Saturday in St Julien du Sault was such a wonderful experience that our only fear was that the rest of the tour would be an anticlimax. Not so!
All BFCS tours have something unusual that singers talk about for years. For this tour, it will be the time we sang the Hallelujah Chorus in the square outside Sens Cathedral! This started with one singer, followed by everyone else joining in from all over the square, and coming together in an informal crowd. The sound bounced off the walls of the cathedral, enabling us to hear all the parts and sing with conviction! The customers in the restaurants couldn’t fail to know that our concert was coming!
The Cathedral was huge, so we were fully reconciled to the fact that we would probably only have a small audience. Imagine our amazement when we came out to find it was full! We estimated that there were at least 300 there. The warmth and enthusiasm of the audience inspired us to give our very best performance!
Special memories of the day in Sens:
Two little children starting to dance when we reached the swirly part of Parry’s ‘My soul there is a country’.
A young lady walking the entire length of the church to the front row, as there were no other spare seats.
Kevin Gill’s performance on the huge organ, filling the cathedral with sound.
Sarah-Ann Cromwell’s performance – managing to blend comedy with serious singing (experience gained in the London Quartet, no doubt! )
The man in the front seat who lept to his feet to applaud every time we finished a piece (and sometimes before!)
The coach drivers getting trapped in the tiny streets and having to go the wrong way down a one way street to get out!
We have a day off from singing on Monday, then concerts in Vezelay Tuesday and Auxerre Wednesday. More blogs to follow.
Singing at the St Julien du Sault Festival had been one of the aims of our tour, ever since we had made contact with Les Fontenottes, the choir in the town.
The village seemed very small and quiet, but we were amazed at the size of the beautiful church of St Pierre!
It was wonderful to see that large church full for our concert! We sang a range of sacred music, French music, and arrangements of folk songs from home.
Sarah Ann Cromwell dazzled with Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate and Alleluja, and Patrick Larley improvised on the rare renaissance organ in the church. Kevin Gill was versatile as ever, playing organ/piano, or conducting as required.
Members of the audience instantly rose to their feet as we finished, and soon they were slow handclapping for more! (French audiences don’t say ‘Encore’!). They were rewarded with the full blast of the Hallelujah Chorus!
From the moment we arrived, to the wonderful reception at the Fontenotte School after the concert, we were treated to wonderful French hospitality and friendship.
We presented a cheque to the Special School, from money raised at the ‘Taste of Vienna’ concert in Birmingham.
Friday was a long day of travelling. The coach journey from Birmingham to Dover started in style with a Bucks Fizz breakfast provided by our tour committee!
We reached Dover in plenty of time and were pleased to be able to stretch our legs on the ferry and watch the white cliffs of Dover as we left. The journey was just long enough to get some lunch before we were arrived in Calais.
As our coach left the port, we saw reminders of conflicts past and present: the barbed wire topped fences along the road and the associated ‘Calais Jungle’ shanty town, then road signs pointing to towns and villages involved in the World Wars.
After many hours on the coach, we eventually arrived at our hotel near Auxerre, and many tired singers made their way to bed.
Up bright and early on Saturday morning for breakfast and a rehearsal for the concert in St Julien du Sault tonight. It’s all go!
The last tour rehearsal took place last night, so all that’s left is the packing. We set off for Burgundy early tomorrow morning, and will be travelling all day. Then, it’s straight down to business, with a concert on Saturday evening!
Here are the details of our concerts and programme, for those who would like to follow the tour in detail:
We depart for our Burgundy choir tour on Friday! We hope that you will enjoy following our tour blog.
The most important part of the tour is the singing, so today we met at Moorpool Hall, Harborne for a 6 hour rehearsal.
We performed Schubert’s Mass in G and Mozart’s Ave Verum recently, but some other pieces from the past needed brushing up.
The tour music includes many choir favourites: Finzi’s My Spirit sang all day, MacMillan’s O Radiant Dawn, and John Blow’s Salvator Mundi, to name just three. A tour to France has to include some French works, so we are singing Cantique de Jean Racine by Faure and Messe ‘Cum Jubilo’ by Jean Dattas, former organist at Notre Dame in Paris and father of one of our second sopranos, Sylvie. We’ll tell you about the other music as the tour progresses!
Singers enjoying the sunshine during a break in rehearsal.
Our AGM took place yesterday (13th July), with end of year reports and elections of new committee members. We said a special ‘thank you’ to Tim, who has been such a hard working Chair for the last 5 years, and Marianne, who has retired as membership secretary after many years on the committee. Both have played a very important role in the life of the choir.
There was then some excitement as we prepared to present our gifts to our departing Music Director, Patrick Larley! Patrick has been with us for 11 years, and he and several singers referred to highlights of that period: the Elijah concert in the newly refurbished Town Hall, Bach’s B minor Mass, Fanshaw’s Pacific Song, (complete with garlands and actions) The Creation at the International Haydn Festival in Bridgnorth and, of course, the world premiere of ‘The Birmingham Spirituals’, commissioned from Patrick by BFCS.
We sang him our new version of Maxwell Davies’ ‘Lullaby for Lucy’, with Ali Bann’s new words ‘Lullaby for Larley’! A framed version of the song was presented to him by Ali afterwards. Patrick was also presented with a Photobook of memories, a symbolic tree with messages written by individual singers, and a token, with the suggestion of purchasing a real plum tree. Margund presented some framed pictures she had sketched, and finally Patrick’s supportive wife, Gill was presented with a bouquet.
We’re pleased that this wasn’t quite the final farewell for many of us, as Patrick and Gill are coming on our choir tour to Burgundy at the end of July- just one week from now!
St George’s was full when Birmingham Festival Choral Society gave their last Birmingham concert with Patrick Larley as Music Director. It was extra special to perform Mozart’s beautiful ‘Ave Verum corpus’, and we all enjoyed singing the Masses by Schubert and Mozart. The sopranos and altos also sang Schubert’s ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’, which was a special treat.
We were delighted to welcome back our Conservatoire soloists, Elouise Waterhouse, Robert Tilson and Alistair Donague for a third concert with us. Sarah Ann Cromwell first sang with us ten years ago, when she was a Conservatoire student. Her singing of Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate was one of the highlights of yesterday’s concert!