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Obituary for Ruthild Sondermann

We mourn the loss of Ruthild,
the „soul“ of our office


On May 5th 2014, our former staff member Ruthild Sondermann passed away almost 2 years after having been diagnosed with cancer. Ruthild worked for Europa Cantat and later the European Choral Association – Europa Cantat from July 2000 until July 2012 when she fell ill just before leaving for the EUROPA CANTAT festival in Torino, and she was officially a staff member until the beginning of 2014.


Born as 9th out of 12th children into the family of a Protestant priest, Ruthild grew up in a big family which was almost a choir in itself. She was born in “Main-Franken”, in Northern  Bavaria, and her family moved to Bonn in 1962. After having lost her father when she was just 11 years old, Ruthild spent a part of her youth in a boarding school in Bavaria, coming back to Königswinter near Bonn for the last three years of school.


After taking her A-levels, Ruthild first spent a year abroad in England and Scotland, working at schools for children with special needs. Back in Germany, she first became a secretary and, having a great interest in politics, she worked for the social democratic party in which she had already been engaged for some years, as well as for an association for magazine editors for some years. She then decided to study to become a teacher in special schools for children with disabilities, and during her studies her son Lukas was born. She later worked in different schools for four years and then decided to change back to being a secretary, working for different companies and institutions, including the German “Youth-for-Europe” office in Bonn until she applied for the position as office manager of Europa Cantat when the office moved from Marktoberdorf to Bonn in the year 2000.


Family tradition has it that the brothers and sisters will sing together whenever there is a family gathering, and singing and choral music is an important factor in the life of several family members. Ruthild thus already knew Europa Cantat through some of her brothers and sisters before she applied for the position and she was thrilled when she was accepted. She studied some French before officially starting on July 1st, immediately before the EUROPA CANTAT festival in Nevers, and was thus “thrown into cold water” at the beginning of her Europa Cantat career.


Ruthild quickly got deep into the world of choral singing in Europe, investing a lot of time and energy to do a great job and help whenever possible. She was the 'soul' of our office, dealing with all the people who wanted and needed something from us, introducing students and volunteers to their work, and connecting Sonja, who was new to Bonn, to a lot of people and businesses in the region. She was also the main contact for our members and always enjoyed the opportunity to meet them 'in person' at the General Assemblies or the festivals.  Even though work could become very stressful sometimes and she got to a point where she was not sure she could continue, she said that the work with Europa Cantat was her “dream job” and she was very happy to have been accepted. Also during the months of her illness she felt a strong support and kindness from the European choral work, well beyond normal “work relationships”, and this was of great value to her.


Ruthild loved to work with people, and she had a big heart. She was also a little “different”, finding her own ways and beliefs and her own style. She questioned traditions and rules and could be passionate about political and human issues. She was a loyal friend, sister and colleague, always there if others were in trouble. During her illness she showed a remarkable strength and openness that impressed all those who met her during these difficult times.


The best way to round of the picture of Ruthild’s character and her role in our association is to let all those speak who worked with her and shared their memories with us:

Gábor Móczar, President of ECA-EC: She was such a good friend, ideal colleague and positive support to us all, we will greatly miss her, we lost a real family member... It was so wonderful that she could come to see us at the last Board meeting in Bonn, and I'm so grateful for the wonderful time we had with her.



Jeroen Schrijner, former President:  Die Mischung aus Ruhe und Energie, aus „eigenem Weg“ und Engagement, „Leid und Glück“ machte Ruthild für mich zu einer ganz liebenswürdigen, besonderen und faszinierenden Persönlichkeit. Möge Ruthild am 5. Mai von ihrem sterblichem Leben befreit und erlöst worden sein.


Noël Minet, former President : Quelle période triste pour Europa Cantat ! Après Dolf Rabus et Monique Lesenne, voilà encore une personnalité qui nous quitte. Ruthild était une personne discrète, mais efficace, compétente, souriante et pleine d' humour. Sonja a eu la chance de trouver en elle une collaboratrice exceptionnelle. Nous savions que sa maladie était grave, mais nous gardions espoir pour une évolution favorable de son état de santé. La vie en a décidé autrement mais nous gardons d'elle un souvenir toujours vivant. Qu'elle repose en paix


Christopher Simmons, former President: Ruthild was a gentle soul who had a very good and kind heart. She was never negative in her dealings with people and seemed to bring out the very best in all of us who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing her.  We have lost a dear friend and colleague who will be forever in our hearts and sadly missed by us all.


Sante Fornasier, former President, President of Feniarco: Ruthild è stata una fedele e convinta collaboratrice di ECA.EC e a Lei dobbiamo una sincera gratitudine. La ricordo con grande affetto e amicizia così pure tutta la presidenza e lo staff di Feniarco che si unisce a questo sentimento e ricordo. E così un’altra importante figura se ne va; resta il suo esempio, la sua passione e la sua dedizione; che sia guida e stimolo per tutti noi a ben operare per la musica e anche per la qualità e le cose importanti della vita.


Koenraad de Meulder, Treasurer of ECA-EC: I keep some fine and warm memories to that wonderful person who was so engaged in world of singing


Séverine Delforge, Board member: We will always remember the kindness of Ruthild, her smile, and her competence. I feel sad today, it's true that we are like a family. Peace to her, and courage to all the people who loved her.


Kaie Tanner, Board member: I came to Europa Cantat for first time in 2000, same year as Ruthild, and I always remember her as a positive, helpful and joyful colleague. Her illness was a real shock, but I really admired the way she managed with that. And I am really glad that we met last time in Bonn - I will always remember Ruthild's smiling face.


Sonja Greiner, Secretary General: Ruthild introduced me to her friends and family and to the traditions of this region and helped me feel at home here. We had many interests in common and shared a number of wonderful moments together, including a last trip to London she wanted to make at the beginning of 2014. She was much more than a colleague, she became a very good friend whom I will greatly miss.

Jean Smeets, former Board member:  For Europa Cantat, Ruthild was much more than an employee,  she was a warm person with her heart on the right place for everyone.


Kjetil Aamann, former Board member: I have so many good memories of Ruthild, her laughter, her direct and intimate communication with others is something that everyone who knew her will always remember. We were lucky to know her. Ruthild’s loving friendship is a gift that we received. Such gifts are gems in life


Montserrat Gual, former Board member: Ella había sido como el 'alma mater' de la oficina durante todo mi tiempo en Europa Cantat y me es difícil pensar en las reuniones, conferencias y asambleas sin verla a ella teniendo completo control de la información a entregar, gastos, etc. escribiendo a mano las actas de una manera minuciosa y al mismo tiempo haber podido compartir su alegría de persona que sabe disfrutar de los momentos agradables y divertidos  y sus confidencias.


Katrijn Kujpers, colleage from EUROPA CANTAT Utrecht: most of all I remember her nice smile and her humor. I always loved to see her.


Marie-France Bouvy, A Coeur Joie Belgique: Je garde d’elle un regard souriant, une personne attentionnée, attachante, soucieuse du bien-être de chacun, le tout dans la discrétion.


Jacques Vanherle, Polyfollia: She was a marvelous woman as well as the living and warming 'fire' of Europa Cantat's home. Her smile, her kindness, her quiet efficiency will stay forever in our memories


You will  find an online condolence page >> here, where you can read more about Ruthild and also leave your personal message  (Please read the "Instructions" on the page). On this condolence page you will also find pictures and music reminding us of Ruthild, as well as the text read at the funeral service and the speech by Jeroen Schrijner, former President of Europa Cantat (only in German).