The year of Kaminsky
The 2013-2014 academic year, which is actually already a year from another era. A time, when Mark Waer passed on his rector’s gown (after some drastic vestimentary curtailments) to Rik Torfs, political, media and all-round figure. A time, when the LUK was still under the reign of Marleen De Boo, and the gilded nature of the forty-fifth anniversary year was more likely to be found in the hairdo’s of the LUK board, rather than that of its conductor. A time, when Jules Van Nuffel was simply a Flemish priest, choral conductor and composer of the past, and not a hit writing, memefied choral deity.
But what a time.
The LUK and its new board, Kaminsky, soon realised that their fervently gilded year would be one not soon to be forgotten. At the opening of the academic year, the golden yellow flag flew when the LUK with none other than Boogie Boy (Paul Ambach), an old friend of the brand-new orange rector, sang the Flemish national anthem, among other things, in front of a packed Pieter De Somer auditorium. The jolly Ambach did not shy away from the show, dancing through the programme alongside a reserved but amused president (Emma De Koster) and treasurer (Rosemarijn Kramp). It proved to be a prelude to what was to come.
The chilly months of the first semester were warmly coloured by the first anniversary activity: a flash mob organised by the LUK and the University Parish. The choir rocked the University Library’s Great Reading Room with an inspired version of the LUK classic Merry Christmas Jazz and was treated to an ovation from the unsuspecting studying students. The whole set-up was filmed, and the nostalgic or curious choir member can still find the flash mob on YouTube.
The Christmas concert soon followed. In the Gasthuisberg Central Auditorium, the choir brought romance (Mendelssohn and Bruch), Hebrew love songs (Whitacre), and some heartwarming Christmas classics and spirituals (Staheli, Davison and Chilcott). It was the latter composer who inspired conductor De Boo to create some ‘steps’ (or a real choreography, depending on who you ask) that have earned a place in the LUK’s collective memory. When extramusical utterances are referenced today, the train moves on Every Time I Feel The Spirit are only too happy to be recalled. Moreover, the concert was broadcast in all the rooms of the UZ Leuven – an achievement that could count on the gratitude of numerous patients, and which to this day still makes the then management particularly proud.
The beginning of the second semester was dominated by the jubilee day. March 22, 2014 began with a mass in honour of the choir. The attendees then moved in procession and accompanied by a fanfare to the University Halls, where a number of ex-rectors and other prominent figures paid tribute to the choir. A genuine LUK song was also introduced and sung to those present. In the afternoon, over three hundred LUK’ers and ex-LUK’ers gathered in the Main Auditorium of Maria-Theresia College, where they rehearsed and performed schlagers from the different periods of the choir’s history, each time under the direction of the then conductor. The day ended with a dinner at Alma 1, a word from the board and a thank-you from a moved conductor.
The confetti of a magical jubilee day had only just settled down, or the conductor election was already upon us. The candidates were each allowed to work with the choir for half an hour on an imposed piece and a work of their choice. The vote afterwards left no doubt: Marleen’s successor was Koen Vits, a (then) young fellow who had just left school at the Lemmens Institute with diplomas in choral conducting and composition in his pocket. With his enthusiasm, skills and feeling for the choir, he managed to win the hearts of the LUK members.
Together with some eight hundred other music lovers, Vits witnessed Marleen De Boo’s final Spring Concert a few weeks later. Supported by the symphonic orchestra La Passione from Lier, the LUK performed Veni Sancte Spiritus, a work for brass and choir by Vic Nees, Psalm 42 by Mendelssohn, and John Rutter’s Magnificat. At the end, the choir waved off its parting conductor with a rewritten version of An Irish Blessing: A LUK Blessing.
After the exam period, the LUK set off on a choir trip to Poland and Berlin led by its trip organiser Tim Pollenus. First stop was Warsaw, a historically particularly intriguing city, and thus also the ideal location for the traditional tours and city game. Then, after a detour via Marbork Castle, the gang headed to Gdansk, a beautiful coastal city with medieval character. Here, the choir members immersed themselves in the country’s communist history with a visit to the Road to freedom exhibition, but also had the chance to indulge in an altitude trail at the local Adventure Park, followed by a delicious barbecue. On the last evening in Gdansk, the choir performed at the beautiful St Catherine’s Church.
The next few days were spent cantussing, swimming and wandering around the coastal town of Sopot – albeit not necessarily in that order. After a stop in Poznan and an extended walk in the Greater Poland National Park, the LUK drove on to Berlin. There it visited the fascinating GDR museum. That evening, the choir performed for a second time, this time at the Belgian embassy. Many more museums, city tours and musical/beautiful evenings later, the group boarded the bus again, and left for Leuven again.
The LUK gilded its forty-fifth anniversary five years ago, helping to forge the groundwork for a new age, a golden age. That time dawned this academic year. So on behalf of the Kaminsky Board, I wish the choir an electrically conductive, sun-kissed, financially stable next five years!
on behalf of Kaminsky
Emma De Koster (president)
Rosemarijn Kramp (treasurer)
Wieland Craps (secretary)
Tim Pollenus (trip organiser)
Marleen De Boo (conductor)
This text was written to mark the choir’s 50th anniversary and appeared in 50 jaar Leuvens Universitair Koor. Een vijftigstemmige ode (2019).