Choral singing as a means of self-expression/realization
An interview by Rita Nasini
Janet van Noordwijk
Contralto in the Brussels Choral Society
Janet, could you please introduce Brussels Choral Society?
I am very happy to have the opportunity to introduce the Brussels Choral Society. I joined this Choir in 2009. I've always been passionate about music. I consider music to be the true global language, which can connect people throughout the world.
Actually, the Brussels Choral Society is a small but very good example of this. It was founded in 1979 and is now Belgium's largest amateur symphony choir. It consists of over 120 members out of more than 25 different countries. The aim of the choir is to perform to a professional standard with internationally known soloists and orchestras. Our repertoire is very wide and includes everything from High Baroque masses to modern works.
The choir was invited (unfortunately before I joined) to perform at the wedding of Prince Laurent of Belgium and Princess Claire and was subsequently honored by the royal patronage of Princess Claire.
Janet, what is your role in this amateur symphony choir?
I sing in the choir as a Contralto. Generally speaking, there are four basic voices within a choir: two female voices, Soprano and Contralto, and two male voices: Tenor and Bass. Sometimes the parts may be split up further: first Soprano, second Soprano, first Contralto etc.
Besides singing, I also contribute to the work of the communication team. With this group of people I'm responsible for presenting all information about the activity of the choir to the public, especially promoting our concerts.
It consists in contacting radio stations to call attention to our concert, posting all concert information to various event calendars and websites, distributing flyers and posters during cultural events, sending concert information to the press, sending programs to mailing lists, etc. My contribution focuses on the Flemish-language contacts.
Janet, has music been a means to integrate yourself into Brussels’ life?
Absolutely, the choir has played an important role in my social life experience in Brussels.
As all people who frequently move know, one of the most compelling challenges when you arrive in a new country or city is to make new social contacts. With friends and family far away, you obviously look for opportunities to meet new people.
There are many areas in which you can find a way to integrate and to socialize: work, school, language courses, hobbies, etc. For me it wasn't a difficult choice to look for a choir to join.
I sang in a choir when I lived in Rome and now still, many years later, some of my closest friends are fellow singers from that period. I am very happy to have found a choir whose members come from so many different national, cultural and professional backgrounds. It represents exactly what makes Brussels so interesting: its international and multicultural atmosphere. We all share a common passion for music and when we sing we 'talk' the same language. And automatically you meet new people and make new friends.
Janet, what motivated you to start singing? Could you describe the physical and psychological benefits that you get from singing?
I believe that singing is something very natural and that it's in each of us. In fact, it is very beneficial, both for the body and mind.
Physically, by taking deep breaths, you get more oxygen into your body. You use more facial expressions and certain muscles are trained by controlling the intake and outflow of air.
Singing also enhances the awareness of your body. It improves the coordination between your brain and your body by developing your reading skills. It is relaxing, relieves tensions in the body and reduces stress. After a rehearsal you feel good and in a better mood.
Psychologically singing helps to calm negative thoughts, as it requires a level of focus that can take your mind away from daily reflections and worries. Without doubt and above all it creates positive energy.
Research has actually shown that active involvement in a musical activity has a very positive effect on the quality of life of the participants. Singing in a group increases your ability to concentrate, it improves your memory, reinforces self-awareness. All voices together make one great sound and all the participants feel the effects of such achievement. You become one big team and express yourself in a grand combined effort. The melody, tempo, harmony, text, dynamics, rhythm and vocal color all come together in one big event.
PWI – Janet, what will be your future projects with the Brussels Choral Society? Will you perform in other countries?
We just sang a beautiful Mass by Beethoven in BOZAR on the 2nd of March and now we started to study the program for our Spring concert in June. The Brussels Choral Society typically presents three or four major concerts each year.
Generally our concerts are in Brussels, but the choir has also performed in Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven, Charleroi and Liege. In the past we have also performed abroad, for example in Budapest, London, Lille, Maastricht, Moscow, Cologne and Rotterdam.
Our next concerts are:
Janet, what practical advice can you give to someone who would like to participate in the activities of the choir?
The best thing to do would be to come to one of our rehearsals! You can become a member through an audition. We hold new member auditions throughout the whole year. You are requested to attend at least one rehearsal prior to auditioning to see if it is what you expected. Then, if you decide that you'd like to join, you proceed with the audition. You prepare a piece in which you can demonstrate your vocal range, intonation and musical skills. A pianist will provide accompaniment.
Tonal recall and sight-reading exercises will complete the audition. The tonal recall exercise consists of repeating a part from the music score that was studied during the attended rehearsal, to see how well and how quickly it is learned. The sight reading exercise consists of singing a short piece of music at first sight. Believe me, it sounds more difficult that it actually is!
Janet, would you recommend such an activity?
Yes, for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. I thoroughly enjoy singing in a choir. It gives the opportunity to learn different kinds of music, to perform with professionally renowned orchestras and artists in major venues. You get to be around people who share your interest in music and you'll meet new friends with the same interests as you. Singing in a group is a wonderful experience, creating a sense of community and giving you a chance to get to know people from all walks of life with different national, cultural and professional backgrounds, but with a common passion.
Janet van Noordwijk was born in 1965 near Rotterdam in the Netherlands. She left her country in 1983 after High School and moved to Italy where she studied the Italian Language and Culture at the “Università per Stranieri” in Perugia.Contact Details
She worked for 3 years as a Sales Department Assistant/interpreter for a commercial company in Como (Italy). From 1988 to 1996 she was a Management Assistant in Rome. She continued her career as a Freelance translator Italian/Dutch. In 2001 her husband got a position in Ireland and she moved with her family to Dublin.
Since 2008 they have lived in Brussels. Janet plays the recorder and the flute. When living in Rome she sang in a baroque a cappella ensemble. She now takes singing lessons and is a member of the Brussels Choral Society.
Janet van Noordwijk
Brussels Choral Society adresse:
Centre Scolaire Sacré-Cœur de Lindthout
Avenue Albert-Elisabeth 3, 1200 Bruxelles
Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Brussels Choral Society, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement..