Surrey was well represented in Malta last week as three local choirs travelled together to take part in the 23rd International Choir Festival.
An impressive party of 195 singers and supporters from Surrey Music’s two community choirs (Elmbridge Choir and Elmbridge Ladies Choir), together with Vox Mundi International Ladies Choir from Egham, enjoyed a five-day trip full of sightseeing and singing.
The two Elmbridge Choirs have previously participated together in choral festivals and were delighted to invite the 16 members of Vox Mundi to join them for this trip. All three choirs were accompanied by Vox Mundi’s pianist, David Darby.
As well as performing in parish churches in St Julian’s and Gozo where each choir sang songs from their own repertoire, the choirs had the honour of leading the festival’s ‘Singing and Praying for Peace’ ceremonies in the magnificent St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valetta. The choirs’ musical directors, Cliff van Tonder (Elmbridge Choir), Christine Parker (Elmbridge Ladies Choir) and Jennifer Bell (Vox Mundi), were privileged to conduct 33 choirs totalling 1020 choristers!
‘It was the most amazing experience conducting our choir and a huge audience in such a stunning venue - a very special memory which will stay with me forever,’ says Cliff van Tonder. ‘Singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” in one of the most beautiful churches in the world was awe-inspiring and highly symbolic!’
The choirs took part in the choristers’ parade, where all participating choirs took to the streets of Valletta, proudly waving their countries’ flags and singing songs in their own language – a sight and sound to behold! In addition, the Surrey choirs took their turn performing to cheering crowds from a splendid ornate bandstand at the Valletta City Gates.
The choirs enjoyed sightseeing tours to Mdina and Mosta, the Three Cities, a full day on Gozo and a special evening dinner party in a fabulous restaurant, where Christine was presented with a gift to mark her first ‘official’ outing as Musical Director with Elmbridge Ladies Choir. ‘As their new Musical Director, I am so proud of them’, says Christine. ‘Their love of singing shines through in their performances as does their enjoyment of each new experience.’
Cliff was also presented with gifts from the choir members to thank him for organising such a wonderful trip. ‘Cliff has worked his socks off over the last eight months in planning this trip down to the last detail’, explains Debbie Groves from Surrey Music, ‘and we are all indebted to him for once again providing us with such fantastic opportunities and creating wonderful memories. It has been an absolutely amazing trip and we are proud to have been flying the flag not just for Surrey, but as the only UK participants, for Britain too!’