Meezingen met het Stadhuiskoor

On a chilly Christmas Eve, the wedding hall of Utrecht municipality slowly fills with people. The Utrecht Stadhuiskoor has been rehearsing here every Monday evening for months now 1xwjgzt. Joining them in special collaboration were Amer (29) and Hani (27), two musicians who fled the war in Syria. After conductor Paul Krijnen took his place, the chorus began with some warm-up exercises. Soon after, you could hear the first notes of Part I of Oratorium van een Vlucht (Oratorium of a Flight). The piece was written in Dutch and Kurdish. Conductor Paul Krijnen considers it important that the Dutch choir members experience what it feels like to learn a foreign language in a short time. It went well. “The choir members worked harmoniously and with great pleasure.” The choir leader is proud of his cousin Kay Krijnen who composed the piece. Kay travelled in 2012 with a group of Dutch artists to the Kurdish part of northern Iraq. The trip made a deep impression on him. The hospitality and openness of the people he met during the Kurdish New Year stood in sharp contrast with the violence that later hit the region. Both experiences gave him inspiration for his composition. “Oratorium van een vlucht is a tribute to all those who have the courage to leave their homes in order to build a safer and more liveable existence in a new unknown country,” says Kay.

Amer and Hani are good examples. The two friends grew up together in Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus. More than half a century earlier, their grandparents had also to flee their homeland. They brought their heritage with them through music. “We learned the ABCs together with DoReMi” laughs Amer. “Without music our life is meaningless.”  They are pleased that Welkom in Utrecht connected them to the Stadhuiskoor. The choir received them kindly and they helped each other through difficult parts in the work. It turns out that Kurdish and Arabic scales are slightly more complicated than Dutch ones. Hani and Amer precent the often difficult quarter tones. Conductor Krijnen instructed the choir, “At the end of it you may be tired, but this piece should be beautiful and bright; full of hope.” The titles of the various pieces are revealing: In the Throat of the Sea, Nostalgia, My Displaced Homeland. (In Dutch: In de Keel van de Zee, Heimwee, Mijn Ontheemde Land “In My Displaced Homeland we actually sing about our own flight story,” said Hani. He and Amer made the hellish crossing themselves over the sea from Turkey to Greece by boat. Now, their lives are taking shape with great momentum here in the Netherlands. They started an ensemble with some friends, performing throughout the Netherlands. Of course, they miss their homeland and the liveliness of their country before the war, but they love the peaceful and orderly life in the Netherlands, freedom and the friends they have made. The participation of the two refugees was warmly welcomed by the other choir members. Marga, a choir member who sings the alto part said, “In this way we could ‘do something’ rather than feeling powerless.” Hani and Amer feel at home at the choir antibiotic azithromycin. They may not speak Dutch that well, but that doesn’t matter. “We found each other in a universal language,” said Hani. “The language of music.”

Text & photos Johanne van Dijk.

More information about Oratorium van een vlucht you can find here.

Gaining inspiration for more activities? Welkom in Utrecht also supported the following:

  • In October, about thirty refugees from azc Utrecht participated in the first scene of the play All Inclusive, a play by the NNT – Noord Nederlands Toneel in the Stadsschouwburg Utrecht.
  • On 25 and 26 December more than 70 asylum seekers attended the musical The Jungle Book.
  • Several refugees now get music lessons, amongst others in cultural centre Het Wilde Westen.

These are just some examples of the activities. For more, go to our Facebook page.