Siegfried Carstensen, a member of the Theodor Storms Chor, gave this speech at the dinner that followed the joint concert given by the TSC and KCS on Saturday 9th May. We are grateful to Siegfried for allowing us to print his speech on the website.
It is not possible to be here in this country as a German, and at this moment in time, without remembering the events that happened 70 years ago. Events that have defined an era and whose global significance is still affecting the world today. Together with us, millions of people throughout Europe and the world are currently also remembering this time. The time when Allied troops put an end to a reign of tyranny in Germany that had atttempted to subjugate the people of Europe under an inhuman and racist ideology.
As a result of this, Europes towns and cities lay in ruins and an unimaginable amount of death, loss and suffering had been caused by the perpetrators. Not far from here are the cities of Birmingham and Coventry, which for us Germans, too, are symbols of the extent of this destruction and suffering.
Seventy years on, of course, most people in Germany know these events only from history books or TV programmes. And, of course, these people cannot be expected to plead guilty for crimes they did not commit.
We cannot change or undo the past. 'It is not a case of coming to terms with the past,' said the former German President Richard von Weizsäcker in his speech on the 8th May 1985, and he stressed the importance of remembering: 'Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present. Whoever refuses to remember the inhumanity is prone to new risks of infection.'
For the people living today, the horrors of the past can serve only as a lesson. And this also applies to the memory of the First World War, which started one hundred years ago, and to the Armenian genocide. Even if we are not responsible for what happened in the past, we are nevertheless responsible for what will come of it.
Weizsäcker, whose father was a high-ranking Nazi official and hence also one of the perpetrators, reminded us that Hitler's prevailing tactic was to stir up prejudice, enmity and hatred. In his speech, he therefore urged the people of our time: 'Do not let yourselves be forced into enmity and hatred of other people, of Russians or Americans, Jews or Turks, of alternatives or conservatives, blacks or whites. Learn to live together, not in opposition to each other.'
And if Weizsäcker was alive now, to witness the crises and genocides in our world today, he would also remind us that it was other nations and their people who welcomed and offered a new home to those imperilled by Nazi terror.
And with this thought we are here with you in Kidderminster again, and remember with gratitude the reintegration of the Germans into civilised European society after the war - and the beginning of this friendship between our two choirs as an active gesture of reconciliation between former enemies, who found a positive - and, in our case, a joyful musical - way out of the darkest chapter of twentieth century history.
And with our gratitude we combine the hope, in line with Weizsäcker's words, that together as Europeans we can face up to the great challenges the twenty-first century has placed at our doorsteps.
We are very grateful to Katherine Dixson for her impressions of the Twinning Concert and of the rehearsals that led up to it:
I’m always up for a choral challenge, and rarely miss weekly rehearsals in preparation for end-of-term concerts. But the timescales were overturned somewhat as far as this special occasion weekend was concerned, as choir had scarcely got going again after the well-earned Easter break.
How difficult could it be, though, rehearsing ‘just a couple of pieces’ to sing with our visitors from Kidderminster’s twin town of Husum in Germany? There may have been only a few short weeks to get to grips with the music, but as half the performance would be Vivaldi’s popular and well-known Gloria, there was a certain confidence, possibly misplaced …
The other piece, you see, was Haydn’s St Cecilia Mass, not something I’d even heard, let alone sung before, and it seemed I was in good company. We soon found out there were an awful lot of notes to learn, Semiquaver Central, you might say, together with tricky tempo changes between and even within movements that had a habit of taking us by surprise. It’s a lovely, lively and uplifting work though, and on the face of it the music tends to do what you expect, reaching satisfying cadences after all the ins and outs of its texture, so that even going astray here and there, there was a good chance of us all finishing together!
I hadn’t bargained for being quite so busy with family and work in the run-up and during the weekend itself, so I had to think twice about whether to see the commitment through – but in the end it did me the world of good, as music-making always does. We worked our soprano socks off (the other voices can provide their own clichés if they wish) at our first rehearsal with Theodor Storms Chor on Thursday evening, and I do hope it wasn’t too obvious to their lovely director, Christoph Jensen, that St Cecilia was still subject to a good deal of sight-reading.
Familiarity’s half the battle though, so another busy session on Friday evening brought us that bit closer to the optimism overcoming the nerves. Combining the two choirs’ voices was of course a joy, and by the time we’d had our final rehearsal together on Saturday afternoon, followed by a cream tea, we were working as a coherent unit of friends – and not just in terms of getting to know the visitors, but also making the most of the rare opportunity to socialise more than usual within our own choir.
Human understanding and connection seemed to be something of a theme. Coinciding as it did with the 70th anniversary of the ending of hostilities between our countries, the visit drew attention to 60 years of twinning between the towns of Husum and Kidderminster, and 25 years between the choirs themselves, with regular exchanges in both directions. Just as it overcomes linguistic barriers, music has so much to offer as a force for reconciliation.
