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IWChoir – how it all began

By Wendy van Os - Honorary Member


A choir was born initially to lead the singing of carols at the annual IWC Christmas dinner.  While enjoying the community singing, Club members were half-hearted in their ‘performance’. On one occasion, professional choir organiser Leny van Schaik was invited to inspire us to sing together at a Christmas lunch. It proved a great success. She directs several women’s choirs and is a firm believer that everyone can sing.


After that, a succession of musical IWC ladies organized a few carols practice sessions in private homes in the run-up to the Christmas lunches. Those who got involved undertook to arrange/provide venues  and organize the musical side, but it that was no easy task! Notably the IWC members Beryl Owers (professional opera singer), Rachel Hardy, Kathrin Luetkehaus,, Gisella van Hoorn, Jikkemien Quik and Anabella Sharman (in charge of organizing ‘everything’!) were involved. But, as is inherent in our IWC life, members came and went, and there was little continuity. A proper choirmaster was desperately needed, but finding one – and a permanent place to practice – proved quite a challenge.


The year 2000 marked the ‘birth’ of the IWChoir, as we know it today. Note: it is called IWChoir – merging IWC and ‘choir’ into one word! Thanks to Anne van den Broek, a professional musician was found who was willing to coach the choir, in his own home. His name: Dirk van der Eerden. Monday became ‘choir day’ and Vijfhuizen the choir’s ‘home’.


Over the years, apart from carol singing at IWC Christmas lunches, the IWChoir has been involved in a variety of other events: IWC anniversary celebrations, IWC AGMs, charity concerts, Gudrun’s ‘big’ birthday festivities, an international performance in Düsseldorf, a German Advent coffee, carols at a club in Bloemendaal, etc. etc.


One memorable occasion was the 2003 Christmas lunch, when the IWChoir was invited to perform excerpts from the Chicago musical, Hans Brinker based on the story of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. The music is by composer Philip Seward, lyrics by John Sparks. Experienced local artists also sang songs from the musical, which is performed seasonally in the United States. It was quite different from the usual Christmas repertoire, but time was found to sing traditional songs as well.


Judith van de Plas became the loyal accompanist, putting in endless hours of piano practice to boost the choir’s performance. In 2013 Judith decided it was time to ‘retire’, but she remains a valued friend of the choir. After Judith stepped down, the IWChoir had a great stroke of luck – thanks to Anabella Sharman. She ‘found’ Naomi Tamura. Naomi is a professional pianist and far better than we deserve as the choir’s accompanist. Her flair and professionalism greatly inspire and enhance the choir’s singing and confidence.


After dedicating 10 years to the IWChoir, Anabella handed over the organiser’s baton to Wendy van Os. Anabella devoted many hours to the IWChoir and was a much-loved ‘mother superior’. Fortunately, she continues as an active ‘ordinary’ choir member, fostering the warmth of friendship among all the members.


For well over fifteen years, the inspiration and driving force behind the IWChoir  has been choir master Dirk van der Eerden. On several occasions he was honoured for his work with choirs, receiving awards from the former Queen Beatrix, the Bishop of Haarlem, and even the Pope.


Thanks to Dirk’s involvement, the IWChoir has gone from strength to strength. Every week on Mondays, he and his wife Myra afford members a ‘home from home’, where they feel welcome and stimulated to sing their hearts out.


Singing together creates a bond between women from many diferent cultures. Currently the IWChoir has 25 members of 12 different nationalities, fittingly reflecting the truly international character of IWC Amsterdam. Members accept and appreciate one another’s differences. Friendships know no borders.


"When I was moving from my home in Australia to Amsterdam three years ago I was concerned about what I would do with myself. I immediately joined the IWC and no longer had that problem! One of my favourite activities I'm involved in is the IWChoir. When I was at school I did a lot of singing and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it."
I was very warmly welcomed into the Choir ( even though they hadn't heard me sing yet!) and now I look forward to our rehearsals on Monday mornings.

Dirk and Myra generously open their home to 20 or so ladies where there is a lot of chatter and laughter before our practice gets started. Dirk, our very capable (and patient) Choirmaster, spends a great deal of time carefully selecting the programme of songs we will rehearse and he really likes to challenge us - we have done songs in over 10 languages ...
and our singing skills are improving every year!"
~ Rose Matulin (Australia)