The museum tower lends itself extremely well for a joint concert involving various choirs. The Van Abbe museum choir invites another choir from the region, as well as one or two Syrian musicians, to join them in a concert in connection with the exhibition Van wie is de straat? (Who owns the street?)On every floor one can hear a different repertoire and get a different view on the street.
The choir performed John Cage’s 1952 composition 4”33 during the musical tour. Cage called it Silent Piece and demonstrates that absolute silence does not exist. The performance took place on Twenty-fifth Steel Cardinal, a minimalist work by Carl André from 1974. The composer’s and the artist’s work coincide fully.
On February 10th 2017 the choir performed in Galerie Garage, Rotterdam as part of an exhibition of the work of artist Cindy Moorman. In this performance the individuality of the singers disappeared through the joint eight-minute sounding out of one note.
Special guests symposium
On December 12th 2016 the museum organized a symposium on the question of how to make the museum accessible for everyone, particularly guests with vison or hearing impairments, Alzheimer, and Aphasia. This was one more opportunity for the Van Abbe choir to demonstrate that music is a special language that can reinforce visual art.
Bas Jan Ader
The framed song A Life of an Ocean Wave by Bas Jan Ader was part of the mini-exhibition of Ahmet Ögüt’s work which included his Guppie 13 floating on the river Dommel. Just having stopped her involvement as the director of a women’s shanty choir, Willy de Rooij was inspired by this song to start a Museum choir made up of volunteers. Its aim is to sing about the art in the museum. This was the choir's very first project.
According to Roland Schimmel, his three-dimensional installation The Innocent Body was inspired by the apse – the chancel in a church. His ethereal painting of afterimages combined with the remarkable acoustics inspired us in turn to sing an old round from the monastery of Monserrat, creating an almost spiritual experience in this symbiosis of image and sound.
When she was presented with the Theodora Niemeijer prize, Sachi told of her grandmother who, in her nineties, still runs her shop to prolong her interaction with the neighbourhood. Sachi’s installation The Fall, transition into the better in Het Oog (The Eye) is a meeting place with at its center a wooden structure from which the neighbours’ tree can be seen. The song Sakura sings of spring in Japan with cherry trees blossoming everywhere.
Once every two months – on the last Thursday evening of the month – the choir performs alongside with the Cicerone (guide). The latter provides an explanation of the art work and the choir translates this into music with a matching song. Image, music and text coincide.
On February 2nd 2017 the Code Cultural Diversity award 2017 was presented in De Melkweg in Amsterdam. The jury had put Van Abbe museum on a shortlist of five nominees. The presentation with images of several of the museum’s projects, such as the tours for guests with vision and hearing impairments, was supported by the Van Abbe museum choir, performing together with the Dutch sign language choir and several Syrian musicians. The museum received an honourable mention.
Inspired by the museum collection, blind and vison-impaired artists exhibited their work from November 11th to December 4th, 2016. The van Abbe museum choir sang during the opening of this exhibition. It underlined the possibility to experience art in a non-visual mode.
For refugees currently living in the various centres in the region, the Van Abbe Choir gave a heartwarming and emotional concert, with the guests joining in with the songs in their languages.
Shafiq, one of our guards and project leader of the Afghan Art Awards, asked us to sing a few Afghan anthems to mark the opening of the Afghanistan exhibition. Willy de Rooij wrote sheet music for songs in two languages – Pashtun and Dari. The enthusiasm with which the Afghan guests joined in was heartwarming.
Ta lendab mesipuu poole
Ta lendab mesipuu poole is a famous Estonian song about the flight of bees and their return to the hive, a parable of freedom and fatherland. This song was sung during the Singing Revolution, when a human chain was formed on August 23rd 1989 between the capitals of the Baltic States. The chain, made by two million people, measured 600 kilometres. We thought this would be a fitting song for Charles Esche’s policy of combining social engagement with an orientation on Eastern European developments in art.
Call for Art
In 2011 Doreen Westphal’s idea “Ring the Bells for Art” was acquired with support from Stichting Doen. Just as the church rings the bells and the imam calls the faithful to prayer from the mosque’s minaret, Doreen’s Call for Art is heard from the tower of the Van Abbe museum. Doreen has asked Willy de Rooij to set the “tower sound” to music. The Call is a choral song slowly broadening out and then contracting again, spreading horizontally. The sound first gains volume, becoming full and strong before slowly fading away.