Individual Dutch Choirs

Figure 1.--The Breda Cathedral choir was founded as a church choir and music for religious services is still an important function.

Information is available on several Dutch choirs which range from the very old to the very new. Most are protestant choirs. There is, however, on Catholic choir which may have been on of the first choirs to adopt the sailor suit as their uniform. We have found quite a number of Dutch boy choirs located in several Dutch cities. Our information on several of the choirs is very limited. Hopefully our Dutch readers will provide more details. Some may no longer be functioning and some new ones may have been created.


The Breda Music Institute, home of both the Breda Sacrament Choir and The Chorale of Breda Cathedral, was founded in 1992. The institute was founded in order to help the choir maintain its present status of one of themost outstanding choirs with boys and men in the Netherlands. Breda Sacrament Choir was founded in 1926 and The Chorale of Breda Cathedral was founded in the 14th century.

Gorcum Boy's Choir

The idea for a boys choir in the Gorinchem-area first originated at the end of 1988. Although it was first ingnored as being 'unrealistic', a beginning was made in November of that year with a few boys. Singing-lessons, learning to read music, and studying some songs. And before anyone realised it, and after a couple of men joined the choir, the first 'concert' was held in the spring of 1989. With 4 voices (SATB) the choir spans a wide area in music-culture and style-eras. In accordance with the English (boys) choir-tradition, they sing English choir-music, such as chants, hymns and anthems. But the repertoire also consists of classical and comtemporary music. Mostly the choir is accompanied by our regular organist Nico Blom, but they also enjoy singing with orchestras. The choir's rehearses in the regional Music-school. The trebles sing on Monday from 6:30 pm until 8 pm. The full choir rehearses on Wednesday from 6:30 pm until 7:45 pm, followed by the boy-altos until 8:15 pm. After that, the men continue practising their parts for another hour. The choir's Director of Music is Jeroen Bal. He is a teacher of Music at one of the local secondary shools and especially for our boys choir he took specialized courses in conducting with the renowned Joop Schets. Furthermore he attended rehearsals with famous English boys choirs, such as King's College Choir and St. John's College Choir. In the first 10 years he led the choir in a fun and inspiring fashion during 1,150 rehearsals and over 100 concerts. And of course, he continues to do so!

Figure 2.--The Haags Matrozenkoor (the Hague's Sailor-boy Choir), like many Protestant choirs in northern Europe dresses the boys in sailor suits. This also recalls the Netherland's maritime tradition.

The Hague

The Haags Matrozenkoor (The Hague's sailor-boys choir) was founded in 1928 and celebrates its 70th anniversary in 1998. Originally a church boys choir, it has become a much sought-after choir performing successful concerts both at home and abroad. The boy's ages range from 7 to 15 years. After Sipke de Jong and Evert Wagter they are singing under the inspired baton of Nico Hovius since September 1998. The repertoire consists of both classical and modern music, as well as sacred and secular music and, reflecting the linguist abilities of the Netherlands, is sung in many languages. The choir performs many concerts, especially at Christmas time. For Easter it is traditional to perform the St. Matthew passion by J.S. Bach in various towns. Since 1995 the choir performs once a year together with the famous orchestra of The Hague: The 'Residentie Orkest', a great classical work. The choir conductor is Nico Hovius. The choir is divided into 3 groups. Boys of 7-8 years jointhe A-class without audition. They sing, in unison, an international repertoire which they learnby heart. They give occasional concerts in hospitals and nursing homes.After approximately 2 years the boys are promoted to the B-class and after a further moreyear, to the Concert-class (C-Class). Meanwhile, they have learned the entire repertoire byheart. The B-Class and the Concert-class practise together twice a week. The boys for concerts and other performances wear authentic sailor suit uniforms, giving an Dutch national touch to the boys' performance. The sailor suits recall Holland's long maritime history. Little Holland once had the most powerful navy in Europe--rivaling that of England itself.

Laudemus Dominum inter Angelos

The Laudemus Dominum inter Angelos choir in the Hague is one of the best known Dutch choirs. For religious services they wore ecleasistical robes. Other wise the choir uniform was "matrozenpakjes" (sailor suits; matroos=sailor, pakjes=suit). They called themselves ' matrozenkoor ' (sailors choir). This choir wore sailor suits long before the Wiener Sangerknaben did and must have been one of the very first to adopt the sailor suit. The boys were recruted from catholic schools and divided in three classes.

Figure 3.--The Roden Choir wear green robes with white surpluses.

