Not many students have heard of Felix De Noble and far fewer know of the world-renowned Netherlands Chamber Choir. This should be a problem as the Holland-based choir has a history that spans over 60 years and therefore deserves a closer look. The Netherlands Kamerkoor, as it is called in its native country, was created to be used solely for Dutch broadcasts in the late 1930s.

Paul Wong
Conductor Tonu Kaljuste.<br><br>Courtesy of UMS

Many would find it difficult to imagine that a virtually unknown choir would transcend the abyss of radio shows and opera houses and command its own following, but the offer of a government grant in 1951 did in fact propel the choir into an enviable prominence.

This is not to say that the choir”s ascent to the top has been without turmoil. In 1972, in lieu of health considerations, Felix De Noble was forced to abdicate from his position of conductor of the choir. In addition, the turbulent 1970s bred its own set of problems, as the remaining vocalists doubted the new conductors who did not rule with an iron fist as De Noble had done. Then there was the presence of younger choir members who came with different expectations and artistic aspirations. Remarkably, the Netherlands Kamerkoor emerged unscathed and more powerful than ever before by the beginning of the 1980s.

Presently, the choir is an independent musical ensemble known for setting a stellar example in the music industry. The choir has recorded several award winning albums and yet remains unmoved in its commitment to presenting live a cappella music spanning five centuries. “The remarkable thing about the Netherlands Chamber Choir is that the singers have so perfectly attuned their sound to one another that they seem to form one instrument together, even while each individual is separately audible it seems to happen so effortlessly, and illusion that can only be brought about by great technical control,” said NRC Handelsblad, a Dutch newspaper.

Tonu Kaljuste is the present choral conductor and is best known for his associations with the Grammy nominated Estonian Philharmonic Choir in 1996 and 1997. Kaljuste has been with the Netherlands Kamerkoor since 1998 and this will be his third engagement with the University Musical Society. Additionally, Kaljuste has been voted as “Musician of the Year” in his native country of Estonia.

The 26 member choir will be performing “Sestina Madrigals” (1614), “Cinq Rechants” (1948), “Choral Dances from Gloriana” (1953), “Five Songs of Ariel from Der Sturm” (1950) and “Harmony of the Spheres No.2” (1944-2000). As an added bonus, Kaljuste will be conducting a workshop with University graduate conducting students, which is open to observers.

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