The City of Chester Male Voice Choir

We sing to serve

The Tours

Over the years the Choir has undertaken many concert tours, not only in this country but also overseas. On each of these tours the Choir was proud to represent the City of Chester and proved to be fine, musical ambassadors for the city.


SCARBOROUGH - 23rd May to 26th May 2014

Once more the City of Chester Male Voice Choir has been on the move, having just returned from Scarborough in North Yorkshire where the choir joined up with Mexborough Male Voice Choir from Rotherham in South Yorkshire to raise funds for the Scarborough Samaritans charity.

Setting off on Friday morning, both choirs met in Selby, North Yorkshire and had the pleasure of singing to some surprised visitors to the beautiful Selby Abbey. This 14th century Abbey was a delight to sing in, the acoustics were of course perfect for a choral performance, and an enjoyable experience for all. Arriving at the Royal Hotel on Friday evening and all "checked in" it was time to settle down to a quiet evening of gastronomical delights, a couple of glasses of wine and getting to know our friends from the Mexborough Choir, what a lovely group what a lovely evening. Up early on Saturday, lots to do, making sure everything is in place for the evening performance, then a leisurely day in Scarborough.

Both choirs in place for 7.00 pm start. Some of our favourites were shared once more, our competition winning "Two little boys" "Guardian Angel" "Ave Maria" and "Jacobs Ladder" seem to have an impact and drew much applause. Mexborough MVC sang equally well, with some of their favorites, including "Yorkshire Lass" (of course) and "You Raise me up". Both choirs were very pleased with their performance and the concert seemed to go down well with the, over 100 guests gathered.

The Director of the Scarborough Samaritans, Karen, was delighted that the evening had raised so much money, over £700.00 over the evening, which was a great achievement and a much needed boost to the funds of this fantastic charity. Presentations all done, back to the hotel for a rather loud "coming down" sing song in the posh room, a great night was had by all and many new friends were found.

Up early on Sunday morning, for a day trip to Whitby, interrupted only with a ride on the North Yorkshire Railway steam train, where many enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the North Yorkshire moors, en-route.

Having said our goodbyes and "we must do this again" promises, we set off for home. All exhausted, we found enough energy to enjoy the beauty of Chatsworth House on the way. A great time was had by all.

HARROGATE - 4th to 7th June 2010

As in the case of the short tour to Cardiff in 2003 this was another joint venture with the Highfield Male Voice Choir. The weather was hot and sunny and the stay at Cairn Hotel in Harrogate was enjoyed by all. On the first day the Choir sang in Ripon Cathedral and later in the weekend also sang in York Minster. A joint concert of the two choirs with Harrogate Male Voice Choir took place at the Baptist Church in central Harrogate.

WESTON-SUPER-MARE - 28th TO 31st May 2009

En-route to Somerset the Choir sang in Gloucester Cathedral. The weekend base was at the very comfortable Webbington Hotel perched high up on the Mendip Hills with its magnificent terrace views across to the Seven estuary. During the weekend we also sang at Wells Cathedral. Our hosts for the weekend - The Cheddar Male Voice Choir - joined us in a concert on the Saturday evening at the Victoria Methodist Church in the centre of Weston-Super-Mare. On the return journey the Choir visited the National Memorial Arboretum near to Lichfield where they sang in tribute to those who gave their lives in service to the nation since the end of World War II.

BOURNEMOUTH - 28th September to 1st October 2007

For this short visit to Bournemouth the Choir was again supplemented by several members of the Highfield Male Voice Choir. En-route to a comfortable stay in the Russell Court Hotel the Choir sang in Worcester Cathedral. A joint concert with our hosts the Dorset Police Male Voice Choir took place on the Saturday evening.

SCOTLAND - 15th to 21st May 2004

The Choir with RAF Leuchars, Scotland

The Choir touring party consisted of 42 singing members together with 38 wives, partners and friends. The Choir was again augmented with 5 singing members from Highfield Male Voice Choir. Throughout the tour the Choir was conducted by Granville Lund with Helen Everett as accompanist.

