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The history of IKV-Maasmechelen

1987: Cantate celebrates its 20th anniversary and that has to be celebrated! In addition to the traditional festive concerts, chairman Frans Meyers and his team organise a wonderful 12-day concert trip to Norway. It remains one of Cantate's most beautiful and impressive trips! For myself, a first heartwarming introduction to the Cantate choir!

But Frans and then-conductor Maurice Delporte had even more in store: they launched a bright idea with international allure namely organising a triennial choir competition for mixed choirs.


And so it happens.....

On Sunday 27 September 1987, 11 choirs take part in the International Choral Competition Cantate. Six Flemish and five foreign choirs compete in the theatre of the Cultural Centre of Maasmechelen. A balanced programme featuring 'Alma Redemptoris Mater', the dutiful work by Vic Nees, will take to the airwaves eleven times. The performances will be judged by leading professional choral conductors Juliaan Wilmots,

Kamiel Cooremans and Miroslav Košler from the Czech Republic. Radio 3 of the then BRT records the competition and broadcasts it in full during the programme 'Het koorleven in Vlaanderen', hosted by Simonne Claeys.

It is an extraordinary experience. It tastes like more!

And so it happens: for the 1990 and 1993 editions, intensive work is done on internationalisation, with support from the three Flemish choral federations. The number of entries goes up. So, with fifteen selected mixed choirs, the 1993 edition is expanded into a two-day choral feast. Limburg guest choirs provide a warm welcome - how could it be otherwise - and organise the so-called wrap-around concerts, where meeting and cultural fraternisation in a casual atmosphere are heartening for many.

The International Choral Competition Cantate is known, loved and appreciated even abroad.


Words of appreciation by jury chairman Juliaan Wilmots: 'That Cantate Maasmechelen more than graces Flemish choral life with its International Choral Competition is clear: in a short time, our landscape of regional, provincial and national choral competitions has become a brother richer, broadening and enriching its horizons. For this merit alone - among the many others of organisational and music-cultural allure - choir and board should be thanked and praised. The jury also looks forward to the next glorious edition!'

When preparing for the fourth edition in 1996, chairman Frans Meyers wrote: 'We are faced with a difficult choice either to disappear from the international platform or to join the series of major competitions with consequent expansion'.

We opted for expansion and set up a new non-profit organisation under the name 'Internationale Koorwedstrijd van Vlaanderen-Maasmechelen' - IKV-Maasmechelen for short.

Under the highly promising title 'Flanders salutes Europe', Collegium Instrumentale Brugense & Capella Brugensis led by Patrick Peire perform the first opening concert of the 'International Choral Competition of Flanders-Maasmechelen'.

The major innovation results in an expansion to four categories: besides mixed choirs, there is also room for chamber, women's and men's choirs. Flemish composer Raymond Schroyens is commissioned to compose four duty works.

Immediately, a balanced expansion of the number of jury members is also sought: Northern - Eastern - Southern and Western Europe are represented.

The number of choirs selected reaches its first peak. Twenty choirs not only thrill the audience in Maasmechelen, but often conjure a smile on the faces of the many spectators during the nine framed concerts organised by the guest choirs.

From the hands of Flemish minister-president Luc Van den Brande, the 'Flanders-Maasmechelen International Choral Competition' received the title of Cultural Ambassadorship of Flanders in the Flemish Parliament. A just reward for founder and chairman Frans Meyers and his enthusiastic team!

House composer Paul Steegmans blew the eulogy and promptly composed a festive tune for brass quintet, which you can hear at the start of each competition section since then.

The title 'Cultural Ambassadorship of Flanders' opens doors. The city council of Maasmechelen decides to become co-organiser. The Permanent Deputation of Limburg also classifies us among the major projects. Everything indicates that the 'Flanders-Maasmechelen International Choral Competition' is heading for another high point in 1999.

And yes, internationalisation is growing, partly because of the many contacts during European choir competitions. In 1999 we welcome two overseas choirs for the first time, namely 'Tonos Humanos' from Colombia and prize winner in the chamber choir category 'Entrevoces' from Cuba. 

