Strasbourg

September 24 - 27 1981

Treorchy Male Choir’s visit to Strasbourg was a memorable one for very many reasons. A total of 96 choristers enjoyed the weekend trip, departing from Treorchy for three different flights from Heathrow to land at Stuttgart airport.

All aboard!All aboard!The Choir was led by John Cynan Jones, accompanied by Jennifer Jones with soprano Josephine Jones as soloist, along with Choir soloists Wyn Davies (tenor) and Sam Griffiths (baritone). They were also joined by Mario Basini, a reporter with the Western Mail who was covering the visit for the national daily newspaper of Wales.

The Choir stayed at Hotel Carlton on Place de la Gare and although initially there was a shortage of rooms, this problem was soon solved.

For their first visit to France, the Choir enjoyed the many beautiful sights on offer in this wonderful city. Built on the banks of the Rhine where it meets with the river Ill, this charming city is dominated by the magnificent Cathedral which was built in the 12th century.

The visit was planned as a three-concert tour and it was soon made clear that the concert on the Saturday night would not go ahead. By Friday morning all 96 choristers were together at last and enjoyed a full day of sightseeing around the city.

The CathedralThe Cathedral

At 6pm they met at the hotel, dressed in the concert suits and travelled to the Kongress Halle in Strasbourg city centre. The concert, which was partly broadcast on a local radio station, was held in the most magnificent auditorium with very fine acoustics. Despite a shortage of spectators, the Choir gave a first-class performance and in fact many would regard it as one of the finest concerts in the history of “The Treorchy,” with one of the most responsive audiences to have ever played to.

At a reception following the concert the Choir mixed with the members of the “A Coeur Joie Allegro”, choral organisation. The Treorchy choristers were welcomed by their conductor Jean Sturm and the organiser of the weekend, W. Rene Maillard. The response was given by Vice Chairman Cliburn Willis, who surprised everyone when he presented his speech in French!

Following breakfast on Saturday morning, the Choir walked to Strasbourg Cathedral for a rehearsal, before visiting the Council of Europe to enjoy a civic reception from the Master Bakers Choir of Strasbourg and a representative of the mayor of the city.

A performance of “The Three Bells” was given following a request, and a Choir plaque was presented to the Mayor’s representative M. Roos. Following the formal proceedings, drinks and food were enjoyed and soon an impromptu concert was given until late in the afternoon. With no concert that evening the choristers continued to enjoy the sights and sounds of this fascinating city.

On Sunday morning the Choir was honoured to perform at the Roman Catholic High Mass in Strasbourg Cathedral with its congregation of over four thousand people. It was an awe-inspiring moment for the choristers to perform in such outstanding splendour and for such a prestigious occasion.

A social gatheringA social gathering

It was indeed a proud and yet humbling experience for them, particularly when the echo of the final section of “Tydi a Roddaist” rang out around the vaulted splendour of the Cathedral.

Their performances of “Haec Dies”, Bruckner’s “Ave Maria”, “Sanctus” and communion motet, Victoria’s “Domine Non Sum Dingus” left the priest to announce, “Thanks to the Choir from Treorchy who have sung their songs in a manner befitting this building.”

This was undoubtedly the highlight of an enjoyable weekend and one that members of the Treorchy Male Choir would remember for many years to come.

It had indeed been fraught with travelling and administrative difficulties, but when all of those were forgotten it was remembered for the many new friends made and the musical triumphs it encompassed.

 

Press Reports

“What an impressive crowd this Treorchy Male Choir is. More than 700 concerts, 100 radio and TV broadcasts, records, a film, tours abroad to Canada – and now this trip to Alsace. As far as male voice choirs go, the Treorchy singers – all amateurs – hold the trumps.

“The number, the balance, the precision, the homogeneity, the discipline but in particular the great suppleness which allows them to go from a fine forte to the murmur of a pianissimo.

 

Enjoying the sights of the cityEnjoying the sights of the city“They have outstanding soloists, an excellent tenor, a really musical bass and a fine baritone. The Choir’s repertoire goes from prettily harmonised popular songs to spirituals and opera. The evening was a remarkable feast for the public for the lovers of choral singing present in the hall. The applause was most enthusiastic.”
M. Munch, Dernieres Nouvelles D’Alsace

“The Treorchy Male Choir, sporting a reputation forged in concert halls in many parts of the world, chose to take on the stolid burghers of Strasbourg for their first visit to France – and won by the length of a Handel’s “Messiah!”

Their three-day tour of the city, which boasts the European Parliament, some of the cleanest streets on the Continent and enough down and outs to populate the Bowery, was punctuated with the sort of organisation problems which would have turned a general, in charge of an army on the march, white.

“Put up in hotels so doubled booked they resembled the departure lounge of Heathrow Airport, some of the 90-plus choristers had to
move hotel rooms twice and hotels once during their short stay. But even the undemonstrative bourgeois of Alsace, whose impressive commitment to culture still trails along way behind their desire to make as many fast francs as they can, opened their hands as the choir gave a couple of breathtaking performances. The climax came in a setting perfect enough to have brought the best out of the combined choirs of St Peter’s in Rome and Canterbury Cathedral.

“The gothic cathedral of Notre Dame in the centre of Strasbourg is so beautiful you can forgive the people who built it anything. Its delicate main spire soars almost 500 feet above the warren-like streets of the centre of the city.

Visiting the cityVisiting the city

"The sandstone outer walls are stuccoed with carvings of the delicacy of fine lacework, and the vaulted arches inside soar like one of Caruso’s top “C”s.

“It was there at the packed main mass on a Sunday morning that the Treorchy gathered on the altar to give a performance which had the congregation leaving their seats to gather around and listen.

 

"Conductor John Cynan Jones, himself an expert on church architecture and with a temperament admirably suited to the setting, played on his men in the way the cathedral organist played on his stops. For those who listened, it was a salutary reminder that the overcrowded, often clichéd world of Welsh male voice choirs boast one or two jewels which fit easily into the crown of choral singing anywhere in Europe. The fact is not so surprising when you consider the amount of time and commitment which now goes into maintaining the standards of a choir in the Treorchy category.

 

“It may have taken the good people of Strasbourg time to cotton on to the fact they were playing hosts to one of the world’s best amateur choirs, but once the fact had sunk in the city opened its heart to the Rhondda men.” 

Mario Basini, Western Mail

Concert List

Sept 25 Kongress Halle, Strasbourg

Sept 27 Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg