Mokum Symphony, a heartfelt orchestra
Mokum Symphony is a new, Amsterdam-based collective of both upcoming musicians and established professionals, among them members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The initiator and artistic director is Joan Berkhemer. Supported by an experienced board of volunteers, they form the core team that keeps Mokum Symphony’s alive. We regularly organise Chamber music concerts, masterclasses and lectures. Mokum Symphony premiered in 2016 with its series ‘Beethoven Revisited,’ and has several projects on the agenda.

‘Mokum’ is the yiddish word for ‘place’ or ‘city’. It 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 inspired by the playing styles like they were captured on the  legendary first recordings of the beginning of the last century. Our aim is not to go back in time, but to enrich today’s music making with valuable aspects, practices and traditions that have almost been lost. We regularly work 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.

Would you like to contribute?
Mokum Symphony was founded in 2015. Soon enough the project enthused lovers of music from all over the world. 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. Dozens of musicians and musicologists have joined since then.

Our 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 and thank all our donors, including the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK), who made this possible.

Currently, we are working towards a reconstruction of Mengelberg’s rendition of St. Matthew’s Passion, with over 400 musicians.  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.


Diederik Boomsma
Mail: or
Telephone: +31 (0)6 38198117
Foundation: Mokum Symphony KvK 65405161
Account number: NL18INGB0007187202
RISN: 8560.99.296

© Mokum Symphony