BALK TOPfestival 2013 – report

Cup Song Presentation - Photo by EvenementFoto

Vocal spectacle: 90 choirs in one day at 10 competitions
[report by Ruut te Velthuis and Annemarie Homan


Rotterdam (NL). After a full year of planning, auditions, and organization, the biennial BALK TOPfestival took place on November 9 2013 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. More than 80 Dutch and 2 Belgian choirs, varying from huge pop choirs to vocal groups of only three singers, competed in 10 competitions in 4 categories. It was a day filled with harmonies and songs and almost too much to take in.


Since the of creation BALK (Dutch association for light music choirs), its focus has been on education and meeting and we still put most of our energy in setting up and contributing to courses (from singers to conductors) and the organization of festivals. BALK mostly has a supporting role in the regional festivals, but once every two years we set up our own, national choir festival/competition.


In 2007 we decided to bring two separate festivals that already existed, Hotzone (for pop choirs) and Focus (for vocal groups), together into one large national choir festival, featuring only light music.

Our goal in doing this was to reinforce the feeling of belonging to the BALK family, enable cross-pollination between pop choirs and vocal groups and to inspire each other even more. And above all that, there was a very practical reason: by enlarging our focus we could tap into more financial resources, bring new impulses to the festival and create a better image.


Overall it can be said that the competitive element is stronger in light vocal music than it is in the world of classical music. The same applies to the groups themselves, striving to be unique, to stand out from the rest in arrangements/songs as well as in presentation. This makes for a great diversity in choirs and vocal groups and makes each one of them interesting to see and hear.


The BALK TOPfestival is biennial, which means that the one in 2013 was the fourth time the festival was organized in this format since the start in 2007. So, what was/is the big success of the BALK TOPfestival 2013? First of all, it was the scale of the event. It brought together an amazing array of groups under one roof. This meant that there was at least something for everyone to enjoy. Second of all, people were being inspired by what they heard and saw in the various competitions. And third of all, there were many youth choirs that participated. Two of the youth groups were chosen to perform on the stage of the 2,200 seat main concert hall at the end of the day, and they just blew the crowd away! (watch the video!


Finally a huge “thank you” should go out to all the participants, for bringing their enthusiasm and creating a wonderful atmosphere. Every choir needs a critical eye every now and then and also needs something to work toward, to have peak moments. Working toward this common goal can really strengthen the bonds within a group.


Amateur choirs and vocal groups are an important part of the Dutch or any other society. To sing together enhances the feeling of interconnection and brotherhood. BALK brings  these groups together at regional and national festivals, enabling them to learn from each other, to meet and to greet and to bring (light) choir music to the next level.


BALK is already planning the next TOPfestival, which will probably take place in November 2015.


Video with highlights of the festival:

Youth groups performing Cup Song:

Article Category: 
Appears on Home Slide: 
Rate this Article: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)