Between September 27 and October 10 the German Canadian Male Chorus of Calgary, under the direction of Susan Woodward, toured southern England to mark Canada’s 150 Anniversary and to participate in the Brighton Male Choir Festival.
Accompanied by Jeannie Park (piano), Liz Tremblay (cello) Diane Valentine (violin), the first stop of the trip was Bournemouth where the choir performed a joint program with the Bournemouth Male Voice Choir, directed by Mark Burstow. The seashore town’s charm, the warm reception from our friends-in-song there and the good acoustics in St. Ambrose Church helped boost our confidence with our performance.
The trip was organized by our in-house Travel Committee under the leadership of Kyle Maschmeyer. Those who have been participating in travelling arts groups know what it takes to search for and arrange hotels, coach hires, navigate driver availability regulations, itineraries, airlines, - not to mention co-opting some member’s individual travel arrangements to ensure, that comes call time, the full slate of well conditioned voices are available at the director’s disposal.
Travelling with instruments poses logistical challenges. Airlines’ luggage policies allow guitars onboard only if they fit in to the overhead compartment, and a cello for example only as a special “passenger” with its dedicated seat. Our Tour Marshall Doug Broszat’s task was to herd us all to where we were supposed to be; Doug could at least be sure that our special “passenger” would never wander away on its own or loose track of time at a sightseeing or highway stop.
Our next stop was Shrewsbury. The joint concert with the Shrewsbury Police Male Voice Choir, directed by Jim Edmunds, was a resounding success. The Shrewsbury Baptist Church was filled to capacity with an atmosphere welcoming us visiting Canadians as long lost relatives. Like us, the Shrewsbury Police Male Voice Choir is also multilingual. Cultural revival of the Welsh language amongst locals is discernible, in school curriculums, bilingual signs and also in everyday conduct. Echoes of our multilingual home country did not end here: during our after-concert discussion with a local dignitary we could easily relate to his remarks about the pressures from their local pro-football team for funding – strangely coinciding with the council’s election cycle. For the next day our hosts organized a walking tour of the town. Shrewsbury, the birthplace of Charles Darwin, is a town of significance from about 800 AD and a gem for those interested in history.
Warwick Castle, Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge – our cultural journey on the way could fill volumes on its own; but our minds and onboard vocal practices on the coach were focused on our upcoming joint concert at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Rottingdean with the St Stythian’s Male Voice Choir, directed by Ken Downing, and our friends from Bournemouth. Here, we had the first chance to say thank you to Dr. Roy Wales, Brian Kendall and Tommy Ryan who were instrumental in organizing the next day’s competition in Brighton.
The large number of participating choirs at the competition in St. George's Church in Brighton came to many as a surprise until we learned about the wealth of choral traditions there. For example, in the county of Shropshire (where we were), where inhabitants number 300,000 there are 50 plus choirs. Many choirs there rehearse twice weekly and perform 20-25 concerts per year. We felt proud with our competition performance, coming within 4 points of the first place choir. The three jurors evaluated the choirs based on their phrasing, blend, vowels, dynamics and pitch – all those things choir directors tend to lose sleep over - sometimes.
The last performance of the tour was again a joyous event with the Chelmsford Male Voice Choir, directed by Eddie Carden, in Trinity Methodist Church. With the memories of the loud cheers, applause and the afterglow in the company of his Worship Major Lumley we were all relieved that a nasty flu bug could only catch up with our group after the last curtain fell on our mission to present our Albertan cultural diversity in the year of Canada 150.