En route to Scotland the Choir stopped off in Carlisle and gave a short but popular performance for the enjoyment of the many visitors to the cathedral. The Windlestrae Hotel at Kinross was the comfortable and convenient base for the Choir for next 6 days.

During the week the Choir gave three formal concerts. The first, on Sunday evening at the parish church of St. Ninian in Glenrothes was shared with delightful musical contributions from the children of nearby Southwood School. The concert raised £842 which was in aid of the school’s efforts to obtain a mini-bus. In the audience, as guest of honour, was the Air Commodore RAF (Scotland) who also is the commanding officer of the nearby RAF Leuchars. Our original contact for this tour had been through RAF Leuchars and it was through them that this particular concert had been set up to support their charitable efforts for the school minibus. An invitation made to the Choir that night by the Air Commodore was to lead to a most fascinating visit later that week.

The second formal concert on the Tuesday evening took place in the beautiful and historic Church of the Holy Rood, at Stirling. Here we performed in memorable concert to a very large and appreciative audience, sharing the stage with some very talented young musicians and singers. The concert raised £1,200 for the Alloa Autistic Society.

The following evening, (Wednesday) the third and final formal concert took place this time in the parish church at Elie, a small fishing village on the Fife coast overlooking the Firth of Forth. Singing in slightly cramped conditions in the very small and unusually designed church the Choir again put on a good performance and helped to raise £860 this time in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The total amount raised for charitable causes during the week amounted to almost £3,000 making the tour very rewarding in this respect and helping to highlight our motto of ‘We Sing to Serve’.

Several excursions took place during the week and on each one the Choir gave short impromptu performances, taking every opportunity to have a sing for our own enjoyment and the pleasure of whoever was there to hear. These impromptu performances took place at Scone Palace, the Dewar whiskey distillery at Aberfeldy, the famous Falkirk Wheel boat lift, the foredeck of the former Royal Yacht Britannia - now a floating museum at Leith, Edinburgh, and finally at RAF Leuchars. Taking up the invitation that had been offered by the Air Commodore at the first concert we visited RAF Leuchars and were specially received at the camp and treated to a private tour of the camp with the highlight being a spectacular aerobatic flying display of the Tornado jet fighter flown by the Squadron Leader and just for us! Finally after a final social evening in the hotel on the last evening the Choir returned to Chester on the Friday after a very enjoyable and rewarding tour.

CARDIFF - 12TH TO 14TH July 2003

The original basis for this short trip to Cardiff was to take part in a mass ‘World of Male Voices concert in the Millenium Stadium. In the event this was cancelled after the Choir had made hotel reservations but the opportunity was taken together with the Highfield Male Voice Choir who had made similar arrangements to substitute the original plans for a short tour involving both choirs. The City of Chester Male Voice Choir party consisted of 28 singers (with 24 wives/partners) with Granville Lund conducting the joint choirs (HIghfield travelled separately with 27 singers). The accompanist for both choirs was Derek Littlemore.

On the journey to Cardiff on the Saturday both choirs joined up for an short impromptu performance at Hereford Cathedral - a fitting venue as it was here that Granville Lund had spent much of his earlier life as the Cathedral’s leading tenor soloist chorister.

A formal concert performance of the joint choirs took place on the Sunday evening in the ‘Cathedral of the Rhondda’ otherwise known as St. Peter’s Church at Pentre in the Rhondda Valley. Pentre is the next village in the valley to Treorchy so it was with a little trepidation that we sung that evening in the homeland of the famous Treorchy Male Voice Choir. Diana Fuge (Soprano) who had sung with both choirs on previous occasions was the guest artiste for this concert.

On the return journey the following day both choirs agained joined up to sing again this time in the famous Tewkesbury Abbey.

