Most Belgian choir schools are attached to Catholic colleges. These private schools are high schools, although many also have programs for elmentary age children. Choir costumes and school uniforms in Belgium are quite similar to French styles. Actually Belgium being somewhat more traditional than France, traditional have persisted longer in Belgium than in France. Hopefully a HBC visitor will eventally provide some interesting insights. We have little informnation aboy the music program and performances of the choir. The Lessines Choir was reportedly closed for a short period. One reader tells us, however, that in 2003 that the Choir is functioning.
Most 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 mucic instruction, but the boys can take advantage of the facilities and
educational opportunities of the school at large.
We had thought that the choristers wore the Lessines school uniform. A Belgian reader, however, writes, " I come from Lessines in Belgium and I know this choir. There was no uniform at school. My brother was born in 1975 and had never been in uniform, we could wear whatever we want." [Vermeulen] HBC is not sure if there was uniform earlier in the 1950s and 60s.
The Lessines Choir wore a uniform of blue sweaters, white shirts worn without ties, blue short pants, white kneesocks, and black leather shoes. Almost all of the choir wore this uniform, including boys up to 16 years old. This uniform was a style once worn by some private Catholic schools in Belgium and France. I am not sure if it was ever worn at Lessines. A HBC reader reports that there was no uniform in recent years. The Choir was apparently quite strict about the uniform. There are only rare exceptions made, for especially heavy fat boys where they can not get shorts of the right size. During the week end and over holidays the boys can wear their regular clothes, even jeans. But all the rest of the time they must wear their uniform. Some of the boys, especially the older ones are quite shy about having to wear shorts, especially when they are away on Choir trips away from school. The Choir uniform now consists of long rather than short pants.
A reader describes one Choir performance, "As part of a 1987 performance the Choir put on the opera 'Bastien and Bastienne'. One of the boys dresses up as a girl in a costume that includes long blond pigtails. One report of the audience reaction included 'excellent, extrodinary!' Other people gigled, saying, 'That big boy looks rediculous in little girls clothes'. After the concert there is always a little reception. There are usually refreshments and sometimes a speech or two. The boys have to wear their costumes so the spectators can recognize them and talk with them. One lady asked a boy at the reception, 'I think it must be difficult for you to be the only 'girl' among 25 boys'. He was a little embarrassed, but said, 'No, no. It is alright'. Sometimes other children come to the reception. The boys are always in long trousers s now a days and the older choir boys are a little embarrassed."
On trips the boys stay with families. Again the children of the family, both girls and boys now, often wear blue jeans. One boy complained that he stayed with a family with one older boy and three little girls (8, 10, and 12). They all wore jeans and tee shirts. The boy had to wear his choir shorts and was quite embarassed.
A Belgian contributor to HBC reports on a little episode he observed in 1988. He was talking with a teacher before a concert. The boys were on holiday, but the choir had returned for the concert. The boys were running about outside playing football in clothes they had worn from home which meant that even the little boys were mostly dressed in longs. Suddenly one of the bigger boys, I'd say 16 or 17. years old fell down. He wasn't hurt, but badly tore his long pants. The choir director saw what had happened and called him over. It was time for the boys to change into their school uniform which they perform in. The director told the boy who had just torn his pants, "So much the worse for you. Go change your clothes. Now you will wear shorts like the little boys." The boy didn't like that idea at all and argued with him. He said that he didn't need to change, because during the concert he would stay in the back row and no one would notice the tear. The director would have none of that and insisted he go change his trousers and put on shorts. I saw latter why he had to change. He did two solos out in front of everyone and it would hardly do for him to have torn pants. The shorts available for him however, were of course for younger boys. After some fussing the director obliged him to put on what was available, even though they were for a much smaller boy. He looked rather silly. During most of the solo he was not visible as he more or less his behinfd the other boys in the last row. But he had to come to the front for his two solos. What a sight he was. The boy in fact was a very accomplished singer. He performed beautifully, apparently oblivious to his outfit. He smiled sweetly as he sung. After the concert many of the boys changed out of their shorts. Suprisingly he kept his shorts on the whole evening.
We have little informnation aboy the music program and performances of the choir. The Choir was apparently briefly closed. [Vermeulen] The Lessines choir tells us, however, that in 2003 that they continue to function. Madam Bourry is now in charge of the choir. [Van den Berghe]
Van den Berghe, Frédéric. E-mail message, April 29, 2003.
Vermeulen, Esmeralda. E-mail message, October 17, 2003.
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