For the third time in a row, chairman Vic Nees leads the jury discussions with the necessary subtlety and expertise.

Radio 3 continues to disseminate international choral repertoire and, more specifically, new Flemish choral repertoire in function of the four dutiful works by Limburg composer Paul Steegmans.

A fun fact, also brilliant idea: to boost the publicity of the choir competition, a real window display competition will be set up in Maasmechelen. At the proclamation, a prize will be awarded for the first time for IKV-Maasmechelen's most beautiful and creative shop window promotion.

The turn of the century brings change! The helm is changed!

In order to guarantee continuity, it is decided to organise the Flanders-Maasmechelen International Choir Competition every two years.

Vic Nees
Logo ikv oud.jpg

In 2001, IKV launched its own competition logo, a design by Maasmechelen artist Pollie Gregoor. 'The logo depicts four choral figures in motion: they represent the different vocal parts in a choir. The movement is that of choir members on their way to or on their way back from the stage.'

Jef Lenssen's art sculpture is a further elaboration of the competition logo. 'The art sculpture places the logo on a base. Behind the logo is a shell, symbolising the spectator's listening ear. At the same time, it is an allusion to the globe and expresses the international nature of the competition.'

Nineteen choirs from 16 different countries were selected by the artistic committee headed by yours truly.

Experience tells us that a slight change of categories.n is necessary. In future, male and female choirs belong in the category of equal-voice choirs, in addition, mixed choirs and chamber choirs will remain separate for a while. New is the category 'vocal ensembles'.

Also new is the folklore evening 'Maasmechelen - Muzaïek', which aims to involve the Maasmechelen population more in the choir competition. Linked to this - in the course of the year - a song contest is organised in the Maasmechelen primary schools. The three best classes present their song during the folklore evening.

Noteworthy is the large number of framing concerts. Interest is growing in the Flemish choral world and among concert organisers.

Only downside KLARA, previously Radio 3, drops out for recordings and broadcasts due to new programming. The programme 'Het koorleven in Vlaanderen' disappears from the airwaves. Competition recordings will in future be done in-house.

And...the winners come from Denmark, Hungary, Isra.l and the Philippines!

A fresh wind is already blowing in 2003!

Under the theme 'Ear for Choir', a new course is charted with two categories: mixed choirs and equal-voice choirs.

The programme book was given a new look: the A-4 format was exchanged for a more convenient A-5 format and embellished with interesting facts about the origins of the participating choirs. It is the work of Piet Cosemans, competition organiser of IKV 2003.

While the Flemish Radio Choir's opening concert - under the title 'The March of the Women' - features only female composers, we notice - in retrospect! - among the team of jury members a firm grounding in the world of men. A contradiction sine qua non! Wilma ten Wolde dropped out due to illness and was replaced by Christian Balandras from Tours (FR).

With the 'Oor & Oog' forum, IKV - in cooperation with Koor & Stem - wants to strengthen its ties with Flemish choirs. Pro Cantione from Genk led by Jan Peeters was prepared to work with director Gert Terny on a choreographic performance of four several choral works. The useful tips that can enliven the visual presentation of a performance are well thought-out and achievable. We enjoy the contrast in the performance and discuss the pros and cons!

The framed concerts in 11 Limburg municipalities are promoted under the catchy title 'goudKOORts'. In its own municipality of Maasmechelen, IKV appears in the street and shop scene and in the traditional folklore concert 'Maasmechelen-Muzaïek'.


In 2005, IKV welcomes seventeen choirs from 12 different countries, seven women's choirs and ten mixed choirs.

The opening is given a new look, with Flemish and Finnish choral music facing each other in performances by Cantate and the women's choir 'Philomela' led by Marjukka For the final concert, eight Limburg choirs, mainly from Meuse, will make music together with the Koninklijke Harmonie St.-Martinus of Opgrimbie for the grand apotheosis with a selection from Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana'. 

2007: IKV-Maasmechelen turns 20! Frans Meyers bids farewell as chairman.

