The travelling tradition of song
2018-11-28 | By Tracey Taylor
A recent article in the Dutch AD Magazine reported that there are 1.7 million Dutch who sing in a choir—that’s as popular as football! But it’s not only Dutch nationals who are scoring on the high notes.
World Youth Choir (WYC) is based in Amsterdam and was established in 1989. Back then, their first performance was in Sweden but fast forward to July 2018 and WYC has travelled further afield for an exciting debut in Inner Mongolia, a region of northern China. This was with the support of the Asia Pacific Choral Development Foundation in cooperation with the Inner Mongolia Bureau of National Art Troupes.
I was delighted to discover that there are many international choirs in the Netherlands which have built their success on culture and friendship, and I was certainly whistling a happy tune when I got to interview members of two of them.
“The concert tour included performances in Erdos City, Hohhot and Bao Tou City,” says Ki Adams, International Federation for Choral Music Board member and treasurer of the WYC Foundation, “and our talented conductors this year were Jonathan Velasco (Philippines) and Helene Stureborg (Sweden).”
“I was excited to conduct WYC and it was my third time to do so,” says Velasco. “I’ve had a long association with the choir starting as a singer in 1990. In 1996, I was the first WYC singer to become a conductor,” he adds with a smile.
Stureborg remarks that “Being asked to conduct the 2018 WYC was a great honour. Jonathan and I met in Tianjin, China, in March to audition the nominated singers and I was overwhelmed by the quality of the applicants,” she goes on to say.
In fact, applications for the 2018 WYC summer auditions represented 45 nationalities! The jury (including representatives from WYC patrons: International Federation for Choral Music, European Choral Association-Europa Cantat and Jeunesses Musicales International) selected 64 singers from 200 candidates, and Velasco and Stureborg then set about creating a programme of 20th century Nordic, European and Asian folk and popular music.
The folks at WYC certainly don’t hang around, and concerts for 2019 are already being planned. Getting into the choir is competitive but singers (aged 17-26) who are interested in auditioning should not be afraid to go for it!
With their 30th anniversary coming up next year, WYC is as dedicated as ever to embracing diversity and bringing singers together to perform on a global stage. The result demonstrates that the remarkable educational and social experience of WYC is thriving worldwide! worldyouthchoir.org
Back in the Netherlands, TAIKA is a unique all- female Finnish choir based in The Hague and the brainchild of Karla-Maria Toiviainen. Having left Finland in 2010, Toiviainen, a classically-trained singer and singing teacher, formed the choir in 2012. “I wanted to offer a platform for Finnish expats who were missing home and being part of a choir,” says Toiviainen, “especially as singing is such a tradition in Finnish culture.”
TAIKA has grown from eight to 25 members over six years, and Toiviainen, choir conductor and artistic director, is the first to admit that she is demanding! “I’m keen for our singers to develop, both as individuals and as a group,” she says. With an average age of 30, TAIKA meets once a week to rehearse. Their core repertoire is Finnish female choral music but they also cover folk and pop songs along with material in English and Swedish.
I was pleased to chat with chairperson of TAIKA Sanna-Mari Kuisma to ask what the best part of being in a choir is. “Singing!” says Kuisma, “and especially in your native language. Laulu on tärkein äidinkielemme ,” she adds, meaning, “Singing is our most important mother tongue”. “It makes you miss home but it also makes it easier to cope with the homesickness. Choir time is also ‘me’ time. I can focus on my breathing, posture and voice and leave whatever else has happened in my life in the background for a while.” And did you know that in the Finnish language, taika means magic?
TAIKA likes to keep busy and when not performing at the Feel at Home Fair in The Hague or singing at the Finnish Embassy, they host their own concerts. On 16 December, there will be a Christmas perfor- mance at Houtrustkerk in The Hague, and next year already will be interesting with a competition at the Tampere Vocal Festival (in Finland) in the pipeline for June, and rumours of a performance in Maastricht in February. (One for my diary!)
Sing your heart out
TAIKA is often looking for new members so if you are Finnish (or speak Finnish), can sing (always useful in a choir) and live in or near The Hague, then why not reach out to the choir. It’s said that the breath of a choir eventually starts to synchronise as the hearts of the singers begin to beat at the same pace… Seems singing really does bring people closer together, and that is taika. taikachoir.nl
About the author
Tracey Taylor is an Irish gal living in Maastricht. She’s a writer, expat radio co-host and foodie, and lives with boyfriend Dave and their fancy cat, Little Tubbs. @tracey_taylor_nlv