TENBY - 21ST TO 24TH September 2001

A weekend tour to Tenby the Pembrokshire seaside resort which like Chester is a walled city and a member of the walled cities association. For this weekend we hosted by the Tenby Male Choir and the original contact had come from our own member Arthur Dale who previously before moving to Chester had lived in Tenby and had been a member of that Choir. The tour party consisted of 78 members, wives and friends including 9 friends from Highfield Male Voice Choir. 40 singers performed on stage directed by Granville Lund and accompanied by Maria Scott. The Choir took part in two formal concerts.

The first on the Saturday evening was organised by the local branch of The Lions and took place at the Community Hall in nearby Saundersfoot in front of a small but appreciative audience. The following night a large audience gathered in St. John’s Church in Tenby when the Choir shared the stage in a joint concert with The Tenby Male Choir. This concert was a resounding success and was followed by an excellent social get together with refreshment provided by the Tenby Choir at their own club premises.

During the day on the Sunday the Choir made an excursion of the local coastline and sang informally in the ancient and deserted chapel of St. Govans which was situated at the bottom of the cliff via steep steps. The Choir singing that day was the first to be heard in the chapel for over 100 years. Later that morning the Choir gave an impromptu performance at the nearby church at Bosherton. Stopping off at St. Davids on the return journey to Chester on Monday morning the Choir sang in St. David’s Cathedral. Set as it is in the Valley of the Roses the Choir obviously included Glyn Rhosyn in their short performance that day. A most moving experience.

MALTA - 23rd to 30th March 1999

The most recent tour of the Choir was to the Mediterranean island of Malta. This was the Choir’s first tour under their new director of music Granville Lund, and the last tour as The Cestrian Male Voice Choir before changing its name to The City of Chester Male Voice Choir. The tour party consisted of 38 singers, a number which, on this occasion, included six members of the Highfield Male Voice Choir, accompanist Dennis Jones, and wives, friends and supporters. Travel was by air from Manchester to Malta and the party was accommodated in the Seabank Hotel at Mellieha Bay in the north of the island.

The first formal concert of the tour was given in the pro-anglican cathedral of St. Paul in the capital city of Valetta, a venue which provided a natural link for the Choir in that the organ in this cathedral had, originally, been built for, and used in, Chester cathedral. The next two formal concerts both took place in magnificent churches at Mellieha and at Nadur on the neighbouring island of Gozo where the concert was shared with the town band. Very large congregations were present for these sacred concerts which took place in Holy Week.

During a sightseeing tour of island the Choir sang impromptu in the church in Mostar, and in the cathedral at Mdina, the silent city and ancient capital of Malta. On the final night of the tour the Choir presented a lighthearted, informal concert to entertain their fellow guests at the Seabank Hotel.

SENS - 15th to 23rd April 1995

The Choir performing in Sens

The tour to Sens in France was notable in that it was the first visit by any choral group from Chester to its twin town in France, and it was the first tour without Fred Warren as conductor of the Choir. The tour was organised with a little financial help from Chester City Council and arrangements in Sens were made by the members of the Rotary Club of Sens. The touring party consisted of 34 singing members, conductor Peter Dalton, accompanist Dennis Jones, guest artiste Diana Palmerston (soprano) with Michael Williams (accompanist) and accompanying wives, friends and supporters.

A conducted tour of the City of Sens was arranged for the first morning and this included an official champagne reception by the Mayor and officials at the Town Hall. There, greetings were exchanged between the twin cities, and the Choir sang for the gathered officials and also to a surprised and delighted couple who had just been married in a civil wedding ceremony in an adjoining chamber of the Town Hall.

The principal musical event of the week was a joint concert in Sens in the cathedral of St. Etienne with a children’s choir, La Manécanterie de l’Etoile, and a mixed choir, Philoméla.

Excursions were made, during the week, to the Champagne and Chablis wine producing areas and to Paris for sightseeing, a cruise on the River Seine, and a visit to Notre Dame where the Choir sang to the delight of the many visitors in the cathedral. On the return journey at the end of the tour the Choir sang in the cathedral at Rheims.

