On October 10, 1934, Leo Mens founded the Leiden Student Choir / Leids Studenten Zangkoor (LSZ). On May 26, 1936, a concert began between this choir and an occasional chamber orchestra. The latter consisted of members of the Liberal Christian Student Union / Vrijzinnige Christelijke Studentenbond, and was led by conductor Hans Brandts Buys. A few months later, on November 15, 1936, the Leiden Student Chamber Orchestra “Collegium Musicum” was founded. It is therefore this year that Collegium Musicum, short CM, considers as the founding year. Brandts Buys took over as conductor. Although he also led the LSZ in 1939, the choir and orchestra remained officially two associations for a long time. Because the older “Sempre Crescendo” considered Leiden to be too small for two music associations, there was always a representative of Sempre Crescendo on the board of CM. However, CM was not discouraged by this, because they continued to make fun music; the “after-party” after a successful concert was famous and notorious and often lasted all night.
When World War II arrived in the Netherlands, at first nothing seemed wrong, but in 1941 student associations were banned. The CM-members first met secretly. For example, they had a rehearsal weekend near the Loosdrechtse plassen on Pentecost 1941. This happened in the mill of Arie Bijl, a man who would not survive the war. The mayor guaranteed that the CM’s would not be disturbed. The members of CM and LSZ managed to circumvent the ban even further. In 1942, the Remonstrant church on the Hooglandse Kerkgracht suddenly got a church choir and orchestra. Conductor of this was old acquaintance Brandts Buys. Coincidentally, many members of CM and LSZ were involved. It was also curious that they rehearsed after the church service instead of before. The occupier soon noticed that, and it soon happened with the Remonstrant music factory.
The associations seemed to die a silent death, but less than a week after the liberation it turned out that the CM flame was still glowing in many hearts. Erik Noach was an important driving force behind CM’s resurrection at this time. Brandts Buys, who had previously performed his “liberation cantata” for Wilhelmina, however, left in the autumn of 1945. His departure caused great unrest in both associations. However, the collaboration of choir and orchestra remained a successful formula, and the associations grew closer. In 1954 there was one board for the choir and orchestra. In 1964, the Leiden Student Choir and Collegium Musicum officially merged into the Leiden Student Choir and Orchestra Collegium Musicum.
Because the board got busier, more and more committees were set up to guarantee the social element of the association in addition to the musical element. In the 1970s, a distinction was made between board committees, which are accountable to the board, and association committees, which are accountable for the General member meeting (ALV). The Buicie (tour committee) and the Lucie (anniversary committee) are part of the association committees. The Buicie organizes the tour. CM first toured to Beieren in Germany in 1976. At this time, it was common to go on tour only when enough money was raised. Nowadays this happens every two years.
One year earlier, in 1975, conductor André Kaart had founded the chamber choir. In the early 1980s, CM moved to the rehearsal rooms in the Lipsius building, a building of the Humanities campus of Leiden University, and the choir and orchestra each had their own conductor. In this way, quality improved, and the association grew and flourished.
In 1993 Gilles Michels became our choir conductor. He stayed until 2019, making him the longest-serving CM conductor. He said goodbye in March 2019, this was also his farewell concert after conducting CM for 25 years. On the occasion of this farewell, Jeppe Moulijn, our orchestra conductor, rewrote Gilles’ favorite song into a work suitable for the major choir and orchestra: September of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Gerrit Maas has taken over the baton and now stands for the choir since 2019. Jeppe Moulijn was the orchestra conductor with CM for a few years in 1993 and from 2015 he is our regular orchestra conductor. Thanks to their thorough efforts, the CM level remains high. In recent times, automation and digitization have been able to relieve the burden on the administration. For example, communication became easier: emails, an increasingly functioning website and Facebook discussions enabled everyone to keep up to date with the ins and outs of CM. Much has changed, but music and conviviality still go hand in hand at CM.