CHOIR HONOURS 53RD WELSH DIVISION

Sunday 26 October 2008

Another successful European tour. David Burt writes.......

Following in the footsteps of many Welsh choirs, Bridgend Male Choir were the 2008 guests traveling to the Netherlands to honour the veterans who participated in the relief of s’Hertogenbosch in October 1944.   

The Dutch “October 1944 Foundation” has never forgotten the principle role of the 53rd Welsh in liberating its town after a long period of starvation and hostility and has traditionally invited a Welsh choir to participate in the celebrations and to honour the bravery of its serving men, many of those very proud persons present throughout.   

The Choir’s first engagement was at a packed Welsh Cenotaph in the City outskirts where it sang Gwahoddiad before singing Mike Sammes’ arrangement of the famous Lawrence Binyon poem, For the Fallen, accompanied on piano by Laura Smith and on Soprano Cornet by Meirion Davies. The accomplished local mixed Choir, Gemend Koor s’Hertogenbosch also sang several items. On behalf of the Choir, President, Trevor Veasey, laid one of many wreaths at the most moving of services attended by many of today’s forces, local dignitaries, representatives of the British High Commission, residents and schoolchildren, many of whom were in tears.   

The evening’s Concert at the large Hervormde Kerk again featured both Choirs, with a total stage presence of 180 choristers. John Jenkins led the Welsh visitors through a most appropriate repertoire, soundly supported by the Choir’s young and gifted accompanist, Laura Smith and the dulcet tones from the instrument of Meirion Davies, the latter making his first of what is likely to be many appearances with the Choir. Soloists, Leon Evans and Paul Carter were very well received and together with the whole party a credit to Bridgend and Wales. The Choirs jointly sang Bastiaans’ World War II Requiem receiving praise from the Musical Director and Committee of the Dutch Millennium Choir who had traveled from Utrecht and were present in the audience. Much applause was received throughout the Concert for both Choirs, but in truth its volume was nothing in comparison to that given to the Veterans who had again made the long journey from many parts of the UK.   

The following morning saw the Choir effortlessly sing at the magnificent St Jan’s Cathedral enjoying an acoustic which reverberated around its cloisters, to the delight of the many people present. Visits to Arnhem’s Oosterbeek Cemetery and to the bridges at Nijmegen ended the singing part of the tour. Long term Chairman of Llantwit Major’s British Legion, John Ll Thomas laid the Choir wreath at Arnhem in yet another emotionally charged visit. A day of relaxation in Amsterdam brought another excellent tour to an end and time for participants to reflect on the lessons and tremendous pride felt in the previous few days.