'Vocal music is not only a cultural phenomenon. It is also a binding agent between people.' Thanks to this vision and the perseverance of Frans Meyers, Maasmechelen, the Maasland region, Limburg and Flanders could count on a recurring cultural event that safeguards an important heritage, for which we remain very grateful.

Thanks to the enthusiastic IKV team, now unofficially managed by Jo Calsius from Genk, this ninth edition is also running smoothly.

Jef Albrechts

Under the chairmanship of Jef Albrechts, we are heading towards the tenth edition of the Flanders-Maasmechelen International Choir Competition in 2009. Under his impetus, the new non-profit organisation 'Likofest' is founded. This Limburg umbrella organisation between IKV-Maasmechelen and the European Music Festival for Youth - Neerpelt aims for greater subsidy in the Flemish cultural world.

Sixteen choirs, mixed and women-only, from ten different countries are taking part.

Conductor Kaspars Ädamsons from Riga (LV) and his choirs Söla and Sölas hijack the first prize of both the mixed choirs and the equal-voice choir category. A unique achievement in the history of IKV-Maasmechelen!

In 2011, the programming of the competition event is changing. From this edition onwards, only 12 choirs will be selected - for both financial and organisational reasons. A compulsory programme will be judged by a five-member jury on Saturday and a free programme on Sunday. In this way, the organisation meets the wishes of foreign choirs, among others.

During the final concert, the participating choirs will once again pass the revue in front of a wide audience.

During the eleventh edition, IKV celebrates Vic Nees, the godfather of contemporary Flemish choral music, on the occasion of his 75th birthday. As 'composer in residence', he will compose three compulsory choral works set to Latin biblical texts.

The Flemish Radio Choir opens the eleventh edition of IKV-Maasmechelen with choral works by Vic and his Flemish contemporaries. The closing concert ends with all participants and spectators singing together the poetic song 'The summer has passed'. A goose-bump moment!


In 2013, work will continue on the same pattern. The smooth running, good communication and financial feasibility of the previous edition are the real proof that IKVMaasmechelen made the right turnaround in 2011.

The programme book of the twelfth edition has been updated and looks superbly colourful, thanks to Willy Hermans.

New during this edition is the observation course for choral conducting students led by Luc Anthonis and Ludo Claesen. The initiative was highly praised by the students present.

After the competition performances on Sunday, the organisation provides a moment where discharge and

relaxation are primordial. Domino's performance surprises and is described by the participating choirs as a wonderful initiative!

Ahead of 2015, there is a change of chairman. Jef Albrechts passes the torch to current chairman Jos Venken. The IKV weekend from 2 to 4 October goes off without a hitch.

Jos Venken

Some evaluations and thanks from participating choirs, from guest choirs and from honorary chairman

Frans Meyers.

'On Saturday 3 October last, the choir "Pro Cantare" organised a choir meeting in the church of Dorne. It was a wonderful and successful evening with two choirs of exceptional quality as guests: the vocal ensemble 'KAÏROS' from Brussels and the youth choir GIOCOSO from Weert.' Guest choir Pro Cantare, Dorne

'Thank you very much for your accompaniment: we were really able to experience the famous Limburg hospitality.' Bruno Crabbé, conductor of Kaïros, regarding guest choir 'Pro Cantare'from Dorne.

'The international choir meeting was a hit again! Wonderful choirs, a wonderful concert in Opglabbeek, with very positive reactions. Despite the diffidence among the host choirs, a wonderful symbiosis with their guests and moving farewell moments, streamlined cooperation with IKV.'

Jan Gabriëls, conductor of guest choir Singhet Vro, Opglabbeek to collaborator Geert De Troyer.

'My great admiration and heartfelt congratulations to all the contributors to the organisation of a wonderful choral competition. In particular, I think respectfully of Jos Venken, our Marie-Rose, the contest committee and certainly not forgetting all Cantate for their perfect, boundless commitment, their inspiring approach and the friendly atmosphere. Many thanks and keep up the good work!

Frans Meyers, founder and honorary chairman of IKV-Maasmechelen.

Marie-Rose Van Gerven
Artistic Director
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