Mokum Symphony, a heartfelt orchestra
Mokum Symphony is a new collective based in Amsterdam, consisting of upcoming musical talent and established professionals, among them members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The initiator and artistic director is Joan Berkhemer. The organisation is set ‘bottom-up,’ according to modern times: Mokum Symphony musicians combine their musicality with their organisational skills. Supported by an experienced board of volunteers, they form the core team that keeps Mokum Symphony’s engine running. Chamber music concerts, masterclasses and lectures are being held regularly. Mokum Symphony premiered this year with its series ‘Beethoven Revisited’ and has several projects on the agenda.

The name ‘Mokum’ (a word for ‘place’ or ‘city’ in Yiddish) is a term of endearment for those who feel connected to the city of Amsterdam, its stories and traditions. The orchestra offers a home to many musicians of all nationalities, just like Amsterdam has long since done for its inhabitants. Mokum Symphony is taking notes from history and is inspired by playing styles like they were captured on legendary first recordings of the beginning of the last century. Not to merely go back in time, but to enrich today’s music making with valuable aspects that have been lost. Therefore the collective works together with musicologists, who research this romantic playing style and the historical context in which it thrived.

‘We are wrestling ourselves free from 40 years worth of strict ruling,’ says Berkhemer. ‘Both the musicians and I feel at home with the style, the freedom it allows us to have and the lyricism that ensues.’ Instead of seeing a set tempo as a given fact, rubato (the temporary disregarding of strict tempo) is used as a means of expression. This constant flexibility in timing and a never ceasing melodiousness give free reign to matters of the heart and deliver performances filled with passion.

Joan Berkhemer studied the violin in Amsterdam and in Tel Aviv. He has won prestigious prizes like the Dutch National Violin Competition, the Prix d’Excellence, the Chamber Music Competition Colmar, etc. As a soloist he performed with renowned orchestras like the Concertgebouw Orchestra (NL), the Louisville Symphony Orchestra (US) and the Saarbrucken Radio Symphony (DE). As a chamber musician he toured the world with the ‘Klavier Trio Amsterdam.’ He studied conducting in Paris with Leon Barzin and Jean Fournet. His debut in 1995 conducting the Italian Opera Amsterdam with performances of ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ and ‘I Pagliacci’ was so successful that he received invitations from orchestras from all over the Netherlands and beyond. The last years he has conducted among others the Philharmonia South-Netherlands, the Netherlands Ballet Orchestra, International Music Festival Orchestra Eilat, the North Netherlands Orchestra and Camerata Bern. Since 2011, Berkhemer is musical director of ‘The Night of the Violin’ in the Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and he is the chief conductor of the Opera of the People in Amsterdam. In 2015 he started the Mokum Symphony.

The Mokum Symphony collective, the team, the conductor and then there’s…. you
Would you like to contribute?
In the beginning of 2015 Mokum Symphony was initiated. To start from scratch was a thrilling given. Soon enough the project enthused lovers of music and the donations started pouring in. Through their contributions and our efforts, we were able to further establish Mokum Symphony with meetings and chamber music concerts, develop our vision and make our mission more clear. Our website was launched and now thousands have been able to follow the latest activities and news via our Facebook page. Apart from that we are beyond proud that the collective Mokum Symphony is now a fact. Dozens of musicians and musicologists have joined in 2015. Thanks to them, but of course also to our vision, attractive programming and a targeted team, a loyal audience has already committed itself to Mokum Symphony.

The premiere of Beethoven Revisited was held on the 28th of May 2016 in the Keizersgrachtkerk in Amsterdam. Mokum Symphony’s team worked hard for months to complete this extraordinary project. We look back on it with pride. The crowdfunding campaign with ‘Voordekunst’ (a dutch site used to kickstart new artistic projects) prevailed and we were able to completely finance the project, thanks to all the donators. It was also partly realised by the AFK (an Amsterdam fund for the arts).

After the successful concert on the 28th of May, Mokum Symphony will go on to program more chamber music and in 2018, we are aiming at two concerts of the series Beethoven Revisited. Besides that, we are working towards a reconstruction of Mengelberg’s rendition of St. Matthew’s Passion with over 400 musicians. We are still lacking the financial means to put forth these projects. The support of musicians, audience, volunteers, donators and sponsors is indispensable to us. Would you like to help build our projects and contribute to Mokum Symphony? You can do so in different ways:

1. Meet & Greet Concert: in return for your donation, excellent musicians will perform a chamber music concert in your own home. Artistic director Joan Berkhemer will be presenting the concert, to throw light on this special style of playing. We would be delighted to discuss the possibilities of a tailored program for you.

2. Join as a volunteer: Mokum Symphony is looking for productional support for meetings and concerts. Do you love classical music and do you like working with enthusiastic people? Please join us!

3. Mokum Sponsor: with your company you are able to sponsor us. Does your company have a link with the story of Mokum Symphony? Do you see a possible collaboration?
We would be happy to construct a course of action with you.

Mokum Symphony has an cutural ANBI (Public Benefit Organisation) -status, so that donators can make their donation tax-friendly.

Reward Policy: all board members are unsalaried. The conductor and the musicians are paid a modest compensation for their efforts. Furthermore we work with as many volunteers as possible.

Financial accountability: will be made available before the 1st of July 2017.

Mail: or
Telephone: +31618809692, Katja de Winter, board member
Foundation: Mokum Symphony KvK 65405161
Account number: NL18INGB0007187202
RISN: 8560.99.296

© Mokum Symphony