The Guli Guli Church

On Saturday I took a trip to Haarlem with Tobias and Claudia, my Noordwijk dorm friends.

What a gorgeous place. It’s like stepping back in time! I said in wonder, as we walked past canals and through the old streets lined with thatched cottages and majestic churches. We found ourselves inside the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen, where the lady at the entrance told us that we were welcome to come back for a special service with the choir later on.

I’ve never experienced a church service quite like it. A large part of this is probably due to the fact that it was in Dutch and therefore made no sense whatsoever to me. But it was so much fun! We found ourselves laughing along with the rest of the congregation, not understanding the jokes but genuinely appreciating the humorous tone and warm expressions.

The church was absolutely enormous, so the sound of the four part choral harmony was a treat for the ears as the voices soared and mingled to fill every inch of the building. Abba, Vader was particularly moving. I closed my eyes and let the voices wash over me in the familiar tune; opening them again, I realised that my companions were doing the same thing. The serious pieces were followed by a bouncy rendition of Jacob’s Ladder (in English, so we could sing along with less confusion than during the opening hymn – although I must say that the three of us gave that a fairly admirable attempt, too!), towards the end of which a few choir members started spontaneously clapping. Before long, everyone was doing the same. There was swaying and dancing, smiling and clapping. You couldn’t help but smile and clap along.

The pièce de résistance, however, was the rather bizarre finale:

I have no idea why. Even more amusing was the fact that it was kind of like “rounds”, with the choir breaking into A Ram Sam Sam* as the rest of us sang Pease Pudding. It did not fit at all with the rest of the songs, and yet it blended perfectly into the fun-filled atmosphere. We loved it!

Leaving the church, Claudia and I happily hummed Jacob’s Ladder. An elderly bearded man in a suit was walking behind us, and he interrupted us when we got out on to the street. Excuse me, he asked politely and seriously, you did see the choir? We nodded. And, he continued in earnest tones, may I ask did you like?

Oh, yes, we chorused happily, it was fantastic!

The old man smiled in delight. Then I am happy! he said proudly. He gave us a gracious little bow, and walked away looking pleased, singing softly to himself.

* I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I hear “A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam, guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam” my brain automatically launches into an immediate “McDonald’s, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Pizza Hut!”. Which only made things even stranger, really…


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