The plan: sit down in the party tent like a true ‘fly on the wall’, conduct a few interviews, ‘grill’ the organization and after an hour or so return home with a filled notebook. It turned out to be something else. At the outset it is immediately clear that there is nothing else to do this evening than to participate. Drinks and singing, and for the rest: shut your mouth and stay put. Even a visit to the toilet requires permission from the cantus board, who lead the evening.
Corona and codex
The corona, or the participants, take place at long beer tables. In front of them is the codex, the songbook with the repertoire of the evening, ranging from YMCA to I Want It That Way by the Backstreet Boys. A hard blow. "Silentium!" Attention for the board. After a short explanation about the rules of a cantus, the singing starts. Song one, how could it be otherwise: the Io Vivat. It won't get any more student-like. The singing swells. ‘Io Vivat! Io Vivat! Nostradamus sanitas!’ Or was it: Nostrorum sanitas? Anyway, it has begun.
An Indian, a Kenyan and an Achterhoeker: the table companions for tonight. By the way, also a German, an Italian and a Romanian student. They all sing at the top of their lungs. For the Kenyan Benjamin Wambua it is a totally new experience, a cantus like this. With a big grin he undergoes the student rituals. ‘Sure, we also sing and drink in Kenya, but this is of a higher level. The great thing is that in addition to socializing, I also learn some new Dutch words.’
Although the repertoire consists mainly of English-language songs, a Dutch classic occasionally comes by. ‘Het Wilhelmus’ or ‘Wat zullen we drinken?’ (What shall we drink?) The answer is not difficult: beer, preferably in one go. Yet, it is nowhere close to binge drinking. For non-drinkers there are soft drinks and the pace at which the beers are consumed is most likely lower than the average home evening in an average student house.
‘It's all about socializing, getting to know each other and the Dutch student life’, says Gerben Wolf, chairman of the Kick-In committee. ‘We are completely sold out with 530 participants. That surprised all of us. It is the second Master Cantus that is organized by the Kick-In. Last winter was the first edition. Two hundred Master's students participated back then.’
There is also a cantus during the Kick-In bachelor, says Wolf. ‘It is traditionally in the hands of moresgenootschap Ius Sanctus and the evening is in Dutch, because joking around is a little more central to their event. Tonight's company is very diverse. I think that at least two-thirds is international. That is why, apart from some Dutch songs, it is entirely in English.’
‘Jedes Volk auf dieser Erde, Wird des Nachbarn guter Freund’, sounds in the tent. Although not English, still international. It is the European anthem, to the melody of Ode an die Freude, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. A song that calls on mankind to become a brotherhood and can be felt for a while at the long beer tables. Anyway, we should not be sentimental. We have to drink. Ad fundum (to the bottom) and on command (preferably within seven seconds).
Members of E.T.S.V. Scintilla, the study association of electrical engineering, give the commands and monitor the cantus mores. The musical frame is in the hands of Luuk Oudshoorn, the procantor, which simply means a singer. ‘You heard me all night. I think I know more than half of the songs by heart. Scintilla regularly organizes a cantus. We were even the first in Enschede. We usually have more Dutch songs in the repertoire, but for the Master Kick-In the codex has been adjusted a bit, with more English songs, so that everyone can sing along.’
Various punishments are also included, such as a trick on the podium. Drinking beer from a sock, or upside down. ‘But we are not tyrants. We try to lead the evening. A good cantus evening consists of singing, drinking and discussion. Although a discussion with five hundred people is somewhat more difficult. That is why singing is central tonight. The participants are pretty enthusiastic tonight. For example with ‘We Will Rock You’ from Queen. The stamping on the rhythm of the song also sounded very cool on the wooden floor of the tent.’
When the evening comes to an end, it is time for the Dutch national anthem called the Wilhelmus, the traditional ending of a successful cantus. A final ‘adtje’ and the evening is over. Let’s go to the Vestingbar.