Paris (2013)
In 2013 the Bach Choir mounted its second major tour in recent years (their first tours being in the 1970s to our twin towns of Marburg and Poitiers), with a five day visit by eighty choir members to Paris, singing Masses in the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (with a congregation of over 800 giving us a standing ovation at the conclusion of the Mass) and the Basilique Royale de Saint-Denis, just to the north of Paris.

The repertoire for the Masses included the ‘Keble’ Missa Brevis by Philip Stopford and Ave verum Corpus by Colin Mawby, as well as two stunning American choral works – Ave Maria by Kevin Memley and O sacrum convivium by Gerald Near. We were delighted to welcome Chon Meng Lam, the eighteen year-old Organ Scholar from All Saints’ Church as a guest tenor and organist in the Mawby and Near.
In our places at Saint-Denis
Ready to sing Mass at Saint-Denis
Just after our Notre-Dame rehearsal

Plenty of time was available for sightseeing, and whilst small groups formed to scale Le tour Eiffel, stroll along the Champs-Élysées, see the artwork in the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, and hear the Orchestre de Paris perform in La Salle Pleyel, it was our final day’s whole group visit to Montmatre and La Basilique du Sacré Cœur which really brought everyone together. Our tours do not just improve our music-making and give us access to singing in some of the greatest sacred spaces in the world, but they are great fun, as can be seen from the following report of the tour, submitted by one of our choir members:

“Envision if you will the following:

The coach driver delivering choir members to the first hotel on the first day stopping the coach and people starting to disembark. Mr and Mrs Gibson went into reception only to return rather speedily when they discovered that we weren’t booked in there – the driver had gone to the wrong hotel! Dr Finch attempting to play basketball from the top of the open-top tour bus with his empty banana skin and fortunately hesitating long enough for a rather nattily dressed Frenchman in a grey beret to pass without incident! Mr Roddis arriving without his dear Lady wife, who had regrettably fallen sick at the last minute having battled through to Wellingborough Station. As she had packed the suitcase, he had plenty of dresses to wear, but only one change of trousers! Ms Moakes attempting to clean her contact lens in public and Mrs Cave commenting that it looked as if she was snorting cocaine! (It hadn’t helped that she had left all her contact lens solution at home along with the “kit”) When Dr Halstead arrived with it on the Friday and passed over the envelope - padded of course - she did hope Dr Halstead hadn't transported illegal drugs!
Choir Ladies Relaxing
Our Musical Director in Mozart Poise
Our Organist - Chon Meng Lam

Our young organist, Chon Meng arriving at breakfast on our last morning in shorts (apparently his ‘pj’s’) so that he had at least had some breakfast and coffee before we set off in the coach. The packing could wait! (I’m reliably informed he has great knees!) Our Musical Director attempting to gather the choir together into two lines surrounding the perimeter of the practice room at Saint-Denis no less than FIVE times, and wishing he had his Boys from All Saints’ who would at least LISTEN! Our Musical Director also disappeared to sit on the crypt steps at St Denis during the sermon to update our Facebook page (no doubt with photos attached of the choir etc.).

Ms Moakes (again) using Mr Roddis as a gofer to purchase tobacco whilst she languished over a truly French lunch in the oldest restaurant in Montmartre. Mr Roddis returning to say she owed him several hundred Euros and her believing him! Members in general becoming more acquainted with each other as they played footsie in the confines of the Eurostar four-seater configurations. The Reverend and Mrs Spenceley celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary and hoping no one had noticed the empty champagne bottle and glasses left outside their room (pity our Detectives Grainer and Deane were also on their floor!). Those of us who thought that trains from Gare du Nord were actually travelling to Spain because Valencia was on the departure board!

A better time could not have been had by all, and that is before we even think about the moving performances we gave in two of the most stunning buildings in Europe.”