In the end, another rehearsal or two would doubtless have added a little security and extra polish, but Christoph gave the impression that both Haydn and St Cecilia would have been happy with our performance. As for the Vivaldi, conducted by our own Geoffrey Weaver, well that had its challenges too but it was a sheer joy and I’ll never ever tire of it. Glorious.
YESTERDAY WAS MY SINGING (AND DANCING) DAY
(Concert - 20th December, 2014)
While much of the nation was glued to the Strictly Come Dancing final last night, Kidderminster was celebrating Christmas in song. It was my first term as a fully-fledged member of the Choral Society and my first experience of the famous Gala Christmas Concert. By all accounts, it varies little year on year, but the familiarity didn’t dull the atmosphere in the slightest; on the contrary, the anticipation of welcoming back old friends – literally and in terms of format – seemed to heighten the sense of excitement.
Hard on the heels of our Opera Gala evening, we’d had only a few weeks to rehearse the Christmas repertoire, and several of the pieces were brand new to me, so I wasn’t without trepidation. But as soon as the concert was launched, with the entire packed-to-the-rafters Town Hall bursting into Hark the herald angels sing, the thrill of creating wonderful music kicked in and I simply enjoyed it from beginning to end. Not that my contribution was flawless, and many thanks to my colleague Sue on the back row of the second sopranos for the surreptitious dig in the ribs when (in my enthusiasm) I launched into A child is born four bars prematurely.
The concert may have followed a tried and tested formula, but the performance direction for Tomorrow shall be my dancing day summed up the evening’s entertainment: ‘Fresh and lively’. With its catchy syncopated rhythms and variable time signatures, that carol wasn’t easy but it was one of my favourites, and our conductor Geoffrey Weaver’s own arrangement of White Christmas was also a wonderful sing. But top of the tree for me was Will Todd’s contemporary carol My Lord has come, three pages of deliciousness.
The audience gave us a lovely warm reception but were equally – if not more – bowled over by the young performers who give this sort of concert such a family feel. Wyre Forest Young Voices, the richness of their purple outfits matching secure harmonies and musicianship potential aplenty, and the diminutive Primary Chords, enchanting in primary colours, creating fun, exciting music that had us itching to join in. And join in everyone did ... the entire Hall mastering the rollicking Hey Father Christmas as a three-part round, with more than a little dancing in the seats. He must have heard. After a little calm was restored with a charming rendition of Away in a Manger from all the children – including small audience members invited to the stage – suddenly there was the man in red with a sack full of sweets ...
Much of the evening’s shenanigans – choral and congregational – was accompanied by the brilliant Holborne Brass Ensemble, who also presented a couple of sets of Christmas music that ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again, culminating in possibly the fastest strictly Russian Trepak in the history of The Nutcracker. They played a starring role too in the fully-participative Twelve days of Christmas; as the verses rolled out and the various sections of the Hall had their progressive moments of fame, we never knew quite what HBE’s collective Partridge would do next!
On the first day after the concert, I expect there are more than a few tired singers of all ages, but no doubt plenty of extra festive spirit too. Merry Christmas!
There are probably not too many choral societies in the land that have a canon of the Church of England as their chairman. There must be very few indeed that can boast an archdeacon in that role. Well, on Sunday November 16, in a special and memorable Evensong at Worcester Cathedral, our Chairman, Canon Rob Jones, was installed as Archdeacon of Worcester, and we are delighted that he has been chosen for that role. We hope that he will still find time, amidst his many other duties, to continue to lend his voice to the second basses.
The Cathedral was almost full for Rob's installation - testimony, as the Bishop observed, to his popularity in the Diocese. Kidderminster Choral Society played its part, too: as well as a number of members being present in the congregation, Mike, our accompanist, read one of the lessons; Dominic Lee, grandson of our President, John Gaston, and a former member of Wyre Forest Young Voices, is a member of the Cathedral choir; and John Everest, another of our members, was there as one of the Canons of the Cathedral.
We wish Rob well as he embarks on this new phase of his ministry in the Church.
PLEASE READ THIS IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT CONCERT TICKETS: We have made new arrangements for purchasing tickets for our concerts; tickets can be purchased on-line from WeGotTickets.com at less than the price charged on the door (there will be very limited availability at the door). Please see the details of each concert (on the "Programme" page) for more information, or simply click here to go to the WeGotTickets.com website. If you experience any difficulty please send us a message on the "Contact Us" page and we'll be glad to help.
The season's rehearsals commence on Thursday September 4.
