On the 10th of October 1934, Leo Mens founded the Leids Studenten Zangkoor (LSZ; Leiden Student Singing Choir). On the 26th of May 1936, at a concert, this choir and an ad hoc chamber orchestra started their collaboration. The latter consisted of members of the Liberal Christian Students’ Union and was led by conductor Hans Brandts Buys. A few months later, on the 15th of November 1936, the Leids Studenten Kamerorkest (Leiden Student Chamber Orchestra) “Collegium Musicum” was founded. It is therefore this year that Collegium Musicum considers to be its founding year. Brandts Buys proceeded to take on the role of Collegium Musicum’s first conductor. Even though he also started conducting the LSZ in 1939, the choir and orchestra officially remained two separate societies for a long time.
Because the older “Sempre Crescendo” considered Leiden too small for two music associations, the board of Collegium Musicum was required to always have a representative from Sempre in their midst. The members of CM did not let this discourage them however and continued to make music in their usual sociable manner; the “after parties” following a successful concert were infamous and often lasted all night long!
When the Second World War struck the Netherlands, it seemed to have little impact for CM at first. However, in 1941, student associations were banned throughout the country. At first, CM members would still meet in secret despite the new restrictions. On the day of Pentecost in 1941 there was a rehearsal weekend near the Loosdrecht lakes which took place in the mill of Arie Bijl, a man who would unfortunately not survive the war. While the mayor guaranteed that the members of CM would not be disturbed, the members of CM and LSZ proceeded to further circumvent the ban. In 1942, the Remonstrant Church on Hooglandse Kerkgracht had suddenly obtained a church choir and an orchestra. Not quite coincidentally, many members of CM and LSZ were found playing in it and the conductor was none other than Hans Brandts Buys. It was also somewhat remarkable that they rehearsed after the church service instead of before like most church choirs. The occupying forces soon noticed this, and the Remonstrant music-making was soon over and the societies soon seemed to die a quiet death. However, less than a week after the liberation, it turned out that the CM-flame was still burning in many hearts. Erik Noah was an important driving force behind the resurrection of CM at this time as Brandts Buys, who had previously performed his Bevrijdingscantate (liberation cantata) for Wilhelmina (the Queen of the Netherlands at the time), left in the autumn of 1945. His departure caused great unrest in both associations but the cooperation between choir and orchestra remained strong, and the associations grew closer still. In 1954, the boards for the choir and the orchestra were finally merged. In 1964, the Leids Studenten Zangkoor and Collegium Musicum officially merged to become the ‘Leids Studenten Koor en Orkest Collegium Musicum’. As the board got busier, more and more committees were set up to guarantee, not only the musical elements, but also the social elements of the association. In the 1970s, a distinction was made between board committees, which are accountable to the board, and association committees, which are accountable to the ALV (general members assembly). The most important association committee is the Buicie (Abroad Committee), which organises the tours. CM went on tour for the first time in 1976, to Bavaria. In those days it was customary not to go on tour until sufficient funds had been raised, however nowadays tour takes place every two years.
One year prior, in 1975, conductor André Kaart had founded the chamber choir and, in the early 1980s, CM moved to our current rehearsal rooms in the Lipsius building, and the choir and orchestra each got their own conductor. This way, the quality could continue to improve and the association would proceed to grow and prosper. In 1993, Gilles Michels was appointed as the conductor of the choir and is, to this day, the longest serving conductor for CM. In 2019, after 25 years of service, he eventually retired and was succeeded by Gerrit Maas. From 2004 to 2014, Quentin Clare conducted the orchestra and was succeeded by Jeppe Moulijn who still conducts the orchestra to this day. Thanks to their thorough dedication, the quality of music-making within CM has managed to remain high throughout the years.
In recent times, automation and digitalisation have been eased the burdens resting on the board. Among other things, communication has become significantly easier. With emails, a forum, and later the Facebook discussions, everyone could stay well informed about the ins and outs of CM. While much has changed during CM’s existence, music and fun still remain a core aspect of the association just like it did over 80 years ago.