Germany, Wales, Netherlands
In 1985, the Greeley Chorale embarked on its first international trip. Our conductor, Michael Jothen, had taken a new job in Maryland, thus we were rehearsed by interim conductor, Sandy Varley and our new accompanist, Mary Haight. We sang octavos from our repertoire and I have no recollection of any song except ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ Our trip was planned by two, now deceased, Chorale members who used personal contacts, Frank Stitchler for Germany and Patricia Borneimeier for Great Britain for housing stays and concert dates and venues. Those two made all the arrangements along with Chris Shwartz who handled all the money collection and distribution and Evie Kulp, a travel agent and member of Chorale who managed airplane, bus (a smokers’ bus and a non-smokers’ bus!) and hotel reservations. I look back in awe at the arrangements and organization these folks made.
After getting off the plane in Frankfurt and being terrified because German military personnel, armed with semi-automatic machine guns, were everywhere, we boarded buses to Alsfelt, a small medieval village. We stayed with host families who were members of the village singers and presented a concert that first evening…jet lagged and exhausted. Sherrill Bostron was our unpaid administrator and articulately presented Chorale gifts to the mayor of Alsfelt the next day and we pot-lucked that evening singing with and to the village choir. One of our altos blew out the electricity of her host house when she plugged in her hair dryer and learned that an American swear-word she said very loudly was actually an universal word! Then the next day we left for Oldenburg, more host families, another concert in an ancient church with amazing acoustics. We spent a couple days there, shown around by our host family. My husband and I slept on a pullout couch in a wee apartment of a grad student who sent us pieces of the Berlin Wall four years later after she had helped pull the wall down. It remains one of my favorite gifts.
"One gentleman in the audience expressed sadness this was our last concert as he would have broadcast to all of Wales what a wonderful sounding group we were!"
We then bused through the low countries, observing old left-over German fortifications along the coast of the English Channel, the unique wonderful windmills of Holland, fields and fields of tulips, ending in Amsterdam for two nights in a rather dilapidated hotel in downtown. Some went to the Van Gogh museum, barge toured the canals, visited Anne Frank’s house, rented bikes, wandered through the Red-Light District, enjoyed the coffee house cafes. On the way to the English Channel for the crossing to the British Isles, we spent an afternoon in Delft, long enough to shop for the famous blue and white Delft, ending in Bruges, Belgium, a lovely old city full of canals and peddlers. From there we Hoover-crafted to England, toward the White Cliffs of Dover and stayed in a rundown hotel in London.
Our next stop was Birmingham, where we also stayed with host families and gave a concert in the town hall, greeted by a very British mayor with a large sash across his large belly. Three husbands of Chorale singers had unknowingly sat in his Honor’s seating area…a slight kerfuffle followed, until the husbands understood they were in the wrong place. Our last stop was Pembrooke, Wales, a university city near Cardiff. We stayed in a university dormitory and gave a concert in a beautiful round church to a small but most appreciative audience. One gentleman in the audience expressed sadness this was our last concert as he would have broadcast to all of Wales what a wonderful sounding group we were and the audiences would have swelled! As we left Wales, one of our basses rented a car to explore the countryside with his wife. We all waved the Clarkes goodbye….at least five times… because Conway couldn’t figure out how to get off a round-about, something most of us had never seen.The rest of us bused back to the rundown hotel in London, readying ourselves to return to Greeley vowing to each other that we would go on another adventure in four years.
Respectfully Submitted by Mary Borg, Alto