions are difficult to convey and their experiences impossible to imagine. On this trip , we discovered several Christian voluntary groups doing incredible work to try and alleviate the suffering, but resources are scarce and the numbers continue to increase. A thousand more refugees, mostly Syrian arrived on the island in April, the same in May..... and so it goes on. A team of us will return in two weeks though this time , I’m unable to go. I’m planning another hiking adventure in a couple of months to fundraise but I will give details nearer the time. Please continue to prayerfully remember these folk , refugees and volunteers.

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12th June 2018

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13th August 2018

Thought you would enjoy watching this video of me recording drums for Labyrinth, a new track for my solo album. There is a section in there calles "Maze" which has alternating bars of 11/8 and 13/8 - going well into Iona territory there! Dave and Troy are currently recording their parts for it, and the great Jimmy Johnson is playing bass for this which is exciting! Enjoy and there will be more music soon!

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27th April 2018

Hi folks, here is a quick update on SANCTUM. Happy to say I am making good progress and some exciting things happening... Some new music at the end of this, hope you enjoy that! Love - Frank
PS For more info on SANCTUM - go here:

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25th April 2018

Hi Everyone,
We're gradually moving the Open Sky Records/Iona mailing list over to my Wix mailing list as BT keeps blocking our mailouts! Very frustrating. So if you'd like to stay in touch with us for gigs/news/album release updates for me / Celestial Fire / Dave & Sally / Iona (possible re-release/downloads news etc), please subscribe on my website. (If you've already subscribed on here, no need to do it again, unless you've changed email address). Thanks! We won't bombard you with emails - probably 3 or 4 a month on average. (Dave Bainbridge)

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19th April 2018

Finally I’ve got through the packing and the postage of The Map Project Part 1 pre orders! Hopefully none get lost but please allow time for delivery and let me know if yours doesn’t arrive. I’ve included a few screenshots of some of the orders. Maybe you’ll spot yours. ! Official digital release will be next month. ( The second image was photographed on Tuesday at Downhill, North Coast , Ireland)

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21st April 2018

Hi Everyone, Dave Bainbridge here. Here are my latest tour dates! Lots happening over the next few months with the Dave Bainbridge & Sally Minnear duo, Lifesigns, a solo gig, Celestial Fire in September and in the autumn, Strawbs. Hope to see you at a gig somewhere!

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9th April 2018

Together with Yasunori Mitsuda( composer) and Michael McGlynn( Anuna) after the four performances of the Xenogears soundtrack. Then a quick tour of some parts of Tokyo from the crowded market streets to tranquil park...... very easy to get lost here, and so many are. Very happy to have sold nearly all the MAP Project cds I brought with me. Heading home tomorrow. Thankyou so much for all your good wishes and prayers for this trip.

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26th April 2018

Cancelled flights on Wednesday and MAP cds land same day. Arrive Tokyo one day late , with cds and jet lag and go straight to rehearsal/ sound check with orchestra and band. The production also featured amazing vocal ensemble Anuna. More to follow later.......

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5th April 2018

Well, the last 24hrs have been a bit of an adventure!

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2nd April 2018

White Horse, Another Realm, Irish Day, Beyond These Shores, Edge of the World.....

(MAP early bird pre-order, click here

A few Iona titles visually referenced in this, the only video from Uncountable Stars, and several glimpses of the The Map Project artwork.

It’s been under wraps for 18 months with nothing to link it to until now, with the imminent release of The Map Project.

Deadline for The Map Project pre ordering at discounted postage is one week away, March 24th and the bonus cd will be a limited edition run.

If you’d like to pre-order, click here

Thanks and blessings

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18th March 2018

Hi Everyone,
My Celestial Fire band, which of course includes Frank Van Essen of Iona, now has a Facebook page. It would be great if you could 'like' and 'follow' us. Thanks!! Dave Bainbridge

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28th February 2018

Spot the connection ! ( might need to zoom in on the second image!). No sign of the “beast from the east” here today! Just a chilly breeze and visibility for miles. 😁

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23rd February 2018

Recording drums and bass on some new songs with Terl Bryant and Phil Barker. Also a visual preview for you of the MAP Project artwork for Part 1.
Pre ordering will be ready soon!
Always so good to work with these great friends. We’ve been reminiscing on our long history making music, Iona tours , so many memories.........

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29th January 2018

MAP Project update. Also coming up in 2018....Japan!
I've been invited to Tokyo in April to perform the Xenogears soundtrack songs (recorded 20 years ago!) at 4 concerts. I've also been asked by their composer, to record some new vocal material while I'm in Tokyo.
You just never know what a year may bring !
PS - here’s a link to the song I mentioned in the video -

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2nd January 2018

The song " When Kindness Comes" was originally recorded as a demo in 2014 when I (Jo) was recording a track for Uncountable Stars - it was an unedited performance of the song, played on a concert grand piano.

