About The Women’s Choral Society of the University of Oslo (KSS)
Kvindelige Studenters Sangforening (KSS) – The Women’s Choral Society of the University of Oslo – was founded in 1895 and is the official female choir of the University of Oslo. Despite the advanced age, KSS is a young choir consisting of approximately 45 singers. As the world’s oldest academic female choir, KSS has played an important part in relation to the University and the women’s cause. Furthermore, KSS has been central in the lives of hundreds of choir-sisters who have been a part of and participated in this great musical community throughout the years.
During recent years, KSS has participated in many competitions, both domestic and abroad.
The Women´s Choral Society of the University of Oslo (KSS) is is more than 120 years old, and the choir has a long and rich history. As the World´s oldest academic female choir, KSS has played an important role, both for the university and for the women´s movement, while at the same time claiming its place in musical history, with its musical achievements and first performances of musical pieces. In addition, KSS has played an important role in the lives of hundreds of female singers, who have participated in this musical community throughout the years.
It all started on a fall day in 1895. The Norwegian Student Choral Society (DnS) was celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the three medical students Elise Holmboe, Kristine Munch and Louise Isachsen attended the anniversary concert. They were excited by the music they heard, and decided to found their own choral society, for female students. Choral singing was an important part of the academic life, and now that women finally had access to the university, it was about time that they had their own choral society as well. This led to the foundation of the Women´s Choral Society of the University of Oslo (KSS) on December 8th, only 13 years after the university had opened its gates to women.
However, it turned out to be a challenge to keep the choir alive. After all, the number of female students wasn´t particularly high at the time, and there was a precarious lack of repertoire for female choirs. But at the celebration of the University´s 100 year anniversary in 1911, 107 female students, dressed in white, stood on the stage at the National Theatre at the performance of the university cantata “the Light”. The Women´s Choral Society of the University of Oslo showed that it was here to stay, and set itself high goals for the future. The high ambitions demanded a great deal of commitment and work from the choir´s members, especially from the members of the choir board. One of the great driving forces for many years was Kristine Bonnevie, the first female professor of Norway.
A lot of the activities and events that the choir participated in during the first decades have become traditions that are still being maintained. KSS has its natural place when special events and big celebrations take place at the University, The choir was also present on occations where women were remembered and honoured, such as at the unveiling of the Camilla Collett monument in 1911. Now KSS sings by this statue in the Royal park, to honour Camilla Collett, every year on the National Day of Norway on the 17th of May. In addition, the choir has its own concerts and has participated in choir competitions and conventions, both in Norway and abroad. This has continued until today, and the later years KSS has asserted itself in several International choir competitions.
The greatest tour experience the choir has had was supposedly the America tour in 1948. On the 9th of March 70 hopeful singers travelled across the sea on a tour that lasted for as long as 3 months. It hadn´t been difficult to recruit singers to sign up for the tour and put everything else aside. Close to 100 singers had signed up, so only the best singers were allowed to go, and the lucky ones who were selected would probably not regret the journey. After one of the concerts they could read the following in a review: “It is the best choral singing we have heard, and we don`t expect to hear anything better, this side of heaven."
Even if this kind of praise isn´t something the choir hears daily, it has been honoured with several honours and awards through the years. The joy of creating music, and to share musical experiences with others, has been the driving force. The music has at all times been at the centre, while new singers have come and gone. But for many of them KSS became an important part of their lives, not just during the time they were active singers, but also in the time afterwards. Lasting friendships have been formed, both for members who were only members for a short while, and for members who were members for decades.
At the 100 year anniversary concert of KSS in 1995 several singers on stage had been members of the choir for a lifetime. They had spent countless hours in the choir practicing, singing, volunteering and partying. What would happen when these women would retire from the choir? How would they manage to recruit new students, when there were so many competing student activities that they could chose from? It was eventually clear that there was no reason to worry; KSS today is an old and proud choir with long traditions, while at the same time being young and eager, looking ahead to new challenges and aspirations.