The AGM will take place before rehearsal on October 16
Saturday November 21 - Concert by Wyre Forest Young Voices and Primary Chords at Kidderminster Town Hall, at 7.00 pm.
Saturday, November 29 - Opera Gala Concert at Kidderminster Town Hall, at 7.30 pm.
Saturday December 20 - Gala Christmas Concert, with Wyre Forest Young Voices and Primary Chords, at Kidderminster Town Hall, at 7.00 pm.
Saturday January 3 - WFYV Graduates' Concert at Holy Innocents' Church, at 5.00 pm.
Tuesday, February 3 - Talk by Geoff Weaver on Bach's St. John Passion, at Baxter Church Hall, at 7.30 pm.
Friday, March 20 - Concert by Wyre Forest Young Voices and Primary Chords at Kidderminster Town Hall, at 7.00 pm.
Saturday, March 28 - Bach's St. John Passion at Kidderminster Town Hall at 7.30 pm.
Sunday, May 3 - Wyre Forest Young Voices sing in Worcester Youth Music Gala Concert at Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Wednesday, May 6 - Sunday, May 10 - Visit of Theodor Storms Chor, Husum
Saturday, May 9 - Concert: Vivaldi: Gloria and Haydn: St. Cecilia Mass at St. Mary's Parish Church
Saturday, June 20 - Choir Away Day
Sunday, June 28 - Primary Chords concert: Lionel Bart's Oliver at Baxter College
Saturday, July 4 - Wyre Forest Young Voices Concert at St. Anne's Church, Bewdley, at 7.00 pm.
Saturday, July 11 - Summer Singers Concert at Belbroughton Church, at 7.30 pm.
to Suzzie Vango, Vocal Coach with Wyre Forest Young Voices, who has recently been appointed Voice Coach with Worcester Cathedral Choir,
... and to Clover Willis, a member of Wyre Forest Young Voices, who has been awarded a Choral Scholarship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
We wish them both great success.
Christopher Morley, of the Birmingham Post, reviewed the November concert, and his review can be found here.
At the AGM, held in October, the Society enthusiastically agreed to invite Marcus Huxley to join its select band of Life Vice-Presidents. Those already thus designated are: Harry Bramma, Philip Head, Andrew Millington, Kit Mockett aqnd Jonathan Price. Marcus has been a regular organist for Society concerts for over twenty years, and when Geoff Weaver announced his appointment at the concert in November, the audience received the news with acclaim.
Marcus read Modern Languages at Oxford University and studied the organ in Paris with Marie-Claire Alain. On his return to Oxford he was elected Organ Scholar of Worcester College, where he directed the Chapel Choir and read for a degree in Music. He went directly from Oxford to be Assistant Organist of Ripon Cathedral, where he also lectured at the University College of Ripon and York St John. While in Yorkshire he founded the York Early Music Choir and was Conductor of both the Ilkley and Otley Choral Societies. He is a joint 2nd prize winner for Interpretation in the 1977 St Albans International Organ Competition, where he also won the Audience Prize.
In 1986 he was appointed to his present position as Director of Music at Birmingham Cathedral. Under his direction the Cathedral Choir has given first performances of works by John Joubert, Alan Ridout, Andrew Downes, Andrew Carter and John Sanders, most of which were specially commissioned. He also oversaw, in 1992, the setting up of the Cathedral Girls’ Choir, one of the first in the country. Over the last few years the Cathedral Choir has collaborated with the CBSO, Emma Kirkby, the Choir of King’s College Cambridge, St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, the Richard Hickox Singers, the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus and many other distinguished musicians.
He has regularly given organ recitals in Thomas Trotter’s 'Birmingham Town Hall' series, including at Symphony Hall, and concerts and recitals with Birmingham Cathedral Choir in UK and abroad, as well as recitals in cathedrals and concert halls around the world – including many at Kidderminster Town Hall. He has broadcast many times for BBC Radio (Radio 3, Radio 4 and WM) and Television, and has recorded for Regent Records.
His commissions include the Mass of St Henry & St Philip for the Centenary of the Diocese of Birmingham (2005) and an Evensong (Common Worship) for the Parish of St James Shirley (2002).
Marcus has appeared as Guest Conductor with Kidderminster Choral Society and as organist with the CBSO, Es Cathedra, the Tallis Scholars, the Dresden Kreuzchor and the Swingle Singers. He is also an examiner for the Associated Board.
After consulting members of the Society, the Committee have agreed upon an "up-dating" of choir dress at concerts. The ladies will wear scarves, and the gents bow ties, in cerise/fuchsia/pink (call it what you will!), at the November 2013 concert and from then on.
The ladies have in the past been able to bring a more modern form of dress to the stage, but the men have stuck steadfastly to the Victorian costume adopted in 1899, so perhaps it's time for a change!
You can read older news in our archives.