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Pontorson 2009

Live and unleashed in Pontorson

We gathered for the coach at the ridiculous hour of 4.30am, a time usually securely allocated for slumber. The early hour however, did not detract from the sense of anticipation and excitement for our pending weekend away.

The journey was mercifully easy. A 6 hour sea crossing allowing time for numerous cups of coffee and walks around the deck in glorious sunshine. As we drew closer, so did the sense of anticipation as to what we would find when we got there. What would the church be like? What would our hosts be like? And most importantly, would our hosts speak English?! You were either one of the lucky few, and could speak French, you might be doubly lucky and have an English speaking host, or, as was the case for the group we were in, (and several others!), have a host with no English and us with very limited French. Communication was completed through very basic French, use of a dictionary, wild gesticulation and sign language; speaking English in a French accent was remarkably successful too! Whatever our situation, we all embraced the experience ahead of us.

Our first evening was spent ‘en famille’, or attending a concert put on by the Wassenburg Choir and the choir of Pontorson and the surrounding area. Those who attended agreed that ours would be a very different concert, but we had been given a small taster of the fantastic acoustics within the church.

The following day we were treated to a trip to Mont St Michel, a very short coach trip away. This was slightly marred by the huge quantity of tourists and the rain which we encountered, but we were able to see what a magnificent building it was and get a sense of the history within it.

The afternoon brought our first and only rehearsal in the church. None of us quite knew what to expect. It only took the first few bars of the first piece to realise that it was going to be very special. The amazing acoustics of the Eglise Romane Notre Dame returned the sound right to us. The Bruckner sung within these surrounding suddenly made sense and we all rose to the occasion.

It was with the 2 Bruckner Motets that we opened the Flower Festival and began to feel ourselves lifted to new levels of confidence.

Saturday Evening brought the Soiree. On paper, a bizarre evening consisting of Highworth singers and flower arrangers, our Pontorsonaise hosts and the visiting Germans. It turned into a fantastic evening of good food, good company, good wine/cider/beer... and some very dodgy dancing. A good time was had by all!

Sunday dawned, bringing with it the prospect of that evening's concert. The day began with an optional tour around Pontorson, followed by some time with our host families. Food was a major part of our stay, meals tended to be at least five delicious courses long, involving vast quantities of wine and lots and lots of conversation.

What is there to say about the concert itself? The Choral Society did themselves proud, responding to the wonderful acoustics and the enthusiastic leadership of Mike and Des. To hear the sound at the end of a phrase or the end of a piece, echoing around the church was awe-inspiring, we all wanted to give that little bit more. The audience showed great appreciation for all our music, both the more serious and the lighter selections.

‘The Armed Man’ was a particular favourite amongst the audience, as was ‘Les Miserables’, which moved several to tears.
It was a memorable and extra-ordinary evening for all those involved.

Two massive thunderstorms later, we arrived back in Highworth the following night exhausted, but still over-whelmed by the hospitality and generosity of our hosts and the people of Pontorson. Talking to many members of the party who made the trip, it is universally agreed that it was a trip that will linger long in our memories, it was definitely a privilege to have been able to take part.

Our thanks to Highworth Twinning Association, Anne Hinton and everyone else who made the trip possible, not forgetting Mike, Chris and Alf, without whom this amazing weekend would never have taken place.

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