After months of hard work and preparations, the Victoria Children’s Choir has departed to the Netherlands for their “Bridging Generations” Tour!
Follow our stories from the road as choristers sing in communities and celebrations, meet Dutch children, and experience the peace and freedom that Canada helped establish.
May 3, 2015 | Submitted by chaperone Rob MacDonald
“The ceremony went well in Groesbeek except for torrential downpour!
It was moving to see the grave sites and veterans who were at, and part of, the ceremony. It was formal and organized, similar to the Remembrance Ceremony in Ottawa. Mrs. Harper was there and spoke. There were a number of other dignitaries though from Canada and the Netherlands. The clear message is around the bond between our two countries and the heartfelt thanks Holland still gives Canada for its liberation.
Despite getting completely soaked in the cold downpour, the kids did a great job. Madeleine is proud of them all. They stood out in the rain while almost everyone else were under umbrellas!
Because of how wet it was, guests made a quick retreat as the final wreaths were placed, but many did stop to listen, take photos and pay compliments to Madeleine and David.
Afterwards we had to head straight to Holten …over an hour drive for a 10 minute sound check. Then, straight to Woody’s Pancakes and Steaks (pronounced steeks!) in Holten for a great dinner. A huge restaurant full of families including their big dogs!!!
Tomorrow we do it all over again! Except it is not supposed to rain this time!”
May 1, 2015 | Submitted by chaperone Rob MacDonald
“We are home from the concert in The Hague.
The kids were great …not a huge audience. There were around 200 at the first concert and 350 at the second! Tonight they sounded great and the small audience was appreciative. They were singing in a beautiful old church with a huge volume. The choristers we’re excited to hear how it/they sounded.
Our morning was a visit to the city Delft where after a canal boat tour we visited the Delft Blue potteries. A fun tour and gift shop. Then lunch; we found a very charming place to eat called Hill’s and Mill’s with great food.
Next we were off to The Hague where we dropped our belongings at the church and then headed off to see Escher Museum.
Dinner was pizza down in the crypt in the basement that seems to have been turned into a multipurpose room! Finally the big concert started at 7:30 PM and then back in the bus and home for bed.
Everyone gets to sleep in tomorrow morning until 8:00 AM and I think they’re looking forward to it!”
April 30, 2015 | Submitted by chaperone Rob MacDonald
Another go-go day in the Netherlands.
We were up early, breakfasted, and on the bus to the morning cheese market in Gouda. A pretty town with a mixed market including cheese on the central square.
There were quite a few travellers like us and we are rewarded with a reenactment of the cheese auction between a seller and a buyer which included them slapping each other’s hand after every offer and counteroffer!?
Also some nice older women in traditional dresses with aprons and wooden shoes! In order to keep to the schedule we then had 30 minutes to shop.
Next up was a drive through Haarlem on our way to a park on the coast. We ate lunch at a nice visitors centre/cafeteria and then instead of a walk through the dunes to the beach, we re-boarded the bus to drive us to the beach. It seems the drive took longer than expected and therefore we were once again behind schedule!! (Traveling in a big group it is always a challenge to move as quickly as the schedule demands. )
“All the kids had a much needed runaround! The beach felt/looked like Gearhart but was very windy. It seems to always be blowing on the coast. There are many giant new windmills…..on our drive today we did see some picturesque old ones!
Next was another drive to the giant steam pump that was used to drain the water from a huge area.
Finally drive back to KdK for dinner instead of dinner in Haarlem. The decision was that the children needed an early night…probably true!”
April 30, 2015 | Submitted by chaperone Julie Woloschuk
After another delicious breakfast at the KdK we boarded our coach for a very comfortable 1.5 hour ride northeast to Westerbork. The country is flat, green, and picturesque and you can see for miles.
We arrived at Westerbork and were greeted by Reinder van der Molen, a lovely man who arranged our events for today. He gave us an informative and impactful look at how life was here, telling the children stories of specific people and events. We were joined by a teacher and four students from the Van Gogh school.
Westerbork was originally a refugee camp set up by the Dutch government to house an overwhelming number of Jewish people fleeing to Holland from the Nazi tyranny in their own countries. On May 10, 1940, the Germans invaded Holland and took charge of the camp; slowing imposing restrictions and militarizing the operations until July 1942 when it became a Transit camp. By January 1943 weekly trainloads of about 1,000 Jewish people were being sent to camps further east to meet their death. In all, 107,000 people moved through this camp; sadly only five percent survived the war.
It was cold and windy here. We had heavy rain and hail, and many of us were uncomfortable. I can only imagine what it must have been like for those who endured living here. This rail monument was built by Dutch Jewish Holocaust survivor Ralph Prins. There are 93 railroad ties, each one representing a train car of people who left here. The rails curve upward to heaven and the other end of them stops at a rock wall.