CORNWALL - 25th May to the 1st June 1991

To celebrate their Golden Jubilee and to mark the retirement of Fred Warren as conductor the Choir arranged the tour by coach to Cornwall - its first and, to date, only concert tour in this country.

Some fifty singing members, conductor Fred Warren, accompanists Trudi Hughes and Dennis Jones, guest artiste Diana Palmerston (soprano) and accompanying wives and friends made up the tour party.

Based at the famous Headland Hotel at Newquay, the Choir toured the whole of Cornwall during the week. Starting with a church service at Newquay Methodist Church the Choir undertook formal concert engagements at Penzance, Mevagissey, and finally at St. Michaels Church in Newquay itself where they shared a grand concert with the Newquay Male Coice Choir. As ever the Choir sought out the nearest cathedral, this time at Truro, in which to sing informally during the course of the week and they also performed an informal concert in the ballroom of the Headland Hotel.

BEEK and LIMBURG - 26th August to 3rd September 1989

Five years after its first visit to Beek in Holland, the Choir was invited back by to take part in the special anniversary celebrations of the Beeker Liedertafel. This time the journey almost became a nightmare when one of the two coaches broke down in Belgium. Then it was found that the booked accommodation in Valkenburg was far from suitable and alternative accommodation had to be found.

The celebration concert in Beek, with several other choirs and music groups, took place in a huge marquee on the town square and the atmosphere was more that of a beer festival than the formal concert that the Choir had expected. Informal concerts were given at Limburg, and at Bad Neuenahr, a hundred miles or so away in Germany. On the way to this latter engagement the Choir stopped at Cologne to sing once again in the cathedral.

The tour party on this occasion consisted of approximately fifty singing members, conductor Fred Warren, accompanist Dennis Jones, guest artiste Geraint Jones (cornet), and accompanying wives and friends.

BEEK, LUDWIGSHAFEN, and VRIEZENVEEN - May 1984

In 1984 a return visit was made to Holland and West Germany, and, for the first time, choir members were accompanied by their wives. The tour had been prompted by an invitation from the Beeker Liedertafel, a male voice choir from Beek, a small town in the Limburg region in the south of Holland. For the first part of the tour the party travelled in two coaches from Chester, via Ramsgate and Ostend, to Valkenburg. The Choir, smaller in number than on previous tours, gave formal a concert in the Civic Hall, in Geleen and also performed in Beek in the more relaxed social atmosphere of the combined bar and rehearsal hall which was the home of the host choir.

Excursions were made to the old Jesuit caverns, the marl caves, in Limburg and to the spot where the national boundaries of Holland, Belgium and Germany meet - a place where three people can stand holding hands - each person standing in a different country. On another day the Choir took a luncheon cruise on the River Maas to the nearby city of Maastricht.

After Limburg, the Choir travelled by coach and river cruise ship down the Rhine valley to make a return visit to Ludwigshafen, some nine years after the first visit. The Choir re-visited Heidelberg and Speyer, where they experienced once again the strange acoustics in the cathedral. In one of the large churches in Ludwigshafen, the Choir took part in a formal concert which had been arranged by their hosts the Gesangverein BASF.

After a stay of two days, the Choir headed north to make their second, short, return visit of the tour - this time to Vriezenveen. En route, the Choir sang for the first time in the great cathedral of Cologne. In Vriezenveen the hosts, as before, were the members of the Cristelaijk Meenencoor and after sharing social events with them the Choir, once again, performed in concert in the Grote Kirke as they had six years earlier.

On this tour the Choir was again conducted by Fred Warren with Trudi Hughes and Dennis Jones as the accompanists, and, for the fourth time, Gwen Davies was the guest artiste.

