The Freundeskreis Schweiz, the ever-active Swiss Friends Association of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, supports the semi-staged performances of Honegger’s Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher under the direction of Stéphane Denève at the end of this month. ‘A beautiful gift for the Swiss Friends,’ according to board member Jaap Verbeek.
BY Paul Janssen.
The cultural weekend to Amsterdam that the Swiss Friends undertake annually, is in a special light in September of this year: the Freundeskreis Schweiz, which was founded in 2007, celebrates its 10th anniversary. New board member Jaap Verbeek expects ‘a lot’ from this festive weekend. Even if only because of the first performance by the RCO of the opera-oratorio Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher by the Swiss composer Arthur Honneger.A grand project with an extensive cast that is generously supported by the Swiss Friends without hesitation.‘A magnificent work by a Swiss composer, and then performed at such a high level, that is what I call a fantastic gift for the friends,’ he explains enthusiastically.
The semi-staged concert will bring many Swiss Friends to Amsterdam where they get a special welcome and also visit the ever-progressing RCO House. ‘Some members had already been there last year,’ says Jaap.‘We are very curious about the progress.’ Also, the Swiss do not come empty-handed.‘So far we have regularly offered instruments to the orchestra that we later saw back on the concert stage. This time we are giving three study pianos that will be placed in the RCO House.’
In addition to the generous contribution to the performance of Honneger’s masterpiece, it is once again a sign of the very active support that the Freundeskreis Schweiz offers the orchestra. The past decade, the Freundeskreis has donated instruments such as horns, clarinets, church bells and a double bass to the orchestra. The Freundeskreis also allows promising young talents in Switzerland to participate in master classes under the guidance of members of the orchestra.‘Besides, we support young Swiss musicians who are so talented that they can take part in the Orchestra Academy, with an allowance for their travel and accommodation expenses,’ adds Jaap. ‘It is a contribution to the continuity of the classical music world, and I would love to see these people perform on their own later.’
Seeing young musicians on concert stages is just one of the highlights in the history of the Freundeskreis Schweiz for Jaap.‘What I also like is the buffet for the Swiss Friends and the RCO that we organize every year after the concerts during the Lucerne Festival, at the end of the summer. In recent years, almost the entire orchestra has been present at the buffet. There is an enjoyable atmosphere, and it strengthens the bond with the musicians.’
Jaap wants to help strengthen those bonds. ‘That is why we intend to invite orchestra members more often this year to give chamber music concerts in Switzerland. When we are in the Netherlands, there is always a chamber music concert at the Swiss embassy. It offers the possibility to come into direct contact with the musicians. We would also like to do that in Switzerland. An additional advantage is that with such initiatives we make membership more attractive.’ He is committed to contributing to further growth of the Freundeskreis Schweiz. The board is working on all sorts of plans to realize that.‘It is important to me that such a top orchestra can continue to perform at the highest level. With a stronger Freundeskreis we can support the orchestra even better.’
The Swiss Friends of the RCO now consist of well over a hundred individual members. Jaap, used to working systematically, has drawn up the members get-members plan. ‘Recruiting new members and retaining existing members is not just a board affair but requires an approach in which members and board members work together. We must all actively express what it means to be a member of the Freundeskreis and in this way to be close to the RCO.’