Every August, we join with neighbouring Berkhamsted Choral Society for a short summer tour lasting for five days. (This is an optional ‘extra’ and not included in the annual membership fee of our choir.) We sing a prepared programme in three different venues, nearly always cathedrals and churches.
Therefore, the programme is invariably from the sacred music repertoire. Works performed include music from the Renaissance (eg Tallis, Palestrina), the Baroque era ( Vivaldi, Handel), the Classical and Romantic periods (Haydn and Mozart; Brahms and Rachmaninoff), as well as world premieres of Jazz influenced sacred music commissioned for our choir (Weiss).
These trips are very convivial and include sightseeing, and a joint evening meal the night before we return home. We travel as a group and all stay in the same hotel. Non-singing partners come along too and do a great job taking photos and handing out programmes.
Our destinations in recent years have included:
2017: Loire Valley (photos courtesy of Mick King): https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7vgPRe
2016: Ardennes Summer Tour (photos courtesy of Mick King): https://flic.kr/s/aHskDfmrtH
Our summer tour to Belgium was thoroughly enjoyable. We sang to appreciative audiences, albeit it varying in size, and the venues were lovely. The optional excursions were nicely arranged to fill our leisure time, with the kayaking providing the most talking points! It was also a good opportunity to chat to other choir members, which there normally isn’t time to do at rehearsals. We’re looking forward to the next tour already.
2015: Berlin Summer Tour: read Our Berlin Blog
2014: Southern English Cathedrals (photos courtesy of Mick King): Choir Tour 2014 – Southern England
By common assent, this tour was one of the most successful on two counts: musical and financial.
In partnership with local Cancer Research UK teams who all worked really hard on publicity and ticket sales, our concerts at Chichester, Salisbury & Winchester Cathedrals were extremely well attended & resulted in a net profit for CRUK of just over £15,000.
The main feature of our programme was the Fauré Requiem. In Chichester our Maestro’s son, who had just left the Cathedral Choir School as Head Chorister, sang the Pie Jesu most beautifully, to everyone’s delight.
Other works included Parry’s Blest Pair of Sirens ; Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs & Cecilia McDowell’s Ave Maris Stella. We were thrilled that the composer herself attended the concert at Winchester and was persuaded to take a bow.
Comfortable hotels, a little sightseeing, plenty of socialising and an excellent celebratory meal for all (over 150 singers & ‘other halves) after the Winchester concert, rounded off another hugely enjoyable summer tour.
2013: Normandy Tour (photos courtesy of Mick King): Normandy Choir Tour 2013
A calm, sunlit ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Caen preceded our 5 day sejour in Normandy.
We sang in three very different venues – Basilica of St. Thérèse, Lisieux; L’Eglise St Pierre in Arromanches and the magnificent Bayeux Cathedral. The main item in our programme was Mozart’s delightful Missa Brevis in D major . The first half of each concert comprised shorter works by Handel, Bruckner, Rachmaninov, Faure & Casals and two solos by our formidable organist Iestyn Evans. To our great delight, we attracted large audiences who responded with standing ovations and we found ourselves singing an encore at each event.
After 3 days of sightseeing (including the fascinating D-Day museum in Arromanches & the Bayeux Tapestry), rehearsing and singing, our last day was spent shopping for delicacies in the huge Sunday morning market in Caen or exploring the castle and then recovering from it all relaxing aboard the ferry on the way home.
2012: Italy. Based in an excellent hotel in Verona with garden and swimming pool, we sang in the beautiful Chiesa S Anastasia, saw Turandot at the Arena, enjoyed a day on the southern shore of Lake Garda, then sang that evening in the church at Castelnuovo del Garda. A very special experience was singing during the Saturday evening Mass at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, warmly applauded at the end of the service by the priest and congregation. The meal later that evening was a merry affair and the private boat trip back to Tronchetto and our coaches afforded us wonderful views of Venice receding in the moonlight.
2011: UK. We stayed in Harrogate and sang in Ripon Cathedral, Beverley Minster and York Minster. The programme focussed on English Anthems, including Handel’s Zadok the Priest as well as works by Ireland, Parry and Bairstow, and either Mozart’s Requiem or a selection from Handel’s Messiah. Betty’s Tea rooms were well patronised, gardens were visited and a handsome amount raised for Cancer Research UK, the beneficiary of all profits from the ticket sales.
2010: France. Our hotel was just above Place Clichy in Paris and well placed for sightseeing in Montmarte or catching the bus down to the L’Etoile. We sang in L’Eglise de la Madeleine & The American Church on the Quai d’Orsay. There was time for formal tours of Chartres Cathedral prior to singing there during a day away from our Paris base.
2009: Belgium. We sang Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, and other works in Brussels Cathedral, St Michael’s Church, Leuven and St Boniface Church, Antwerp. Our hotel was a stone’s throw from Rubens House and Museum in Antwerp.
2008 UK. Memorable for excellent weather, we were based in Bath for this tour. Our first concert was in Bath Abbey and walking tours of the city and a boat trip were on the agenda. A second day involved travelling to Wells for a morning rehearsal and lunch-time concert in the Cathedral, followed by afternoon visits to either Cheddar Gorge or Stourhead. Our third concert took place in Sherborne Abbey with a cream tea between the rehearsal and concert and an excellent supper in a local restaurant afterwards.
2007 Spain. With a wide sandy beach a stone’s throw from our hotel, early morning walks and a swim were welcome preparations for singing and sight seeing in Barcelona, an excursion by coach and cable car to sing in the famous Montserrat Monastery. To the delight of the current priest, we ended our third concert by singing O vos omnes by Pablo Casals in the church which he attended as a boy and his father was organist.
2006 Hungary. Our first concert in Budapest was during and immediately after an evening service in the beautiful Matthias Church. Having rehearsed there first thing in the morning, we left our concert dress and music in a room off the organ loft. Late that afternoon we returned and all crept up into the organ loft during a society wedding. The spectacle of 80+ people changing their clothes very quietly whilst a professional soprano was singing Schubert’s Ave Maria for the congregation below lingers in the mind’s eye! A cruise up the Danube to Szentendre, lunch and a stroll around the town before singing to an appreciative audience filled a second day. Our third concert was in a concert hall close to the parliament building. Sunbathing and swimming in the famous thermal baths in Budapest was a popular choice on our last day there.