When and why did your parents move to Australia?
My parents arrived separately in Australia after the WO II, in their early twenties. I have always been interested in their story, I don’t think it was easy for them migrating to a new country, they didn’t speak the language and had to find jobs, housing and really build their lives.
What does Dutch identity and culture mean to you?
We never spoke much Dutch in my family, I learned it when I was older and my brother doesn’t speak it. My parents mostly speak English to each other. That is very different these days; I communicate a lot in Dutch with my partner and our children.
I lived in Leiden, the Netherlands, for nine months when I was in university. I did Nederlandskunde, a course for non-Dutch speaking future Dutch teachers. I was really interested in learning the language and the country of my parents. My parents would tell stories about the Netherlands and their childhood and we had a lot of pictures on the wall in our living room in Melbourne, but I had no real experiences of it myself. It felt a bit like I my parents came from a fantasy world. We still have a lot of family there, I spent a lot of time with them when I was there. It was a special feeling; we share the same family roots and I felt I was part of their family, but we didn’t know each other.
When I was in the Netherlands, I went to all kinds of student meetings and clubs. I still remember that I couldn’t become a member of Minerva, one of the clubs, because I wasn’t Dutch. I thought it was ridiculous! I feel Dutch and I felt so at home there, but they still excluded me.
Can you tell us a bit about Zing!?
My dad sang in church choirs, he sang beautifully. I always had the dream I could sing like him and perform in the big Christmas performances. I only started singing when I saw my partner in a choir and did a concert with them that had a theatre role. I have a lot of experience in theatre.
Four years ago, our conductor Jeanny and her friend Annemarije had the vision to set up a Dutch community choir. They contacted us to think about the kind of songs we could sing and what a Dutch community choir should be about. At that time, it was just the choir, no music instruments. Not much later, my son took guitar lessons and I bought a guitar myself at the Aldi and have played and practiced a lot ever since.
Zing! could be divided in subgroups but what brings us together is the interest in Dutch culture and the passion for singing. There are children with Dutch heritage like me, other members have recently migrated and others have Dutch partners and want to learn more about it. For all these subgroups, Zing! serves a different purpose.
When we perform, all background differences disappear and we form a coherent Dutch choir.
Since the 1980s I have been listening to the Dutch radio in Melbourne. My mother played Kleine Café, so I know that one by heart. Most songs we sing at Zing! are new to me, I like learning the new songs. There is no taboo anymore around singing in Dutch, for a long time, people in the Netherlands were ashamed for the Dutch language. Now it has become popular!