Roden Boy's Choir

The Roden Boys Choir (Roder Jongenskoor), a choir of men and boys, began its works in 1985, in the Northern Dutch town of Roden. Holland has no long tradition of such choirs, and being based in a relatively small town outside the great centres of the Dutch population would seem to be an unnecessary handicap. To no-one's surprise and everyone's delight, the choir prospered and has become a wellknown and attractive cultural institution in the Netherlands. What further distinguishes this choir from others in the country is that it has taken part of its model from England. It has its own choir school, the non-residential Koorschool Noord Nederland, and its musical structure follows the English cathedral tradition of using countertenors instead of boy altos. This model also informs much of the music it performs: the choir is perhaps more accustomed to the music of Wesley, Parry and Rutter than to that of the Willaert, Palestrina and Reger. But as might be expected, it also performs works by older and newer Dutch composers: if one thinks of Sweelinck on the one hand, one also thinks of Andriessen on the other. The choir has also sung masses by Mozart, Haydn, Duruflé, Fauré and motets by Górecki and Pärt among other Continental masters. The Roden Boys Choir has an extensive concert program which has taken it into all parts of the Netherlands, where it has sung services as a guest choir as well as given formal concerts. To its home in the north of the country, however, belongs its annual 'Advent Lessons and Carols'. In 1996, the choir was invited to tour the United States for two and a half weeks and, in 1997, it undertook a major concert tour to Germany, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic. In addition to its concerts, the choir has produced recordings. To date, there are seven CD's: For the Wings of a Dove (English church music) Kerst met het Roder Jongenskoor (English Christmas music) Treble Solo - A Portrait of the soloists of the Roden Boys Choir (Church music for soloists and choir) 10th Anniversary of the Roden Boys Choir (a comparative selection of ten years' work) The New Day (full choir and men only) The Crucifixion (a well-received recording of Stainer's) Music for a While (solo-recording of one of the Trebles) One part of the choir's experience consists in providing solo and ensemble boys for various orchestras, like the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as well as for The Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam. It can do this because part of each boys training in the school is directed toward solo and small-ensemble singing. The boys are trained in three stages. Most enter the first group, De Cymbalisten, quite young, as inexperienced beginners. Here they learn elementary musical matters, especially rhythm and sight-reading. This leads many into the B-koor, a group which builds upon and expands the skills learned earlier through equal-voice singing, the treble choir. This ensemble performs the ripieno parts in Bach's St. Matthew Passion, for example. From this group come the members of the A-koor, the principal concert choir, consisting of men and boys. The men of the choir came initially from experienced volunteers in the community. After 15 years of singing, there are now a sufficient number of choir alumni to fill those positions. It is of great importance, and no little interest, therefore, that there is also a special following class for boys whose voices are changing. The future of the choir lies as much in this training as in anything else it does. One tangible sign of this is the recent development of a countertenor, tenor and bass ensemble: The Gentlemen of the Roden Boys Choir, conducted by the just 20 years old Peter Dijkstra. This ensemble has a seperate concert programme focusing on Renaissance music, modern composer, and close harmony.

Rotterdam Boys Choir

The Rotterdams Jongenskoor' (Rotterdam Boys Choir) is one of the best known Dutch boys' choir. The boys wear sailor suits for their performances. I'm not sure why the sailor suit was chosen. Of course Rotterdam is one of the major ports of the world with its location at the mouth of the Rhine River and the Netherlands has a long maritime tradition. They performe all over Europe, as well as in the United States (New Tork, Washinhton DC, Baltimore, and Salt Lake City). The Choir was founded in 1947, when there was less to do for the children/youths just in the post-War era. Young boys join the choir when they are 6 years old and switch to the concert choir after finishing a 3 years training to 'master-singer'. After the boys' voices break boys they continue as bass or tenor untill 22-23 years of age. The choir owns a very impressive building ('home-port')--the socalled 'Scheepsbrug'. It is the former part of a ship (the bridge) which was given to the choir after demolishing the (rest of the) ship. Now rebuild at the Leuvehaven (innerharbour in the city just at the river Rhine/Maas). At the front, there is a 'bow-flap' (awning?), in down-position a nice outdoorstage for summer sunday-afternoon concerts. Inside theu have a wonderful organ, ca 130 yers old. It has been fully restored and provided with an new front in the seamnas collar-style. The original historic front from 1870 was damaged. The Rotrerdam Boys Choir is also known as 'the young cultural ambassadors of the mainport Rotterdam'.

Figure 4.--The bicycle is a common sight on Dutch streets, thus it only natural that a choir, like the Zeeland Boys Choir, should be seen on bikes. The boys wear dark blue coats and matching blue pants with light and dark blue scarves. I believe this is there traveling costume.

Zeeland Boys Choir

Introduction. The Zeeland boys choir has its home in Goes, The Netherlands. This choir is an institution in which boys, aged between 5 and 15 years, can receive musical training. The choir has 70 members. They all have choir rehearsals in the choir school and they can also learn to play an instrument. The boys regularly sing in Goes and in other Dutch cities. They also sing all over the European continent and they have several times done a tour in the United States. The Zeeland Boys choir is a member of Pueri Cantores, a worldwide organization, in which religious boys- and children choirs are united. The choir is also a member of the Royal School of Church music. This organization is mainly connected to Anglican church music. The royal school offers help and support to member choirs.

Other Choirs

There are other choirs about whjich we do not yet have detailed information. In Holland there are several boys choirs. In Alkmaar the Noordhollands Jongenskoor, the boys choir Rijnmond and one in Dalfsen. There is also one in Utrecht. Most of them seem to be secular, but I have to do some more research.


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Created: 1:47 PM 2/26/2006
Last updated: 1:14 AM 2/28/2006