Concertkoor Haarlem was founded in 1946 as Koor Katholiek Haarlem by Haarlem organist and composer Albert de Klerk. In 1991, Ger Vos succeeded him and under his inspiring leadership, the choir grew into the largest choir in Haarlem. After 30 years, Bernhard Touwen took over as the choir’s third conductor. In 1999, at the request of the members, the name was changed to ‘Concertkoor Haarlem’. Concertkoor Haarlem is known for iets rich repertoire.
Prior history of Concertkoor Haarlem
As early as the 19th century, Haarlem had a rich choral culture.In 1895, Nicolaas Andriessen -the father of the later organist Hendrik and pianist Willem Andriessen and grandfather of the world-famous Louis Andriessen- founded the R.K. Oratorio Society ‘Jan Albert Ban’. Despite its large size of two hundred members, this choir was only short-lived. Initially, it continued as a women’s choir but in 1902 it continued as a mixed choir under the name ‘Joseph Haydn’. Yet, it proved unviable which in 1903 paved the way for the formation of the R.K. Zangvereniging ‘Arti et Religioni’, led by Jacques de Jong. He resigned in1909 and was succeeded by Carel Philippeau. It seems that the choir ceased to exist in 1929 after performing the Christmas oratorio ‘Die Heilige Dreikönige.’
From 1853, Catholics were allowed to profess their faith in public again after 275 years, singing Gregorian chants and beautiful masses in church choirs. At the Leidsevaart, the construction of the new Bavo Cathedral was underway. When it was inaugurated in 1905, Bishop Aengenent took the initiative to establish a Catholic choir. Conductor Hubert Cuypers was recruited; he also led the R.K. Oratoriumvereniging in Amsterdam. He stepped down in 1935 and Eduard van Beinum, former conductor of the ‘Haarlemse Orkestvereeniging’ and at that time second conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, succeeded him. Albert de Klerk, who received his first organ lessons from Hendrik Andriessen, already composed and conducted a new ‘Laudetur Jesus Christus’ for four-part choir for this choir at the age of 17.
The Second World War broke out. There was another rehearsal on 9th May 1940 but on 10th May the Haarlem Concert Hall had to close indefinitely. Van Beinum was drafted into the army and the choir refused to join the Kultuurkammer. Haarlem no longer had a Catholic choir.
Koor Katholiek Haarlem
The history of Concertkoor Haarlem began in 1946. On the occasion of the inauguration of Monsignor Huibers, bishop of Haarlem who had spoken out clearly against the occupying forces during the war, Albert de Klerk (1917-1998) organist, composer and later conductor and conservatory teacher was asked to setup a choir.
It was peace again, the enthusiasm to sing along was enormous. On 29th April, under his direction, three hundred singers sung J. S. Bach’s Magnificat and Mozart’s Litaniae Lauretanae. The success was so overwhelming, that the Catholic Radio Omroep broadcast the concert on 12th May 1946, and several performances followed later. Recordings from that time can be heard at ‘Beeld en Geluid’ in Hilversum.
The choir continued under the name ‘Koor Katholiek Haarlem’. Besides well-known oratorios, it also performed lesser-known works: the beginning of a tradition. The NCRV and AVRO broadcast a number of concerts that can also still be heard at ‘Beeld en Geluid’ in Hilversum.
Albert de Klerk had led the choir for forty-five years when Ger Vos took over the baton from him. Organist Gonny van der Maten joined as the choir’s first rehearsal director. At the request of the members, the name changed to ‘Concertkoor Haarlem’ in 1999.
Ger Vos lead the choir inspiringly for thirty years and he gives memorable concerts. With the performance of the ‘Kyrie’ and ‘Gloria’ from Bach’s Hohe Messe, he bid farewell in the Philharmonie on 13th February 2022, together with his partner rehearsal pianist/ organist Gonny van der Maten. After the concert, mayor Jos Wienen appointed both of them Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau.
On 6th March 2022, Bernhard Touwen took over from Ger Vos. He is a worthy successor to his illustrious predecessors. His debut concert was on 27 October 2022, continuing the tradition of performing lesser-known works.
Through his cooperation with the International Vocal Competition in Den Bosch, he manages to attract exceptional soloists of a high level who can be heard for the first time in the Phil. From the beginning, he knows how to inspire the choir, every rehearsal is an experience and we look forward to the future with confidence.