2015 / march / 24

First concerts of the Dutch Organic Choir

Last year, Peder Karlsson (of Real Group and PT fame) and Merel Martens (arguably the most exciting new conductor in the Dutch vocal music scene of the last few years) created something new: the Dutch Organic Choir. It started with a group of talented singers from all over Holland, even across the border, one of those talented singers being yours truly.
(ah cut that false modesty - hey I made it through the auditions! : )
The idea: exploring the 'intelligent choir' with a lot of room for improvisation, in a leaderless setting where all members contribute to the music and everything related.
That sounds like Vocal Group Occupy and #rethinkVG, doesn't it? Indeed there's a lot in common. It's a bit more realistic though, because in the end the music is the focus point, not the process. We're experimenting with the process to get the circumstances right for the music to bloom.
Initially we improvised almost everything, and after a while some limitations became apparent and we started mixing improvisation with original written scores, some of which came from improvisation, others started out as compositions. It became clear that our getting used to improvisation had also shaped our ability to listen and play around in a more strict context. Nice.

So here we are, after six months, we've done our first tryout gigs last week. It's been a great ride so far and I'm pleased with where we are so far. To illustrate, two videos from the tryout. First Fly, an original composition by Merel, which as some audience participation in the middle but otherwise is a traditional score (albeit one with 3/4 and 4/4 mixed...) :

Very different is the DOC version of Lascia ch'io pianga. We started out experimenting with a very traditional classical aria arranged for four voices, adding (and subtracting) improvisations of different kinds to make it into a small story. The form is set, in the parts of the form that quote the classical piece we sing notes from the written score, everything else is improvised in the moment. And it starts out from audience participation!

Actually it was even more improvised than rehearsed: since Kees lost his voice I jumped in for him in the beginning, where there's the duet in italian style between Man and Woman! I'd never done that part before. My voice wasn't that great anymore either at that point of the day but va beh, it worked, didn't it.

After these three tryout gigs last thursday, this saturday (March 29 2015) we're doing our official debut at the festival Vocaal Centraal in Amersfoort, closing the festival in the evening. Looking forward!.

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