newsletter 2001 [newsletter 2002]

Holland-Belgium tour 2001

We enjoyed an exhilarating visit to Holland and Belgium, a successful tour, both in terms of music and new friendships.

Late on Tuesday 28 August we arrived at our accommodation at the Noordwijk youth hostel, up the coast from Leiden. We were met by representatives of the Youth Orchestra and the Oxford-Leiden Link Committee.

On Wednesday morning we drove down to Brussels to rehearse for an evening concert at the Chapelle Royale (right), a beautiful venue with a perfect acoustic. Included in the programme was the world première of Sub Rosa, written by Stevie Wishart specially for the choir. The composer was in attendance and also joined the choir in a performance of one of her earlier works.

Despite a very late return to the Youth Hostel after the Brussels concert, the girls were eager to get to the beach on Thursday morning. In the afternoon there was a civic reception at Leiden Town Hall (left), where we were welcomed by the Mayor and representatives of the Link Committee. This was followed by a sporting exchange: the choir were taken on by members of the Leiden Youth Orchestra, rowing on a circuit of canals around the City. We were then entertained to pancakes at the city's splendid Music School. It was good to see young musicians from both sides having a great time together.

Friday was a real work day. In the morning back to the Music School, this time to learn the piece we were to perform that evening with the orchestra. After a picnic lunch in the park we made our way to the concert venue, the Petruskerk. The vast church is rather imposing on the outside, but the interior is light and airy and somehow it provided a wonderful atmosphere and an acoustic which seemed to get better as the day progressed. Music can be like that. After rehearsals Leiden entertained us again to a splendid supper, and then it was time for the 7.30 concert. The Jeugd Symfonieorkest "Rijnstreek" (the Leiden Youth Orchestra) had done us proud with publicity and the big church was well filled and attended by the Deputy Mayor, aldermen, the Director of Music, and members of the Link Committee.

A few words about the music: The evening started with a selection of songs by Brahms and Wolf. Brahms` Phänomen concluded the group with a swing. Antonio Pampani was a Venetian composer a working in the same tradition as Vivaldi; he is almost completely unknown. Richard Vendome has edited his Confitebor Tibi of 1756 working from indistinct scores discovered in a library in Venice. It is a splendid work which deserves to be heard and which will soon be recorded by the choir soon with a baroque orchestra. The first movement was performed and this features memorable high singing for a pair of soloists. It was well received by the large audience. The first part of the concert was concluded by Arvo Pärt`s Littlemore Tractus. This was specially commissioned by Littlemore Parish Church to commemorate Cardinal Newman, whose 200th anniversary falls this year. The choir was joined by the dads in the male voice parts.

After the interval, the Youth Orchestra, directed by Mark Tempelaars, performed overtures from Gershwin`s Porgy and Bess and Verdi's Aida. The big orchestra played with spirit and verve. Then, we joined them for an arrangement of Thomas Morley's "Now is the month of Maying", a splendid madrigal which we all enjoyed singing with our friends in the Orchestra. Then it was the turn of the choir again, with the second performance of Stevie Wishart`s Sub Rosa. Finally, a collection of close harmony arrangements by Roderick Williams and others, including favourites such as "Killing me softly", "Big Yellow Taxi", and "Somebody loves me". The final piece was received with a standing ovation and an encore ("I can see clearly now") concluded the evening. After the concert we were again entertained to drinks and snacks. A good way to wind down after a testing concert.

But there was to be a further performance: upon our return to the youth hostel we detected a terrible noise emanating from the bar area. The culprits were members of the Dordrecht Rugby Club on a training weekend. (Quite what they were training for was not clear: it involved each team member working closely with his own personal big green inflatable crocodile, drinking copious amounts of beer, and singing English rugby songs). The girls were soon in the thick of this and their rendition of "Somebody loves me" prompted drinks all round and a ceremonial presentation of a big green crocodile (signed on the back!). Can't remember when we got to bed...

Saturday was spent relaxing in Leiden. The girls went shopping and exploring the streets in the centre. We all sat down to a fine lunch of Dutch savoury pancakes before getting back into the minibuses and heading for home, arriving back in Oxford shortly after midnight.

Peter Kent
3 September 2001


Georgia Black DipABRSM

Congratulations to our former Head Girl, Georgia Black, who has been awarded her DipABRSM singing diploma - a much deserved recognition for ten years of OGC membership and hard study. Georgia is spending her gap year as a technical assistant at a school near Geneva, the Institut le Rosey, where her skills as a French-speaking chemist and musician are being put to good use. In October she will be taking up a choral scholarship at Clare College, Cambridge, where she will study Natural Sciences. Her email address is blackgeorgia@hotmail.com.


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