Choirs from Haverhill and Pont St Esprit unite for a special concert

The Voix de Si de La Choir and the Haverhill Choral Society in concert at the Old Independent Church in Haverhill. Picture contributed
The Voix de Si de La Choir and the Haverhill Choral Society in concert at the Old Independent Church in Haverhill. Picture contributed

An audience of more than 100 enjoyed a joint concert by the Haverhill Choral Society and the Voix de Si de La Choir from Haverhill’s twin French town of Pont St Esprit.

Saturday’s concert formed part of a reciprocal visit to Suffolk by the choir, following on from the Choral Society’s visit to France in May last year - a trip that marked 25 years since they were first invited to the Provence town.

The 20 members of the French choir were welcomed just before the weekend with an informal reception at The Plough Inn near Kedington.

They were accommodated by members of the Choral Society and on Saturday morning were taken to local places of interest by their hosts before arriving at the Old Independent Church to prepare for the evening concert - Chansons Cordiales.

Each group performed separately before a Grand Finale where the total of 60 voices provided a resounding climax.

The audience included both the Mayor of Haverhill, Cllr David Roach and the Mayor St Edmundsbury, Cllr Terry Clements together with the Society’s President, Christopher Gurteen.

On Sunday the visitors did some local sightseeing, including trips to Cambridge, Anglesey Abbey and Ickworth House before local chef, Chris Burford, prepared a dinner at Hundon Village Hall for the French guests and their hosts, a total of 50 people.

They flew back to France on Monday.

CHORAL TREAT FOR OLD INDEPENDENT CONCERT ATTENDEES

A Review of Haverhill Choral Society and Les Voix de Si de La in concert at The Old Independent Church on October 7.

By Richard Pannell

It was billed as a concert of Twin Town Choirs, Chanson Cordiales, with free entry to all.

Haverhill Choral Society was host to a choir who had travelled from Pont St Esprit, Haverhill’s French twin town, way down in Provence.

The foreign guests, Les Voix de Si de La, a small choir of around 20, began the concert under the clear direction of Georges Ciontu, who mostly, but not entirely, led from the piano.

The choir performed pieces in five different languages, and although lacking a little in male voices (as were the Haverhill Choral Society in terms of numbers and balance), they gave sometimes sensitive, and always enthusiastic renditions of all their pieces.

The highlight of their program for me was the penultimate piece, Sangena, brimming with style and musicality.

Nigel Brown, the local organ ‘legend’ needs no introduction to those who have been to OIC and Choral Society concerts before.

He accompanied some of the French pieces and then as an interlude played a magnificent piece by Herbert Howells.

Later on in the concert, as well as accompanying all of HCS’s pieces, Nigel breezed through Widor’s Toccata, a popular organ piece, brilliantly executed as always.

Haverhill Choral took to the stage in the second part, and the strength of the choir, albeit it twice as large in number, became instantly obvious.

Under the masterful directorship of Jane Wright, now MD for 15 years, they started with three classical pieces including Mendelssohn ‘s Hear my Prayer and Oh for the Wings of a Dove, the solos sang beautifully in pure tone by Lynn Kowalski.

The mood was lightened after these pieces by items such as Lloyd Webber’s Memory and Burt Bacharach’s Close to You.

The choir sang both types of music with good style and were clearly enjoying the performance, something that came across clearly to the audience.

The choirs combined for the final three pieces, filling the wonderful acoustic of the OIC with sound.

Orff’s O Fortuna, was a fitting finale to a splendid night’s entertainment.

The concert was enjoyed by over 100 people, many of whom also partook in the post-concert refreshments, kindly provided by HCS members.