23 July 2018
Forty-five members of the Chorus were in France at the height of World Cup fever, but not watching the final – they were in a Cathedral in the Dordogne, singing with two French choirs, an orchestra, two organs and an array of brass musicians. The occasion was a special concert held in Perigueux cathedral to celebrate both the end of WW1 and Bastille Day. The work was ‘Le Messe de la Délivrance ‘ by François-Clément Théodore Dubois, commissioned to celebrate the end of WW1, and it was sung by local choirs L’ensemble Vocal de Périgueux and L’ensemble vocal Arnault de Mareuil as well as the visitors from Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and other choristers from around Perigueux. A special trumpet fanfare was written for the occasion, and this, the large orchestra with extra brass players and not one but two organs, one played by Chorus Music Director Darius Battiwalla, made for an unforgettable sound that echoed around the cathedral long after the final bars were over.
The five day trip, organised by bass Matthew Morgan, also involved two concerts given by the Chorus on their own, singing works by Parry, Stanford and Tippett, Arvo Part, Rachmaninoff, Esenvalds and Saint-Saens. Conductor Darius Battiwalla willingly agreed to play in these two concerts, attracted by the organs in the churches concerned, L’Eglise de Excideuil and in St Astier.
The Chorus members were provided with accommodation by members of the French choirs and had a wonderful time, especially on the Saturday evening when Bastille Day was celebrated with a special party hosted by the French choirs, followed by a huge firework display on the banks of the river and all-night dancing in the squares around Perigueux. The special concert on Sunday was of course followed by World Cup celebrations all around the city that lasted well into the night.
‘ Everyone had a wonderful time’ said Chorus Chair Paul Henstridge. ‘Our thanks to Matthew for all his hard work, to Darius for giving his time and skills to make the trip such a success, and to the French choir members who generously put up members of the Chorus in their own homes. Several members have asked whether we could make this an annual event – a testimony to how much we all enjoyed ourselves.’
An article about the French trip appeared in the Sheffield Telegraph – see France article in Sheffield Telegraph