In 1996 the choir ventured abroad for the first time, to Epsom's twin-town Chantilly, near Paris. Since then, a long summer weekend 'tour' has become part of the programme and the Society has visited Chantilly, Ghent, Bruges, Beauvais, Klagenfurt, Norfolk, the Lake District, Aix-en-Provence, Bristol, Rouen, Barcelona, Lille, Caen, Lucca, Bruges, Utrecht and, in 2011, Reims

Reims 2011

This tour report is a shortened version of the report by Linda Staff, which appeared in the Society's newsletter.

Epsom Choral Society’s 2011 summer tour got off to a smooth start thanks to their on board tour guide and ‘Hi-di-hi’ Girl, Maggie Nightingale. Her regular announcements, prefaced by a chirpy ‘Hello campers!’ kept this bunch of wandering minstrels from straying too far and ensured that no-one inadvertently missed the shuttle crossing to France.

ECS in Reims Cathedral A singer’s worst nightmare (that of losing their voice) happened to Sarah Payne on the morning of Epsom Choral Society’s planned ‘Après Midi’ concert in the magnificent and renowned Reim’s cathedral. Overcoming her disappointment, Sarah put her unwanted but new found freedom to good use by handing out advertising leaflets to visitors to the cathedral and its environs. This resulted in a pleasingly large audience, not to mention numerous promenaders. The acoustics in the cathedral were excellent but challenging. A six second time lapse resulted in ethereal angelic hosts echoing the sonorous notes of its earthly counterpart or was it simply the Jackdaw of Rheims? (The Ingoldsby Legends – R.H. Barnham 1840). Music director and conductor, Robin Kimber, pronounced himself gratified by the response and that the concert had been so warmly and enthusiastically received. Vigorous clapping had brought an encore and even faster rendition from the choir of ‘Quick, we have but a second’.

Reims CathedralThe concert was not the only musical engagement for the Surrey based choir. They joined the cathedral congregation in singing at the 11.00am Mass on Sunday morning and offered three anthems at various points during the service. Not content with this, following the service they also regaled unsuspecting passersby from the cathedral steps with two or three of the more secular items from the choir’s repertoire.

Reims Cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage site, is celebrating its 800 centenary this year and visitors to the town during July and August are being treated to a nightly spectacular son et lumière display using all the latest technology. ‘Simply stunning!’ were the words on everyone’s lips as they watched in awe and wonder as colours brought to life the statuary on the west front of the cathedral. Of even greater antiquity is the Romanesque-Gothic Saint Remi Basilica, currently offering a gentler and more traditional ‘evocation musique et lumière’, also celebrating its long history. Reims itself is an enchanting place with a number of interesting sites to visit. Not quite so ancient but still coming from a lengthy tradition are the various champagne houses to be found within a short distance of the town centre. It was certainly champagne, champagne all the way for some members of the choir, ands‘why not?’ they chorused; Reims is after all the capital of France’s renowned champagne region! Salut!

People can so easily forget or overlook the fact that tours, whether they be long or short, in this country or aboard, only come about because someone organises them. This correspondent would like to applaud and thank Steve Dow and all those without whom ECS’s trip to Reims would not have been the success it was. I raise my champagne (of course!) glass to you. Thank you one and all!

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