Belgian Boy Choirs


Figure 1.--Belgian choirs are mostly connected with private catholic colleges (elementary and high schools). These boys are with the Lessines choir. The uniform consisted of blue sweaters, white shirts worn without ties, blue short pants, and white kneesocks which was once worn at some private Catholic schools.

We have little information specifically on the choral tradition in Belgium. Belgium is a largely Catholic country, although divided between tghe Waloons and Flemish. As far as we know the boy choir tradition disappeared in the Medieval era. It appears to have been revived in the 20th century in association but after the the revival in France. While we have few specific details about this, we do have some information on individual Belgian choirs. There are many children's choirs in both Wallonia and Flanders. The French speaking choir are in Wallonia. A French-speaking Belgian who has hlped us with his page does not know much abour choirs in Flanders. Many Belgian choir schools are attached to Catholic colleges. These private schools are high schools, although many also have programs for elmentary-age children. The choir school provides intensive music instruction, but the boys can take advantage of the facilities and educational opportunities of the school at large. Choir costumes and school uniforms in Belgium are quite similar to French styles. This is one of the reasons that we think that the revival of the boy choir tradition in Belgium is related to the revival in France. Some of the Belgium choirs continued to wear the uniforms that were first introduced. We see one choir wearing blazers like British choirs, but this does not seem to have been very common. Other Belgian choirs wear blue sweatters and short pants like some French choirs. Actually Belgium being somewhat more traditional than France, traditions have persisted longer in Belgium than in France. We are not yet sure about performance costumes, especially when singing for religious ceremonies. Hopefully a HBC visitor will eventally provide more details and some interesting insights.

Choral Tradition

We have little information specifically on the choral tradition in Belgium. Belgium is a largely Catholic country. As far as we know the boy choir tradition disappeared in the Medieval era. Boy choirs were refounded in British cathedrals in the 19th century. We have no indication that this occurred in Belgium until the 20th centutry. Boy choirs appears to have been revived in the 20th century in association nut after the revival in France.

Terminology

A Dutch reader living in America tells us, "I do not know much about modern Dutch choirs, although I am in a choir myself. I was not in a choir when I grew up in the Netherlands. I checked some information on the computer. I found some interesting things, like the fact that a boys choir in Flemish Belgium is called a Knapenkoor, while in the Netherlands they call it a Jongenskoor. Of course Flemish is really Dutch, so the use of different terms is interesting."

Schools

Many Belgian choir schools are attached to Catholic colleges. These private schools are high schools, although many also have programs for elmentary-age children. The choir school provides intensive music instruction, but the boys can take advantage of the facilities and educational opportunities of the school at large. The choir boys wear the same uniform as the other boys. In many catholic schools in Belgium this consisted of: blue sweaters, white shirts worn without ties, blue short pants, white kneesocks, and black leather shoes. In the 1980s the uniforms began to change and now the boys mostly wear long pants--even the choir boys. One choir, however, the Schola Cantorum Cantate Domino still retains the traditinal uniform of blue short pants and white kneesocks.


Figure 2.--Les Petits Chanteurs de Belgique is one of the most famous boy choirs in Belgium. They perform concerts and make foreign trips. The Choir was founded in 1965. The name adopted was similar to that of many French choirs. It continues the tradition of French manécanteries, composed solely of boy voices. Here the choir is on a tour to Rome.

Individual Choirs and Schools

We note several different boy choirs in Belgium. As in Frrance theredoes not seem to be any continum between the medieval and modern choirs as is the case in Britain. And the Belgian chirs seem more modern than the French choirs which began forming in the early-20th century. The Belgian choirs seem to mostly date to well after Word War II in the 1960s and 70s. Several of the individual Belgian are connected with Catholic schools, ibcluding boarding schools. This alows for a very high level of performance. Some are well known choirs and travel aboroad to give cocerts, often singing arange of musical pieces, including popular secular music. Oter choirs have amore Catholic foundation, singling exclusively religious music and sing in churches as pt of relogious ceremonies. We have begun to collect information on Beklgian choirs and have found some basic information. Severl have been influenced by the boy choir tradition which deveooped in France, ecen adopting similar names and uniforms. This has proven a little complicated because un several cases we note different names used for the same choir.

Location

There are many children's choirs in both Wallonia and Flanders. The French speaking choir are in Wallonia. A French-speaking Belgian who has hlped us with his page does not know much abour choirs in Flanders.

Choir Costumes

Choir costumes and school uniforms in Belgium are quite similar to French styles. This is one of the reasons that we think that the revival of the boy choir tradition in Belgium is related to the revival in France. Some of the Belgium choirs continued to wear the uniforms that were first introduced. We see one choir wearing blazers like British choirs, but this does not seem to have been very common. Other Belgian choirs wear blue sweatters and short pants like some French choirs. Actually Belgium being somewhat more traditional than France, traditions have persisted longer in Belgium than in France. We are not yet sure about performance costumes, especially when singing for religious ceremonies. Hopefully a HBC visitor will eventally provide more details and some interesting insights.

Personal Accounts

A former Belgian chorister tells us, "I found your wonderful choir pages on the Web, including the pages on Belgian and French choirs. I like to see these choirs given more publicity. The boys work very hard to make beautiful music. It is a major effort for the boys who begin at a very young age and they need to be commended for their often not fully appreciated effort. Our Belgian choirs are very similar to French choirs, but there are also some differences. As far as I know, they are all Catholic, at least here in Belgium. A attended a Catholic boarding school and the choir was part of the school. Boarding was not compulsory, but most boys board because of the timetable. They went home on Friday after school. We choristers returned to sing at church on Sunday. I joined the school because of my love for music and my Catholic background. Music education is a requirement at our school. I met someone who had been in a French choir last week and we compared our choir experiences, the music, the hard work, and the uniforms we wore. Music education is one of the subjects in his school, like mathematics and science. Every evening they sing in the church if they do not have other duties. It was a lot of hard work. Sometimes I was bored, but I was proud of what I accomplisged. We made many good friends in the choir. Our choir uniform was also our school uniform. That was less common in France. It was a interesting talk about life in the choir school and I learned a lot from him. Our Choir seems more trditiional than many French choirs. And perhaps as a result we are more linked to Catholicism. We sing for a church every evening and sometimes also serve as altar boys. We sing religious and classical songs, and did not sing modern music arrangement like many French choirs. We did not have 'concerts,' but sing often at other Catholic churches in the French speaking region and sometimes also othe places in Europe. It is not like in some French choirs that you have applause because we sing for a religious purpose. Sometimes we just sing at the corner simply. For our singing we wore a French style school uniform which was a requirement. We had to wear our school uniforms all the time. They must look neat and we hd to keep our shirts tucked in all the time. Also, everybody has to wear short pants. We all wore short pants, from the youngest to the oldest boys. There are many other rules also, and it is written in a handbook We also had a robe which we chioristers wore in church. So we kept the robes there. Everyday we walk from the school to the church, and change into their robes there. After the performance we change back into our school uniforms.







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Created: November 2, 1998
Last updated: 12:38 PM 2/7/2013