During the first part of the half term break the Cathedral Choir travelled to Belgium for a concert tour. This was the first trip abroad for the choir since 2012 and was a great opportunity to build confidence as a team following a busy start to the academic year.
The trip began very early on Saturday 21st October with the bus departing from Cathedral Green at 5.00am for the long trip to Dover ready for the ferry crossing to Calais. Bad weather meant a delay at the port and pretty unfavourable conditions on the ferry with the whole party relieved to arrive on Frech soil. A short bus journey meant a 6.00pm arrival at our base in Kortrijk on the Belgian-French border. There wasn’t much time to settle in as the choir’s first engagement was to sing at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres at 8.00pm that evening. After changing into cassocks and a rehearsal on the bus we arrived with only 10 minutes to spare. A large crowd attended the ceremony which is held every day of the year, and the choir sang Eleanor Daley’s beautiful In Remembrance in the open air.
After a good night’s rest (for most people!) we serenaded the accommodation staff with an early morning rehearsal before departing for our first concert engagement at the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk in the seaside town of De Panne. There was time to look around the town and to sample some of the amazing patisseries there before the concert at 3.00pm. The choir treated a very large and appreciative audience to an hour-long programme of music in a great acoustic for singing, receiving a standing ovation at the end. Back at the accommodation that evening, there was time to relax with some particularly hotly contested games of cards!
On Monday we travelled to the historic city of Ghent for the day. A long walk from the bus into the city still left time for some exploring before we regrouped at the Cathedral for a concert at midday. Much of the programme on this occasion was unaccompanied music and the choir really rose to the challenge of singing in an unfamiliar building, particularly in William Byrd’s Sing joyfully which opened the concert. Many people visiting the Cathedral stopped to listen to the concert and the audience filled much of the historic building. After lunch on the riverbank, it was onto another boat (on much calmer waters than the ferry crossing!) for a river cruise taking in some of the sights of Ghent. The tour guide stopped the boat underneath a bridge and the choir sang an impromptu performance of Thomas Tallis’s motet If ye love me in the cavernous acoustic. Back on dry land, a visit to the Gravensteen Castle followed before the trek back to the bus.
Tuesday’s destination was the famous city of Bruges with its amazing architecture. The group enjoyed a visit to the ChocoStory museum with lots of free samples of Belgian chocolate as well as a chance to visit many of the shops in the historic city centre. Our final concert was at Sint-Gilliskerk which had another amazing acoustic and an interesting (if challenging to play) historic organ. Unperturbed, the choir gave another brilliant performance and were rewarded with another standing ovation. Later that evening there was the chance to celebrate a chorister birthday and an after-dinner quiz before packing up began in preparation for our journey home.
Thankfully, the journey back to Cardiff was a lot smoother than the outbound trip and we arrived home ahead of schedule! Tours are a fantastic enrichment for our choristers and a trip such as this one presents a brilliant opportunity to show the strength of the music here in Llandaff, visit fantastic places, sing wonderful music and to spend time working together in a concentrated way. We look forward to further opportunities in the future.
Stephen Moore, Director of Music