Choir O.L.V. Hemelvaart - Heemstede

The Hemelvaart choir – its official name is Onze Lieve Vrouw Hemelvaart - has around fifty members. Actually, it consists of two choirs. If you leave out the ladies, the men’s choir will naturally remain. Ladies and men together sing the Dutch masses and once per month the Latin masses, while the men take account of the Gregorian masses once per two or three months. It takes a lot of arranging for the librarian of the choir. 

On Thursday night we tirelessly rehearse the liturgy for the coming Sunday. It is expected of the organist that he is present during a part of the rehearsal, which I naturally was. As an organist you are aware what kind of mass will take place and you can prepare for it . For instance, when you know that the men’s choirwill sing Gregorian songs restrained and a capella, you can anticipate as an organist with appropriate organ literature.  

The choir on the choir loft in Heemstede

I suppose that the parish Hemelvaart belongs to one of the few churches where the choir sings every Sunday and fulfills the part of church choir in the best sense of the word. With this I mean being a liturgical example for the church-goer and giving support to the general singing of the church. This requires discipline of the choir members.
The rehearsals last until ten o’clock at night.

In the week before Christmas, Easter and Pentecost you need to be available – in the evening - on an almost daily basis on the choir loft to rehearse. The effort was being crowned with a celebratory performance on the feast day with a Latin mass.

It also happened that the choir was being accompanied by strings and brass on special services and in the Christmas- and Easter period. 

On april 15th 1990 (Easter Sunday) the mass ‘Ad modum tubae’  
by Albert de Klerk was performed with conductor Frank Bont and brass.

The choir during recording in the R.K. Kerk in Overveen

Fortunately the musical quality of the choir wasn’t limited to the Sunday mass. With the recording of a gramophone record the first step to the public was taken.

Words were followed by deeds. The first gramophone record was published. The recordings took place in the R.K. Kerk in Overveen.
Consultation between the conductor and the organist
before the recording
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......getting to work.....

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The Sunday after recording the organ parts were recorded 

After a strenuous recording session a group photo is taken
Conductor Cees Thissen presents the
first recording 

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The press took notice of the release of the first recording.

Fortunately, amidst the busy schedule informal moments were also abundantly present. In the break and after the rehearsals one can talk to one’s heart contend. For me these were precious moments, where you had direct contact with the choir members. On top of that came the annual trip. In the morning singing in some church and thereafter ending the day relaxing with a regal meal.

In the morning guest appearance at the
R.C. Kerk at Hooglanderveen during a trip

In 2002 the choir existed 75 years and this was grandly celebrated. We went for the weekend to Chartres in France to give a performance in the cathedral. Unforgettable moments to make music in such a impressive church with such a long history.  

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Cathedral in Chartres
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An experience in between the choir benches

This was the program
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A choir with these qualities and with enthusiasm can give musical pleasure to a lot of people. Who knows what the future holds in store. Perhaps the Church of the Frisians in Rome?!