Summer Tour - July 2015
On 26 July 2015 the Choir embarked on a short tour of SE England, France and Belgium. Here is an account of the Tour produced by Colin Rees. Colin also took most of the accompanying pictures.
The Choir’s 31st tour included concerts at The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, Kent and the Cathedral at Amiens in France, together with tributes sang at war memorial sites in SE England, France and Belgium. A Choir of 70 and a party of nearly 50 wives and supporters filled the three tour coaches operated by Buzz Lines Travel of Kent who part sponsored the Tour.
The Tour started with a combined rehearsal and impromptu concert with the Choir's Marlowe Theatre, partners - the Folkstone and Hythe Symphony Orchestra and the Snowdown Colliery Welfare Male Choir. The hosts were the Beech Grove Community, a Christian movement located at Nonington. This engagement fulfilled a long-standing inviation to sing at the Community. The Choir and its supporters were welcomed generously with refreshments before singing and a barbeque afterwards. Two decorated cakes presented by the Snowdown Choir, celebrating the Orpheus’ 80th anniversary in 2015, were a delicious addition to the evening.
The Marlowe Theatre concert was well-attended with a mixed programme which featured the Orpheus with the Snowdown Colliery Choir joining in on a variety of numbers. The Folkestone and Hythe Symphony Orchestra, essentially an amateur group led by Rupert Bond, performed pieces by Katachurian and Glinka in a most professional fashion, delighting the Canterbury audience. Welsh tenor Aled Wyn Davies, joining the Choir on tour, stunned the audience with several popular numbers including Lara’s “Granada” accompanied by Ieuan Jones on piano. The Choirs and the orchestra exchanged souvenir plaques at the interval to mark the unique occasion.
Before heading off across the Channel, the Choir visited the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Fearn, Folkestone where a tribute to “The Few” was sung.
The Choir then moved on to Belgium and France and visited a number of WW1 memorials particularly those with Welsh connections. The Welsh Memorial and nearby Hedd Wynn memorial at Langemark, the cemetery at Artillery Wood where the Welsh poet is buried, Flatiron Copse Cemetery and the Mametz Woods Welsh Dragon Memorial were all visited with vocal tributes being sung at each site and wreaths laid on behalf of the Choir.
The highlight of the tour was the Choir’s performance at the daily ‘Last Post’ remembrance ceremony at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium. The Choir performed “Mansions of the Lord” and “Gwahoddiad”. The ceremony’s guests of honour for that day were the UK government’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, The Rt Hon.John Whittingdale MP (pictured left receiving a Choir CD from Chairman David Taylor),and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Tracey Crouch MP. Both met with members of the Choir after the ceremony commenting on how its moving performance had added to the emotion of the occasion. Both Ministers were in France and Belgium to view the progress on the preparations for the Battle of the Somme centenary commemorations due next year. The centenary will be focused on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, where the Choir again caught up with the Ministers and sang on the following day.
The Choir’s final tour engagement was an afternoon concert at the magnificent Amiens cathedral, where again, an audience of cathedral visitors both local and from a number of countries enjoyed a performance by the Choir and its soloist Aled Wyn Davies.
The final day of the tour on the continental side of the Channel was a free day in the beautiful Belgian city of Bruges. Whilst the formal performances were over, the encouragement of the famous local beverages available in the city’s Biermarkt, helped ensure that the tour hadn’t completely exhausted the tourists’ voices, to the benefit of a large and appreciative, multi-national audience in the square!
Overall reponsibility for the planning and the great success of the tour was with Keith Phillips (Overseas Events Manager) and Stephen Pearson ( Engagements Secretary)