Youth choir The Dutch Nightingales consists of boys and girls between 7 and 20 years old that travel the world to sing. Its members live within the wide vicinity of Oosterhout, a small town in the south of the Netherlands. Before joining the concert class, prospective choristers enter a training group, in which qualified teachers prepare them for their life as a Nightingale. The balanced but continuous inflow of newly trained singers ensures a constant quality, which accounts for the choir’s good reputation both within the Dutch borders and far beyond. The Nightingales’ distinctive sound is partly due to the presence of 3rd altos (boys undergoing a voice change), which lends a particular charm and colour to the many four and five part pieces.

Almost every year the choir travels abroad. Their tours have taken them to many countries, including America, Denmark, Norway, the Czech Republic, Poland, Canada, England, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, Austria, Germany, Russia/Siberia, Albania, Ireland and New Zealand. As ‘singing ambassadors’ the Nightingales frequently represent regional and (inter)national authorities and enterprises.

In their own country, too, the Nightingales are welcome guests. The choir is a reliable partner in musical productions and joint ventures.

More than just music…

As a Nightingale, choristers not only acquire a thorough musical training. They also gain important social skills, self-reliance and a wealth of experience. Of course, getting to know the culture of a country forms an important part of each tour.

Their many tours have provided them with priceless memories: Singing for and even with Lech Walesa, the president of Poland, rafting on the Ottawa river in Canada, visiting Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island in South Africa, singing with the accompaniment of acclaimed musicians Louis van Dijk, Henk van Twillert and Jan Vayne, but also in a hospice or for and with children with Down syndrome, visiting Auschwitz, an impressive 18-hour trip on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway, a stay with the Maori in New Zealand, partying with Dutch speed skating champion Kees Verkerk in Norway, touring Dublin in an amphibian, appearing in foreign radio and television shows, visiting South African townships, a three-day rafting adventure down the Mana River in the wilderness of Siberia, performing for the Dutch ambassador in Albania and sailing amid hundreds of wild dolphins in New Zealand.

For many former members their days as a Nightingale become a stepping stone to an active (and sometimes even professional) music career.

Musical direction

The musical direction is in the hands of conductor/director Wim Schoones. He joined the Nightingales as a young singer in 1968 and never left. After graduating as a teacher, he went on to study at the Rotterdam Conservatory. At the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, he specialized in directing children’s and youth choirs. For many years he assisted his father, who directed the choir for more than 35 years, as a second conductor and instructor, during which time he was also responsible for the training of young Nightingales. In 2010 Tiny officially delegated his tasks to his son. Apart from his work with the Nightingales, Wim teaches music, accompanies and directs several other choirs and forms the a capella vocal group ‘Brunchtime 85’ with his three brothers. With the Nightingales, he has made over 60 tours.

Pianist/organist Jan Damen is the Nightingales’ regular accompanist. He studied with well-known pianist Theo van der Pas at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague and obtained the certificate School Music. For a long time he was a music teacher and board member at the Teachers’ College in Breda. From an early age, he has accompanied numerous choirs and soloists.

Legal structure

The choir is a foundation. Its board includes some parent representatives and usually an adult chorister.

History

The choir was founded in 1939 by the Catholic clergyman P. Fick. He wanted ‘his’ Nightingales to sing in honour of God and also turned them into a travelling choir. The Nightingales started out as a boys choir, but since the early 70’s girls, too, have been allowed to join. After the death of rector Fick in 1975, Tiny Schoones became the new choir master. Under his direction, the Nightingales made their first tour of Canada; many more were to follow.