On the square where roll-call was taken there is the Appelplatz Monument – 102,000 stones commemorating the men, women, and children who lost their lives. They stand ready for inspection as the people would have done then. Most stones have the Jewish Star of David on top of them. Some represent the Gypsies and have a flame, while others with no markings represent resistance fighters or civilians. Amidst the stones are photos of the people which brings the reality of what happened into focus. The children sang Al Shlosha which was very moving, bringing some to tears.
We returned to the bus, and back to the reception centre to sing a few more songs outside near the entrance before having refreshments and visiting the museum. Then it was off to the Van Gogh school to meet the students over a lunch of croquettes, ham and cheese sandwiches, and milk with fruit flavours in it. They gave us a tremendous applause and welcome, with a wall of pictures and posters.
The Dutch students did some presentations: one on Vincent Van Gogh and one on Circuit riding – a large motorcycle racing event that happens in Assen each year and draws people from all over the world. Our children sang a few songs, talked about our killer whales and some personal experiences, and then all were off to another adventure.
We went to a large park and went on a hike along a German anti-tank ditch (dug to prevent the allies from advancing). After that it was into the woods for the girls to play a country against country capture the flag game, and to the field for the boys to play a game of field hockey. After an hour or so they switched activities, and then everyone gathered for one last game of capture the flag. The Canadians won due to their strategizing, or so I’m told.
We went back to the school for dinner and four students graciously sang for us. The Choir sang “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” and another piece, and then good-byes were said and we hurried off to the church for our next performance.
The de Bron Church in Assen is very modern. The sanctuary quickly filled to near capacity – about 300 people. The choir was treated as special guests, sang beautifully, and had the whole crowd clapping and singing along with what is becoming a fan favourite; “De Zilvervloot”. The Dutch are clearly attached to this song. I saw one woman drying her eyes afterwards.
The Haydn Preparatory String Orchestra played fiyr movements of Dvorak’s “Sonatine opus 100”. Reinder van der Molen sang with his choir, Arpeggio – Assen Chamber Choir. Bou presented Reinder with a thank you gift of smoked salmon for helping is organize the school event and evening concert, selling many tickets, and raising approximately $2,000 toward the Tour! To finish off the concert, the children sang the “Freedom Trilogy”, which got a quick standing ovation, and send-off in style. It was an inspiring concert and our children gave an excellent performance.
We quickly hopped back on the bus and arrived back at KdK at 12:30 a.m.! A long but very satisfying day.
April 27, 2015 | Submitted by chaperone Rob MacDonald
We are back after a very nice day in Amersfoort where the choir performed in the town square part of the Kings Day festival.
The town had a very pretty historic center with lots of rowhouses on canals and shops and restaurants. The choir was well received and thanked personally by the mayor of the city! The kids are performing three different Dutch songs and are very much appreciated every time they sing them. One of the highlights was going up a 500 year old tower in the center of town. It is a bell tower as well it as well as a Carillon. I think it was something like 390 steps to the top and it was very high once we were up there! We were back to the KdK for dinner where we eat dinner in a rather fancy dining room…it’s more like a restaurant with fairly high-end 3 course meals!
Off off to bed now as tomorrow it’s an early start. we are going to the internment camp at Westerbork and then to Assen for dinner and a concert.
April 25, 2015 | Submitted by chaperone Rob MacDonald
“Just got in the door after a long amazing and crazy day!
After breakfast in the morning, we took the train into Amsterdam. There we walked to Anne Frank House and then to the Van Gogh Museum and then to the Rembrandt house and finally to the canal boats. Then a final walk to the train station to get us home.
All sites were amazing to visit. Especially Anne Frank house. In total the kids and all of us walked almost 14 km and climbed 20 flights of stairs! And at a fast pace set by Bou to keep us to the schedule!
The choir sang two pieces in the atrium of the packed Van Gogh Museum to much applause.
Needless to say everyone is pretty tired again tonight and are quickly heading off to bed after a snack.”
April 25, 2015 | Submitted by chaperone Julie Woloschuk
Bridging Generations Day 3 – Amsterdam!
We met bright and early for a delicious continental breakfast of eggs, bacon, breads, meats and cheeses. You haven’t had milk until you’ve had it in the Netherlands. It is delicious, creamy and sweet, unless you mistakenly grab a glass of buttermilk, as some of us found out. Lovely Yvonne joined us for breakfast. She has been instrumental in organizing and helping this trip happen over the last 16 months. Her husband was the manager at the Kontakt der Kontinenten for many years.