SOUTH DAKOTA, U.S.A. - 9th to 23rd May 1980

Choir on horse and cart in South Dakota

In 1955 Gordon Garnos, a young serviceman at the American airbase at RAF Sealand, became a keen first tenor member of the Cestrian choir during his stay in Chester. He always said that one day he would ‘bring the Choir’ to his home state, South Dakota, U.S.A. and, many years later, that’s exactly what he did. By this time he was the editor of the Watertown Public Opinion newspaper and, using his influence and contacts throughout the state, he organised the travel, accommodation and concert venues for a touring party of almost a hundred people - a mammoth task indeed! All that the Choir had to do was to ‘get your butts over here!’

So it was that the Cestrian Male Voice Choir touring party, consisting of over 85 singers, conductor Fred Warren, accompanists Trudi Hughes and Bert Jones, with guests Gwen Davies (soprano), Brian Smith (accompanist), Kevin Catchpole (Deputy Editor of the Cheshire Observer) and Councillor Hugh Jones, the then Mayor of Chester, complete with the City’s ancient mayoral chain, flew from Manchester, via Prestwick, New York, and Detroit, to Minneapolis in the United States of America.

The journey continued by coach over long, straight prairie roads, to the outskirts of Watertown, South Dakota, arriving at this mid-western, prairie town, appropriately at high noon! Suddenly the buses pulled to a halt. In the road ahead were a posse of men on horseback, wearing Stetsons and masks, and firing their six-shooter pistols into the air. They boarded the coaches and, with pistols still drawn from the holsters, forced the Choir into open horse-drawn wagons. The they made the Choir sing as they travelled the last few hundred yards into town, to the cheers of the town-folk.

What a welcome! This was to set the scene for the next 14 hectic days when the Choir travelled almost a thousand miles across the state, staying in seven different cities, performing in nine formal concerts, and engaging in impromptu singing on every possible occasion. During the tour, the accommodation was by courtesy of over three hundred individual families, throughout the state of South Dakota, who welcomed the Choir wholeheartedly as long, lost friends. Two old, yellow, school buses and a U-Haul trailer, transported the Choir across the state and the whole, mammoth logistical operation was organised by Gordon Garnos and his team of helpers, through public appeals and through the Elks and Lions club organisations.

The concerts in Watertown, Brookings, Madison, Pierre, Chamberlain, Mitchell, Yankton, and Sioux Falls, each took place in large auditoriums, and in each case the hall was full to capacity, a combined audience estimated at almost, 10,000.

The Choir sang informally on many occasions, - in a small, old, white-painted prairie church at Madison; in the High School at Chester, South Dakota (population 364); at a Sioux Indian pow wow on the banks of the River Missouri; at the State Capitol building in the presence of the State Governor, who appointed all the Choir members and touring members as honorary citizens of the state of South Dakota; at a school for orphan Indian children at Chamberlain; and at the Eros Space Centre at Sioux Falls.

The touring party was honoured by the Governor of the State who appointed each and member as a Lifelong Honorary Citizen of the State of South Dakota with everyone receiving a signed and sealed scroll to mark this appointment.

VRIEZENVEEN - 27th May to 3rd June 1978

Following an initial contact made by Jack Hobson, the then Choir treasurer, in 1978 the Choir, travelling by motor coach and ferry (Sheerness to Vlissingen), visited Vriezenveen in the Twente region of Holland. The host choir for the tour was the Cristelaijk Mennencoor Vriezenveen.

During the week the Choir undertook three formal concerts. The first of these took place after the Sunday evening service at the Grote Kirche (the great church) at Vriezenveen. The inside of this beautiful church was, in keeping with the puritan character of the protestant Dutch Reformed Church, stark and bare. The large congregation was silent, throughout an impressive concert performance of sacred music by the Choir, but at the end, after the singing of Psalm100, it rose to a standing ovation of unrestrained applause. Further concerts were given at a large church in Enschede, and, in a less formal format, at Gronau a small town just over the border in West Germany.

The Choir sang informally on several occasions during this tour, notably, at the Castle Twinkel at Delden and at Arnhem. After visiting the town, the re-built bridge and the museum, the Choir sang at the war cemetery in memory of those who had perished there.

