The Netherlands Radio Choir is one of the best known large permanent professional choral organizations in the world, known for having command of virtually any choral style of any era in musical history. Its existence arises from the unusual organization and history of Dutch radio broadcastings.
The Netherlands has one of the longest records of radio broadcasting on a worldwide scale. For its internal radio broadcasting the country steered a middle course between the American system of a myriad local commercial stations (some organized into networks) and the European tendency to establish a single government-funded broadcasting organization. Instead, programming was placed into a number of independent radio organizations who share broadcasting facilities, including musical staff.
Holland was the first European country to initiate regularly scheduled short-wave radio broadcasting of news and entertainment programs. This was not a government program, but an initiative of the large electronics firm Philips, whose initial interest was to stimulate a world market for its radio receiving sets. The first broadcasts, in 1927, were to the Netherlands' East Indies, the country's primary overseas possession (now the nation of Indonesia). Although Indonesia has been independent for over half a century, Radio Netherland's broadcasts remain popular in Indonesia as the main independent source of news in that country of many languages spread over thousands of islands.
In 1928, Philips started a second foreign language service, PCJJ, making an international personality of announcer Edward Startz, who established the channel's image as the "Happy Station," and said the call sign stood for "Peace, Cheer, and Joy."
PCJJ's transmitters were captured undamaged by the Nazi troops when they invaded Holland in May 1940. They made the powerful transmitters into their primary voice beamed to Asia, under the control of Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels. Countering it was the Dutch exile government in London, using the BBC's facilities, which initiated "Radio Oranje" to bring truthful news to the Dutch populace. This war of truth versus propaganda instilled in the Dutch a strong appreciation for broadcasting that is factually and politically impartial and accurate. Henk van den Broek, head of Radio Oranje, was asked to create a new multi-language radio service. The result was the Radio Netherlands Foundation, which began broadcasting on April 15, 1947.
Music for Netherlands radio operations is provided by the MCO (Musikcentrum von de Omroep), which means Broadcasting Music Center. Among the several musical ensembles it maintains is the Netherlands Radio Choir.
The Choir is a very busy fully professional choir of seventy-nine permanent members. This makes it one of the largest professional choirs in the world. It therefore affords steady work that attracts some of the finest choral singers in the world, who work in the MCO Building in Hilversum. Ninety percent of their work is for concerts for the various broadcasting organizations, including Radio Netherlands. Most of this work is live; there is very little broadcasting of studio recordings.
Netherlands Radio Choir often sings with the various radio orchestras (Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Radio Chamber Orchestra) and ensembles (Netherlands Radio Boys Choir, Metropole Orchestra) also maintained by the MCO and is frequently invited to perform with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. It rarely tours abroad, due to its heavy schedule of work at the Hilversum studios. It has a unique reputation for being able to sing virtually anything written for large choral forces.