Catharina van Rennes (1858-1940)

Catharina van Rennes, born in Utrecht, was trained as a singer at the Utrecht music school, continuing her studies with Johannes Messchaert. Having graduated in piano and singing in 1883 and 1884, she joined Daniël de Lange’s Amsterdam A Cappella Choir. She also appeared as a soloist in oratorios and vocal recitals.

More outstanding however was her career in musical education. In 1887 she founded the singing school Bel Canto in Utrecht. Its success caused her to expand to Hilversum and Amsterdam. After she had followed a course at the Émile Jaques-Dalcroze institute in Geneva in 1907, eurhythmics became part of her educational plan.

On the occasion of the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina in 1898 she conducted a mass performance by 1800 children and a military band of her Oranje-Nassau-Cantata. The same work, with a different text, was performed on the occasion of the Third Congress of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (1908). On several other occasions Van Rennes has conducted her own works in the Concertgebouw.

Van Rennes wrote more than 150 songs and duets for children, as well as recitations with piano accompaniment. For modern taste they seem outmoded, but at the time they were highly appreciated for their lively and fresh character. Besides she wrote about fifty songs in the German-Romantic idiom. The Kleengedichtjes on texts by the Flemish priest-poet Guido Gezelle were reprinted many times.

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