Flemish In The World Celebrates With Chamber Orchestra

Peak Johnson, for GPA -- The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia celebrated its 50th anniversary with a concert at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall (300 S. Broad St.) on May 10.

Guests included music director Dirk Brossé, Minister-President of the Government of Flanders Geert Bourgeois, former Governor Ed Rendell, members of the Flemish community and members of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

Brossé had the honor of conducting the concert.

“This was made possible in cooperation with Flanders House, based in New York,” said Daisy Van den Hooff-Mertens of Flemish in the World. “It is the official satellite of the government, where the general representative of the Flemish government, Geert De Proost, is based.”

Flemish in the World PA is the Pennsylvania chapter of the nonprofit organization headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It receives its funding from the government of Flanders and has representatives all over the world.

“We still have a federal government in Belgium, we are a monarchy but over the years a lot of the responsibility has been given to the regional governments,” Van den Hooff-Mertens said. “We have a Flemish government for Flanders in the north and a Walloon government in the south and so culture, economy, arts and education are all responsibilities awarded to the regional governments.”

According to Van den Hooff-Mertens, there are about 12 Flemish representatives across the United States. This includes representatives in Detroit, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Houston, San Francisco and Denver.

Most of the representatives visited Philadelphia in celebration of the 50th anniversary, which included a meet and greet with Minister-President Bourgeois. Also in attendance was the Flemish Delegation, the Governor of East Flanders, the Secretary General for Foreign Policy and the Chairman of Flemish in the World.

“We celebrated our 50th anniversary and we thought it would be really special if we could have guests from Flanders to witness it,” Van den Hooff-Mertens said. “So they came and it also coincided with another big event. In New York, a stretch of 33rd Street was named ‘Father Damien Way.’ Father Damien was a canonized Flemish priest devoting his life to the people of Molokai, Hawaii suffering from leprosy. He gave them schools, hospitals, community centers but most of all, dignity in their lives.”

Van den Hooff-Mertens and others from Flemish in the World were pleased that they were able to have the Minister-President and the delegation come to the United States. It made sense, she added, for them to come and take advantage of the vicinity between Philadelphia and New York.

“Most of the delegation has never been to Philadelphia,” Van den Hooff-Mertens said. “Growing up in Belgium, you don’t really get American history. It’s almost overlooked. However, the history is so intriguing, so unique that I wanted to share this with them.”

In addition to the concert, Van den Hooff-Mertens gave the delegation a historic tour of Philadelphia but added that the most prominent moment was being able to see Maestro Dirk Brossé conduct the Chamber Orchestra.

“It was a very proud moment for the Flemish community,” Van den Hooff-Mertens said. “There is a good amount of Flemish people here in Pennsylvania. We need more input into how many of our Flemish people are here in academic, cultural and business positions. It would be nice to be more of a coherent group. That’s what Flemish in the World is trying to accomplish. The whole idea is that you want to accentuate and just incorporate your profile within this huge international Philadelphia community and participate.” 

Image courtesy of Beernem.be.