The Vu-choir through the years
The VU-choir has a rich history. Every conductor and board left their mark on the repertoire and the choice for each piece was also affected by the spirit of the time.
The fifties and sixties
In the early years, the VU-choir often worked together with the Bach Orchestra. The two ensembles had the same conductor, Simon Jansen, so a collaboration was a logical step. In this era, the VU-choir was sometimes also accompanied by the famous organists Ton Koopman and Bernard Winsemius.
The choir often sang Sunday church services. During rehearsal weekends, it was arranged that the choir could sing on Sunday in a nearby church. This was much appreciated by the members, as it offered them some experience to perform in front of an audience. The concerts mostly took place in churches, but for the performance of the Carmina Burana (May 1967) the board booked the Concertgebouw. Usually there was more than one performance of the same program in different locations. The choir also sang at the VU-days, which were held around the anniversary of the VU-university.
The instrumental accompaniment varied a lot. The choir worked with orchestras or with an ensemble of students from conservatories. For the harder vocal soloist parts, professionals were hired, whereas the easier ones where sang by members of the choir.
The seventies and eighties
The clothing of the choir members during concerts was quite flexible in the second half of the seventies. Everybody wore whatever he or she liked. For the finishing concert of the century party of the VU in 1980, the board had a hard time convincing everybody to wear black. In the following concerts, the black clothing gradually made a reappearance in all concerts. When the choir hired a new conductor, Huub Kerstens, the accent shifted completely to the concerts. Under his direction, the choir especially flourished at the Holland Festival in the eighties. Concerts with modern music were alternated with concerts with older music.
Huub choose to work together with orchestras. Mostly, the choir sang with professional orchestras, but there were also collaborations with the VU-orchestra. The soloists were also professional, and often members of the Dutch Chamber Choir. In 1979, the Residentie Orkest invited the choir to join their performance of the Symphony of Psalms by Igor Stravinsky. There was also an invitation from the Utrechts Symfonie Orkest. During these performances, the Nederlands Danstheater was also involved. Apart from working together with the other choirs that were conducted by Huub Kerstens, the choir also sang with the Hoofdstadkoor.
1995 was a year full of activities in and outside of the Netherlands. During spring, the choir sang the piece “Of Man” by Willem Woestenburg in Amsterdam and Düsseldorf. In October the choir performed at the 115th anniversary of the VU. This concert was held in the Concertgebouw and also starred the other choirs and orchestras of the VU. A few days later, our own concert, in which we performed “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” by Gordon Jacob, took place at the same location. This project was a collaboration between the VU-choir, the VU-orchestra and the Tilburg student choir Contrast and was a retake of a concert in 1992, which was visited by the widow of Gordon Jacob.
The highlight for most choir members was the concert trip to the Czech Republic. At the invitation of the VU-orchestra, we participated in the Festival of Student Orchestras in Prague and gave a concert in Brno.
The VU-choir after 2000
During the directorship of Jean-Marie ten Velden (1984-2012) there were hardly any collaborations with professional orchestras or soloists. This was replaced by vocal and instrumental accompaniment by students from the conservatory.
Just like in the fifties and sixties, the choir worked with other student orchestras, like the UvA Orchestra J. Pzn. Sweelinck and the VU-Orchestra and student choir outside Amsterdam, like Krashna Musika and Contrast.
The Carmina Burana and parts of the Cattulli by Orff were performed for the New Year’s celebration of the VU-Vereniging in the Concertgebouw in January of 2001. The choir performed the same pieces in the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam and the Haarlem Philharmonie.
With the conductor Annemiek van der Ven, who got appointed in 2012, the choir changed their musical pathway again. There is a mixed repertoire of old and modern music, that is appealing to the public. Most pieces stem from the 19th century and the collaboration with other choirs continues.