SINGING IN BELGIUM AND THE RHINELAND

The South Wales Male Choir’s 22nd Tour (by Barri Hurford)
 
CMDC was born to travel. The choir’s very existence can be traced back to a portentous gathering in the USA in 1983, following which the decision was made to stay together.
So the 22nd tour, this one to Belgium and the Rhineland region of Germany, was a keenly-anticipated event – especially for newcomers to the ranks. With pleasing distribution among the voice parts, 55 men were able to make the trip, supported as usual by our ladies and other supporters.
 
Travelling was arduous. Some had already been on the coach for 12 hours when we reached the Dover – Calais ferry on the way out, with further travelling “on the other side” before we reached Bruges. The onward trek two days later to Rüdesheim on the banks of the River Rhine took a further eight hours, which made the decision of the tour company to provide us with ‘buses clearly used for the school run each morning’ difficult to fathom.
There was a marked difference between two hotels provided by the company responsible for the opening nights in Belgium. However, the party was safely stowed into one acceptable hotel for the major part of the week, that spent in the Rhineland. A plethora of eating houses proved attractive each evening and we discovered an Irish pub and a Scottish pub, though none selling Brains’ Daark.
The single Belgian concert was in Sint Baafskathedral in the centre of Ghent. Attracted by what they heard during our short rehearsal, more than 600 people were in the audience for the opening “Divine Brahma”. It was a wondrous place in which to perform, with Tudor Curtis-Williams providing the solo spot and Elaine Roberts and Siân Davies a duet on the electronic piano.
 
Moving south on the autobahnen, two days had been made available in the itinerary for leisure activities in the attractive town of Rüdesheim. For most, Day 1 meant a ride in the cable car to view the Rhine from lofty heights. Day 2 saw the whole party aboard a cruiser for a six-hour journey down the river all the way from Koblenz back to our hotel. As usual with CMDC, “Somebody said…” began the usual rumour, this time that there would be no refreshments available aboard. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
 
The final two days were fully occupied with rehearsals and concerts. Bacharach is a charming town; the much smaller Pfarrkirche of St Peter made quite a comparison with what had gone before and what was to follow. Here it was that Bob Lewis and Alun Davies made a pair of roguish policemen with their amusing duet. Then came the final performance: in the thoroughly modern Florinskirche at Koblenz. This time David Duggan was the bass soloist and the two leaders of our music team contributed their regular four-hands-on-one-electric-piano routine.
The writer of this article let it be known that it was the 150th occasion on which he had compèred a CMDC concert, this one in English, Welsh and German. The milestone was publicly acknowledged by vice-president Phil Howells.
The Koblenz performance made a very satisfactory finale to the tour. There had been informal music-making of course: in the town square in Bruges, on top of the Rudesheim mountain and on board the Rhine cruiser, all enjoyed by locals and by fellow tourists.
 
Our congratulations and thanks go out to musical director Elaine and to accompanist Siân and her assistant Jean for leading our output so successfully. Ian P and Geoff S made sure that choristers were where they should be and on time. Anne L’s ladies in costume provided their usual authentic accompaniment. Peter O and Gwyn G willingly and efficiently performed the duties of “bus conductors” throughout. The strong men of the party made short shrift of moving suitcases in and out of hotels.
But major thanks must be reserved for Peter Oliver, who exercised the patience of a saint in catering for our needs. It was Peter who conceived the whole idea of the tour and his attention to detail was something from which we all benefitted.
 
Danke schön, Peter!
 

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