St Bart's Choir

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Tour to Switzerland 2004

St Bartholomew's Choir Tour

Switzerland, August 2004

On August 19th we began our short five day singing tour, to the beautiful Canton of St Gallen, 15 kilometres south west of Lake Constance, in a narrow high valley of the pre-alps region of East Switzerland. Twenty two singers, one organist and our Musical Director Peter Kwater travelled by air from Manchester to Zurich followed by a train journey to St Gallen. We arrived that afternoon at the local Youth Hostel, our base for the duration, amid bright sunshine and spectacular views. The atmosphere was electric already, great excitement followed lots of laughter and a magical ambience set the scene for our visit.

We sang at three diverse venues. Our first performance was an evening concert at St Martin in Arbon (a port and industrial town on the Swiss side of Lake Constance). The concert repertoire was a mix of sacred and secular music spanning centuries. It had been extensively advertised and there were four hundred people eager to listen to an English choir! The concert was warmly received by the audience who did not applaud until the end but then could not stop! What a magical moment that was for us all. We even recorded a "live CD". Following the concert we were whisked away to a community hall adjacent to the church for a surprise 50th  birthday party for the Secretary General of the Council of European Bishops' Conference Monsignor Aldo Giordano. One Madrigal and two contemporary English pieces later, we were able to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening "off duty".

Our next venue was the palatial late baroque Cathedral in St Gallen which was festooned with ceiling murals, marble statues and the most exquisite wood carved benches, pulpit, and choir stalls. (St Gallen takes its name from an Irish Missionary Gallus who established a hermitage here in 612 A.D. which then developed into a Benedictine Abbey). We were very privileged to sing evening mass here. Usually only choirs of international renown are invited!!

Our final venue was in Oberegg set within the mountainous region of Appenzell, a mere 2887 ft high. We sang early morning Mass at the picture postcard hill­top village church. The church was built over 100 years ago but recently has been refurbished to a modern standard, a fascinating mix of pine wood and stainless steel. Monsignor Peter Fleetwood was the celebrant ( Deputy Secretary General of the council of European Bishops' Conferences) and the highlight of the Mass was his sermon delivered in Swiss-German for the natives and English for us!! Again some really special moments for everyone to treasure.

Our little free time was well spent with a trip to Liechtenstein where we all enjoyed an alfresco lunch followed by a cable car ride in the small ski-resort of Malbun, ably guided and conducted by Monsignor Peter Fleetwood to whom we are indebted for his wonderful support and assistance. We also drove through the border into Austria and enjoyed some lovely scenery. We couldn't resist an impromptu rendition of "The Sound of Music".

This was a truly spiritually inspiring tour for us all. Musically we surpassed our goals and expectations. It was a triumphant experience and once again through our fund-raising efforts, we have achieved another self-financed tour, where as ambassadors we were able to put St Bartholomew's Rainhill on the map.  A special thank you goes out to Fr Luke Dumbill and all our parishioners whose constant support has been warmly appreciated.