On this tour the Choir, numbering over 75 singing members, was conducted by Fred Warren with Trudi Hughes and Bert Jones as the Choir accompanists. Guest artistes were Gwen Davies (soprano), Paschal Allen (bass) and Brian Smith (accompanist).

LUDWIGSHAFEN AM RHEIN, - 19th to 27th April, 1975

Ludwigshafen choir photograph

In 1975 the Choir travelled by train and ferry to Ludwigshafen am Rhein, in Germany or, as it was then known, West Germany. This tour was undertaken at the invitation of the Gesangverein BASF, a male choir from the famous BASF chemical company which originated in Ludwigshafen. The invitation was to return the hospitality afforded, by the Cestrians, to the BASF choir on its tour to Chester the previous year.

In complete contrast to Czechoslovakia in 1971, the Choir’s accommodation in Ludwigshafen was the height of luxury in a first class hotel. The conditions were ideal and the tour arrangements were very efficiently organised in typical German style by the host choir. Formal concerts featuring the Choir took place at the BASF Feierabendhaus in Ludwigshafen and at the Deutscher Buntesgartenschau in Mannheim. The former was in a large concert hall where, some 40 years previously, the world’s very first commercial sound recording to use magnetic tape had been produced; and the latter, on a floating stage, in the open air at the National Garden Festival.

Fred Warren conducted the Choir throughout the tour, with Trudi Hughes and Bert Jones as the accompanists. Guest artistes, Gwen Davies (soprano), Robert Bickerstaffe (baritone), and Brian Smith (accompanist) joined the Choir for this tour.

The attractive tour itinerary included visits to the ancient university town of Heidelberg, to Speyer where the Choir sang in the cathedral which has extraordinary echoing acoustics, and inevitably, to a wine cellar to sample the products of the region!

A cassette recording to mark the concert at the Feierabendhaus was specially produced by the BASF choir and was presented to all members of the touring party. Cassette recordings in 1974 were very much new technology. Further details of this recording can be found in Appendix 5 of this book.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA - 26th September to 2nd October 1971

Czechoslovakia newspaper article

The touring story starts back in 1971 when the British Council, prompted by a request from behind the iron curtain, invited the Choir to make a groundbreaking friendship tour to the country that was then known as Czechoslovakia. The invitation was readily accepted and in September 1971, after many months of extremely difficult planning, the Choir travelled by air to Prague, as the hosts of the Smetana-Slovanka choir from Kladno, a steel-producing town fifteen miles northwest of Prague.

Today, visits to Czechoslovakia, or the Czech Republic as it is now known, are commonplace. In 1971 things were very different. The country was firmly behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ and conditions were far from easy. The Choir’s movements were subject to constant supervision by communist party officials and the food and accommodation, in an apprentice miner’s hostel, were very basic. The tour, although quite a culture shock, offered the Choir a unique opportunity of seeing life in an authoritarian, communist, regime behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ and, despite all the privations, proved to be a memorable experience for all those who took part. Throughout the week, wherever it went, the Choir was given a warm and enthusiastic reception by the Czech people, if not by their political masters.

The Choir performed in two formal concerts during the tour. The first took place in the theatre at Kladno and the second in the Clementinum, a church, in Prague. H.P.F. (Fred) Warren conducted the Choir, and Trudi Hughes and Albert R. (Bert) Jones were the accompanists. Solo items, for the concerts, were by choir members, Dorothy Jones (soprano), Ken Bartram (euphonium), Derek Hewson (bass), Bill Jones (violin), and Tom Mawhinney (baritone).

In addition to the two formal concerts, the Choir sang impromptu on several occasions. Notably, in the great cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague on the day of the patron saint of the country, St. Wenceslas, becoming the first Choir to sing in the cathedral since the communist occupation. On other occasions that week the Choir sang in the caverns of Konyaprussy, in the baroque chapel of the castle at Krivoklat, in the steel foundry at Kladno, and poignantly at Lidice, the village memorial to a second world war atrocity.

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