Kortrijk’s mixed voice choir

Altra Voce can justifiably lay claim to the title of Kortrijk’s top Oratorio choir. Developed out of the Kortrijk Mixed-Voice Choir, founded by conductor and composer, Herman Roelstraete, Altra Voce has a long tradition of performing oratorios.

Altra Voce is all about the history of music. From Baroque oratorios featuring established productions such as Bach’s St John’s Passion, to contemporary works, dwelling on every style period in between. The choir also regularly creates new oratorios: in 1997, Rwanda by Geert Van der Straeten and in 2001, 7 Centuries of Flanders by Kurt Bikkembergs. To mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the choir’s management board has commissioned Maarten Van Ingelgem to create a work based on The Great War for 2014.

The choir


The Kortrijk-based oratorio choir Altra Voce was founded in December 1969 to succeed ‘Singhet ende Weset Vro’. Composer Herman Roelstraete was its first choirmaster. After him, the baton was passed in succession to Rudi Tas and Paul Dinneweth. Sabine Haenebalcke was appointed resident choirmaster in 1998.

A wealth of classical works have been performed under her leadership, including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the Song of Destiny and Gypsy Songs by Brahms, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, the Magnificat by Willcocks, requiems by Lloyd-Webber, Fauré and Mozart, Bach’s St John’s Passion and Christmas Oratorio, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, the Saint Nicolas Cantata by Britten, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Handel’s Messiah, A Child of Our Time by Tippett and Brahms’s German Requiem.

Our own Flemish composers have not been forgotten, either. Works performed by Altra Voce include: Rubenscantate by Peter Benoit, Cantique du Port by August Baeyens, the psalms of Jules Van Nuffel, the oratorio Edel Vlaminghen thoont uwen Aert (commissioned by the choir and composed by Kurt Bikkembergs to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of the Spurs),
This year, the choir was the guest of honour at the opening of the annual Sinksenfeesten in Kortrijk. A huge audience crammed into the Grote Markt to enjoy a performance of Carl Orff’s masterpiece Carmina Burana in the original version for percussion, two pianos and choreography.

Altra Voce sets itself the goal of being an amateur choir that performs choral music at the highest artistic level and to a professional standard. To this end, the choir regularly performs great oratorios and other choral works by famous and less well-known composers, including the production of Flemish choral music.

Altra Voce also performs by request at weddings, funerals and other occasions.

The conductor

Sabine HaenebalckeOur choirmaster completed her piano studies at the age of 19, graduating from the Royal Music Conservatory in Ghent. In her early years as a performing musician, Sabine earned a reputation as an outstanding performer of Chopin and she was also a much-appreciated member of various chamber music ensembles. After a period of time, she embarked on further musical training, first as a choirmaster and later as an orchestral conductor under teachers such as Nicolas Brochot (Paris), Pierre Cao (Luxembourg) and Laszlo Heltay (London).

In 1990, she founded the vocal ensemble, Kalliope, developing it in a short space of time into a much-acclaimed choir. On 6th December 1991, Kalliope won first prize at Le Premier Mondial des Choeurs et Chorales, organised by the French Ministry for Culture.

The urge to conduct spurred Sabine on to greater things. In October 1997, she made her first appearance on the conductor’s podium with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra. On that occasion, she conducted pieces for choir, orchestra and soloists in a programme featuring works by Vic Legley, Karol Szymanowski, Jozef Ryelandt and Francis Poulenc, performed in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp and the Bijloke Concert Hall in Ghent.

Sabine Haenebalcke is a founding member of “Femmes Maestros – Organisation Mondiale – World Organisation”, created to promote lady conductors, under the aegis of Sir Simon Rattle.

Since 1998, Sabine has been the resident choirmaster of the Kortrijk-based oratorio choir, Altra Voce. In this position, she has directed the choir, orchestra and soloists in performing many of the world’s greatest works.

She has worked as guest conductor with ensembles such as the Flemish Radio Choir.

Sabine is called on regularly to sit as a judge on national and international choral competitions. Her expertise as a choir coach is also much valued.


Altra Voce postal address:
Garenwinderstraat 15, 8511 Aalbeke

If you would like to come and sing with us (every Thursday evening from 8.00 to 10.00 pm at Muziekcentrum Track, Conservatoriumplein 1, Kortrijk), if you would like to book the choir for a celebration, or if you would like to organise a concert, please e-mail or call +32 56 77 96 81