After each child was assigned a number and sufficient training in the counting-off system was established, we were off on the bus to the Amersfoort railway station. The road was long and very straight with lanes intersecting the road. The lanes were originally put in so that the land tenants could move their sheep to grazing pasture. The houses along the route were beautiful, all brick, as wood is scarce for building. Most have thick clay-tiled rooves but some are thatched, which adds to their charm.
After acquiring our tickets for the train we had a remarkably smooth, standing room only, train ride into Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a beautiful city! The homes along the many canals are narrow and very tall. Having a small footprint was apparently a way to avoid paying higher land taxes. As they are built built on wooden pilings which are slowly sinking in some areas, the houses are sometimes quite crooked and “dancing” as the locals say. At the gable of the roof there is often a bar that sticks out with a pulley on it that used to be used for moving furniture into the home from street level.
There are pedestrians, bicyclists of all ages, trains and cars all moving through the city; a fact we discovered and experienced first hand as we walked, sometimes ran our way through the city from Central Station to the Anne Frank House. Unlike many, we did not have to wait in the famous line-up to get in, we had a group booking so were ushered into a meeting room to be educated on what we might see.
The famous Anne Frank House is where the Frank family hid from the Nazi persecution of the Jews during the Second World War. It is also where Anne wrote her now famous diaries. We wove our way through the bookshelf door and the many rooms that had occupied them for a little over two years until their discovery in August of 1944. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like, but Anne’s diaries, which many of our children have read, help to paint some of the picture. Anne’s father, Otto was the lone survivor. He dedicated the rest of his life to combatting discrimination and prejudice, publishing Anne’s diaries and opening the house to the public.
We then made our way to the Van Gogh museum where we enjoyed a lunch before heading into the museum for our tour. Our guide, Inga, was most anxious for the children to sing and they happily performed two songs in middle of the large three-story foyer. The acoustics were lovely and the museum-goers were delighted, applauding loudly at the end. I am so proud and moved by these children. They are so talented, work so well as a team and are eager to share what they love. The tour! Van Gogh painted for ten years and remarkably produced 900 oil paintings and 1100 drawings and sketches. To stand in front of an original Van Gogh Sunflower painting is surreal. To be able to looks at the painting from the side and see the depth and contours of the brush strokes is a privilege. Van Gogh was the first painter to communicate his emotions through his paintings. Inga had the children go in groups of three with a piece of paper that had an emotion written on it.The children were asked to find a painting that they felt best exhibited that emotion and then report to the entire group why they chose that painting. Their reasons were insightful and well thought out and the children reported enjoying the exercise. Unfortunately, on the tour we were unable to take any photographs of any kind to protect the paintings from further deterioration.
Back into the throngs of the city we went, making our way to Rembrandt’s House. Rembrandt’s house is where the famous painter lived and had his art studio from 1639-1656. You can learn more info here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmcR4Iqzuio We had a limited time to go through this museum but it was interesting to see how paint powders were made and the studio where the artist painted his most famous pieces. Also interesting were the bed boxes resembling large armoires with very short mattresses inside for sleeping. After all the walking we had done to this point they looked pretty inviting. The stairs in all these houses are so steep that this one had a rope to help you get up. Fortunately there were modern exit stairs.
From here we had a short walk to the Rokin Jetty in the heart of the city for our one hour canal boat tour. In the early 1600s the medieval town’s population began to outgrow its walls so an ambitious plan to expand the city began. As the land needed draining and reclaiming the canals became an integral part of the expansion. There are 165 canals spanning 100 km in Amsterdam. Also, Amsterdam has 3x as many bridges as Venice, Italy!!
Our guide explained how the buildings lining certain canals were the location of a certain class of people or business activity. This is reflected in the names of the canals: Brewer’s Canal, Prince’s Canal, Gentlemen’s Canal etc. We saw a lot of houseboats along the canals of all shapes and sizes. We also learned that once a week a car ends up somewhere in the canals, a fact the children seemed to enjoy.
After coming full circle we left the boat tour and continued our walking up one of the main streets of the city heading for the station. We stopped to grab a bite to eat at a French sandwich shop, though some chose McDonalds, before heading straight on to the train station. After 10 km of walking the streets of the city we hopped on the top level of the train back to Amersfoort. Everyone had a very comfortable seat and the children sang song after song most of the ride back. Imagine riding in comfort watching the beautiful scenery pass by out the large window, the sun shining low on the horizon and the sound of sweet voices serenading you. It was heavenly. We hopped back on the bus and drove just long enough to work on the first lines of the Dutch National Anthem with help from our Dutch driver and arrived back to the KdK for snacks and bedtime. It was a long day but full of exciting adventure.
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