At the end of 2016, while recording MAP Project songs, I decided to finish a version of the song with upright bass and flugelhorn tracked to the original demo. Here is this new recording as a soundtrack to the experiences of many of the refugees I've encountered in 2017.

At the start of the year I read the words of Isaiah 21.14-15 ...." haul water to the thirsty, greet fugitives with bread. Show hospitality to those fleeing the horrors of war in the desert."

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26th December 2017

And very impromptu.
Happy Christmas🙏

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25th December 2017

But not the usual Christmas music. More of a CELTIC CHRISTMAS!
I thought you'd enjoy a little clip from our Christmas Eve by the fireside at home in Ireland. Our neighbours , the Mooney family played hours of traditional Irish music for us and some of our neighbours. This was one of my favourite moments and I'll share some more over the holidays.
Jo wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

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21st December 2017

A SMALL CHRISTMAS GIFT... For all those who have contributed to my Indiegogo campaign or has shown an interest in my music. Be blessed & have a wonderful Christmas time! Frank

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13th December 2017

It's Zero degrees at Zerohour studio. Recording vocals on Good Samaritan.
This is the song I wrote just after my first trip out to the refugee camps. Asking myself some big questions. Think we're done with the recording aspect of Part 1 👍.

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7th December 2017

THE MAP PROJECT .... and more.
I know..... it's been ages, and the MAP Project Part 1 still isn't finished. But the best folk are always busy,so it takes time to get things done. I'd hoped for a pre Christmas release , but I don't think I'll quite make it! Just some vocals to do and then the last two of six songs will be ready for mixing. Last night I got to track the last of the cello parts with the wonderful Gwyneth Reid. Soon...... it will be ready 👍🙏. ( and no.... I've not taken up electric! Just a prop to hide the mess my dinner made on my jersey😱). Keep an eye out for a bit of live singing pre Christmas 🎶

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4th November 2017

But still, "a place you could write or paint pictures, and dream that the troubles will end....."
It's been a lovely week here in Portugal with family, on half term hols. It's a long way from the plight of so many in refugee camps , but that's very much in my mind and still demands a response from me.
I travel home today to prepare for our church women's conference where I'll have the opportunity to lead worship and to share some of the MAP project songs and some new songs inspired by my recent experiences. It's been a long journey creating the MAP , but I hope to have Part 1 ready to release before Christmas. 🙏.

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12th November 2017

This is Moria camp for refugees on Lesbos island. These families fled from their home city of Deir es Zor in Syria just weeks ago when heavy bombing destroyed their neighbourhood, killing relatives and friends. They survived a treacherous sea crossing from Turkey to Lesbos in inflatable boats , and were then brought to this camp 10 days ago. There are now close to 6000 refugees here, in a facility that was originally a prison for 1200. Hundreds more arrive every week. There is nowhere for them to go from here. Such great need and so little help...... we cannot say "We didn't know!".

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14th October 2017

From one extreme to another ......
This time tomorrow I'll be on my way with Karen to the Greek island of Lesvos, still one of the main ports of entry for refugees into Europe. Conditions in the Moria camp close to the main port are described as similar to concentration camps. We'd greatly appreciate your prayers during the next 5 days as we attempt to assess things and figure out a way to bring teams of people out to do something to help. I'll keep you posted.

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26th September 2017

All these things I saw in one day. Yes, there is so much global chaos, human suffering and catastrophic events taking place on our planet and it feels overwhelming. I'm so thankful for this day and for a place where I could dream, write, refresh, and then, refocus. We need to find a way to release the hope and wisdom of God in our world , but we can't do it in our own strength. In a few weeks , my view will have changed dramatically. There will be a sea of refugees and an atmosphere of despair and if all we carried were a couple of suitcases of medical supplies, it would be overwhelming......but , thankfully we carry much more; the compassionate, loving presence of our God of grace. May we be filled with faith for the impossible. 🙏

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6th September 2017

Joining me ( Jo) in the old Crumlin Road jail , Belfast, on Friday 8 th for A21's ( anti -trafficking org) event are dream band Tre Sheppard/guitar, Graeme Flowers /horns, Gwyneth Reid/cello and Stu Reid/drums , perc. Also playing will be trad band Na Leanai 😁🎶. If your around, we'd love to see ya there.

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31st August 2017

Frank's campaign is going incredibly well! At 84% now with 10 days to go... Still time to get alongside and become a part of this amazing musical journey.

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