Kidderminster Choral Society is sad to announce the passing of Ray Harrowing. A member of KCS since 1978, he was a keen and active member of the Society, our Webmaster, a key link with our Twinning Choir in Husum, a long standing committee member and most importantly a great Bass singer. He will be very much missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time.
Husum is just one of many places in Germany that have been asked to accept a number of the refugees who have flooded into the country over recent months. Between last December and May this year between 1000 and 1500 will be accommodated in a village of adapted shipping containers, near the Congress Centre at Seeth, just north of the town. This 'village' is planned as a reception centre, with its own health facility, school, job centre, security and so on; refugees will go out from here into the community as they find accommodation and jobs.
The following article from the Husumer Nachrichten shows how our twin town choir, and other choirs, have responded to this situation. Pauline Geddie kindly supplied the translation.
Music books and note pads are the work tools of every choir. However, at the most recent joint practice evening of the Theodor Storms Chor and the Husumer Gemischter Chor (Mixed Choir of Husum), the choristers did not just bring their music.'Where are we going then?' was the joking comment going the rounds that evening, as many of the choir members had brought along suitcases, bags and rucksacks.
Michael Schwarz, a member of both choirs, was able to solve the puzzle: 'This is all about a fundraising drive for the refugees,' the man behind the idea explained. More than 50 cases arrived on the evening destined for the asylum seekers in Seeth.
Schwarz's idea was well received by the choristers. 'By getting involved in this project, I want to make a bold statement and to make the refugees feel welcome', said Gerda Friedrichsen from Schobüll. 75-year-old Eugen Kelch also brought along a big suitcase. He has been singing in the Theodor Storms Chor for well over 40 years. Today he came to choir practice in his car for the first time, 'Because I couldn't carry my case on my bike'.
According to Joe Kreis, the refugee co-ordinator for the German Red Cross in North Friesland, many refugees arrived in only the clothes they stood up in. 'They were carrying all their possessions in plastic bags'. Now they will have something to put their clothes in. 'So should they have to move from the reception centre to another possible place to stay, then, at least, they will have a case to be able to pack everything in'.
Both singing groups have received the support of the town choir in St. Peter-Ording. All three choirs are practising together at the moment for a concert that is scheduled to take place in May at the Nordsee Congress Centre. 'As the ambassadors of musical culture we are happy to promote a welcoming attitude towards those who are in need of help', said Christoph Jensen, the church music director and musical director of the Theodor Storms Chor. In addition, Oliver Schulz-Etzold, music teacher at Friedrich-Paulsen Gymnasium in Niebüll and leader of the Gemischter Chor added: 'This can be seen as encouragement for our further involvement; similar things are happening a great deal in the area.' And for Michael Schwarz there is no doubt: 'Integration into the society of North Friesland can only succeed in this way.'
The exceptional fundraising drive is not the choirs' first such enterprise. Previously dress-making fabric, wool and working sewing machines were collected and donated to the recently opened Frauencafé (Womens' Refuge). As was seen there once donations had been made, they were immediately put to use – often for the women to make clothes for themselves.
The original of this article, and a picture of choir members with their luggage, can be found here.
Please note that the Charity Concert that was planned for February 5 has been postponed, and will now take place in the course of 2017.
The following is a summary of the Society's activities during 2015-2016. Details of main concerts can be found on the 'Programme' page.
The season's rehearsals commence on Thursday September 10.
The AGM will take place before rehearsal on October 16
Saturday November 20 - Concert by Wyre Forest Young Voices and Primary Chords at Kidderminster Town Hall, at 7.00 pm.
Saturday, November 28 - Music for Brass and Voices at Kidderminster Town Hall, at 7.30 pm.
Saturday December 10 - Gala Christmas Concert, with Wyre Forest Young Voices and Primary Chords, at Kidderminster Town Hall, at 7.00 pm.
Sunday January 3 - WFYV Graduates' Concert at Holy Innocents' Church, at 5.00 pm.
Tuesday, January 26 - Talk by Geoff Weaver on the composers who will feature in the March concert: Mozart,k Handel and Haydn, at Baxter Church Hall, at 7.30 pm.
Friday, March 11 - Sir Francis Drake Concert by Wyre Forest Young Voices and Primary Chords, with choirs from four local Primary Schools, at Kidderminster Town Hall, at 7.00 pm.
Saturday, March 19 - Mozart, Handel and Haydn at Kidderminster Town Hall at 7.30 pm.
Saturday, May 14 - 'Messiah in May' a KCS Come and Sing event at St. Mary's Church, Kidderminster
Saturday June 25 - Wyre Forest Young Voices concert at Great Witley Church, at 7.30 pm.
Saturday, July 2 - Summer Singers Concert at All Saints' Church, Wribbenhall, Bewdley, at 7.30 pm.
Saturday July 9 - Primary Chords Summer Concert in Baxter Church Hall
(Updated March 2016)
We are grateful to Manfred Klass, a first-time, non-singing visitor to Kidderminster, for this article about the visit.
25 years ago the musical partnership between Theodor Storms Chor and the Kidderminster Choral Society came into being.
To celebrate the anniversary, 18 singers, as well as two family members, made their way to Kidderminster. We travelled by bus to Hamburg, to the airport, and from there by plane to Birmingham, where Jane Williams was waiting for us. We continued with the bus to Kidderminster. There the travellers took up their quarters in a hotel, a B and B-guesthouse, or with Choral Society members.
The days were filled with sightseeing (Kidderminster's Museum of Carpet, Avoncroft Museum, a visit to Bewdley, etc.). Here, we were accompanied by our Kidderminster friends. When walking or when we were partaking of the obligatory tea old friendships were revived and whole new relationships were made.
In the evenings it was time for intensive rehearsals. Always, when the two choirs meet, they give a joint concert. This year it was the same; in St. Mary's Church works by Haydn (St. Cecilia Mass) and Vivaldi (Gloria) rang forth. Both the Storms Choir and the Kidderminster Chorale had previously practised separately, so that they had just three days to rehearse together. The concert took place on Saturday at 19:00.
The official part of the meeting took place at a dinner after the concert. The President of the English choir, John Gaston, and the Chairwoman of the Storm Choir, Ille Eggers, talked of the 25-year friendship and said that a meeting was held every two years. Heinrich Linkogel, a former Chairman, had been instrumental in maintaining the good contact between the two choirs. Siegfried Carstensen gave a highly-acclaimed speech about the end of the second world war, the 70th anniversary of which fell at this particular time.
Everyone looked forward with anticipation to the 2017 Kidderminster visit to Husum, and a very intensive visit to Kidderminster ended on Sunday.
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.
You can read older news in our archives.