Choirs in harmony

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Twenty-three members of the Dumfries and Galloway Regional Youth Choir (DGRYC), with students from schools throughout the area, have been part of an amazing experience meeting other young musicians from Germany, thanks to Dumfries’ links with twin-town Gifhorn, writes Robert Guthrie.

Over three days during September, members of the choir met singers from the Humboldt-Gymnasium school in Gifhorn, in Lower Saxony. A hotel in Durham was chosen as a half-way house meeting point, since the Gifhorn singers had to travel over by boat via Rotterdam and Hull.

Staff from the choir accompanying us on the trip included conductor Jamie Brand and co-ordinator Sue St Joseph, with staff from the Humboldt-Gymnasium Choir, Dieter Pinkowski, Claudia Gerhardy and Doris Meisch.

The course started on September 13. We set off from Dumfries and arrived in Durham where we met the German choir for the first time. After the first rehearsal, there was some time for socialising before dinner, comparing day to day lives and experiences, and learning about each other’s cultures.

We carried on practising and on September 15, an end-of-course concert was held at St John’s Church, Dumfries, where the two choirs performed a variety of music, ranging from a comical German song about cacti to an old English madrigal, along with songs from Abba and the musical Grease.

The twinning of Dumfries and Gifhorn was the fundamental link between the DGRYC and Humboldt-Gymnasium. The initiative dates back to 2009, when Jamie Brand took the DGRYC to Gifhorn and met a small group of students in the town. Then in 2010, students from Humboldt-Gymnasium came to Dumfries, and this year saw an even larger group of singers from both countries meet together in Scotland.

Lina Ludwig, one of the students from Humboldt-Gymnasium, said: “It was lovely meeting so many nice people, and it was very cool to talk English all day. Meeting the others was strange at first because none of us knew how the others would react. But it was worth it. The whole trip and singing together was just amazing.”

Organiser Sue St Joseph added: “The days were dominated by rehearsal time, preparing a programme of choral music for a joint concert in Dumfries on the Saturday but there was also time to enjoy a day out visiting Beamish Open Air Museum. Pupils and staff had a wonderful time full of music, friendship and fun and the DGRYC is hoping to return to Gifhorn for another tour in Christmas 2013.”

Since the event, students have kept in touch and established friendships via social networking sites such as Facebook. And many DGRYC members are now adding German lessons to their timetables.

A further exchange trip to Gifhorn for the DGRYC and Humboldt-Gymnasium is hoped to be organised in December 2013.

The course was wunderbar! All participants really benefited socially, musically and culturally. All the students cannot wait for the next trip.

A massive chorus of thanks goes to Jamie Brand, Sue St Joseph, Alison Guthrie, Billy Dewar-Riddick, Dieter Pinkowski, Doris Meisch, Claudia Gerhardy, Dumfries & Galloway Council, and all the singers for such an amazing musical and social experience.