One Chamber Choir, three names: from ‘Benelux Selection of the World Youth Choir’ via ‘Goeyvaerts Consort’ to ‘Aquarius’. Conductor Marc Michael De Smet describes how the repertoire evolved from mainly contemporary choir music to a dialogue between old and new.

1995: Benelux Selection of the World Youth Choir

What’s in a name? Every new ensemble has to seek its own path, identity, sound and borders. When, in 1995, a group of around twenty good singers from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg wanted to give some concerts in order to go to the World Youth Choir in Chile, they sought a conductor and a name. The conductor was Marc Michael De Smet. The name: “Benelux Selection of the World Youth Choir”. The concerts were well-received. There was a desire to continue. The conductor stayed. The name disappeared.

1995-2007: Goeyvaerts Consort

What’s in a name? In search of meaning and identity the choice was made for contemporary choir music.  The new name - GOEYVAERTS CONSORT – symbolized progressive, adventurous and topically relevant programming and style. It was the composer Karel Goeyvaerts (1923 – 1992) who was the main figure behind the revitalization of contemporary music in Flanders after 1950. This choice of meaning and identity was bravely worked on for twelve years.
Het Goeyvaerts Consort in Marktoberdorf  2004A broad interpretation was given to what was seen as topically relevant music. The colourful diversity of our time was reflected in the choice of pieces. The GOEYVAERTS CONSORT sang Cage alongside Theodorakis, Eisler with Stockhausen, Rihm with Poulenc, Pärt with Schnittke. Flemish composers were given a platform. The young voices became more mature. Innovations in form led to genuine music theatre. Small, solo-settings performed in co-productions with, among others, Spectra, Limelight, Danel-kwartet, Blindman!, the Symphony Orchestra of Flanders, and the Goeyvaerts String Trio.

The GOEYVAERTS CONSORT established two traditions: every year Norbert Rosseau’s Saint Matthew Passion was performed at Easter; and from 2003 there was at least one yearly concert of Arvo Pärt’s Kanon Pokajanen. The Goeyvaerts Consort itself organized two festivals, one in 1998 the other in 2001. It performed in the Netherlands, France, German, Poland, Spain, Estonia. It made six CDs.


2007-  : Aquarius

What’s in a name? In Flanders this ensemble was the front runner for new music and new types of concerts.  Maybe it ran too fast, and collided with administrative incapacity and hesitancy from the public. In May 2007 the approach was changed and the message was given a new form. AQUARIUS was born. The motto remains: being ahead of one’s time, being mindful of the new astrological period that comes under the sign of the Zodiac ‘Aquarius’. From now on new music will be in dialogue with old music. The dialogue will be based on universal themes: war/peace, misery/passion, belief/disbelief, democracy/dictatorship, sound/image. An AQUARIUS concert aspires to be more than simply an aesthetic experience.

The CD/DVD “Het Lam Gods bezongen” illustrates some of these aims: the project mixes old music (Von Bingen, Gregorian chant, Palestrina, de Victoria) with the less old (Bruckner, Brahms, Verdi) and the modern (Poulenc, Barber, Pärt, Gorecki); the DVD shows the twelve panels of the retable glittering in their full glory, and narrator Peter Schmidt explores the deeper, theological elements of this Flemish masterpiece.

In “Change!” we link the surprisingly topical music of Hanns Eisler (1898 – 1962) with thematically-related film fragments from famous films by his contemporary and friend, Charlie Chaplin.

In “Eros and Thanatos” we place the serene acceptance of death by believers (Clemens Non Papa) in sharp contrast with the passionate revolt against the death of love (Dominique Pauwels).

Aquarius Sint Niklaas 2009