60th Anniversary - Charisma Choir in Darlington

Monday 21st Oct 2013

After a smooth ferry ride from Dunkirk to Dover and many hours on the coach (we met in Mülheim at 4 am), we reached Darlington in time for check-in to our rooms before we had a light dinner at the Mercure Kings Hotel.
Everybody was keen on seeing at least some of Darlington before going to bed and so most of our group of 25 singers and the conductor left the hotel for a stroll through the dark streets or a drink at the Red Lion.

On Tuesday morning, we were able to make up for the missed sleep of the night before, because we did not leave for our first tour until late morning. After a short makeshift rehearsal in the hotel’s breakfast room we started on our visit to Durham where we were allowed to give a short performance in the very impressive Cathedral.
Unfortunately, the weather was not the best on our arrival; therefore, we did not reach many people when singing in front of the Town Hall as a small advertisement for the later performance. Nevertheless, we very much enjoyed singing in this wonderful old building and had nearly everybody, who was visiting the Cathedral at that time, sitting down and listening.
Afterwards, we used the opportunity to take pictures of the choir in the cloister. As Tom (Tom Nutt, Chair of the twinning association) was able to find a guide for a small unofficial tour around the nearby Durham Castle, we had the chance to see some it from inside, which is usually closed to the public because it is used by the University of Durham. We even sang in the old and in the new chapels of the Castle.
After these visits there was free time to explore the streets of old Durham, which was a pleasure due to the improved weather and the nice little shops.

Back in Darlington, we had dinner in individual groups before most of us met up again at the Quakerhouse Pub to see the Fellerband from Mülheim, which was, coincidentally, visiting Darlington at the same time and were even staying at the same hotel.
We needed to get up early the next morning because we had a rehearsal at the Dolphin Center before starting for York, which was on the tourist programme for that day. It was great to have Tom join us again on the trip to York, especially as he was accompanied by his wife.
He had organized a German Tour Guide who introduced us in a very amusing way to some of the sites and history of old York.
The tour ended in Holy Trinity Church where our guide asked us if we would sing there. So we did and our intimate audience comprised of the sexton and two elderly ladies, who were visiting the Church at the same time, they enjoyed it so much that they asked us to add another one."You made our day", was their enthusiastic response.
We spent the rest of the afternoon meandering through the streets, visiting cafes and shops of old York in small groups before our very likeable coach driver, who spent the entire week with us, brought us to “The Feathers“ somewhere on the way back to Darlington, where we had a nice dinner.

Thursday was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for our planned trip to the North York Moors National Park. The entire group (including our coach driver) went on a wonderful hike over the moor, which challenged us with small hindrances such as slippery wooden walkways and a stream without a bridge, so that one or the other foot got wet.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed the landscape, the weather and the exercise so much that nearly half of the group decided to extend the hike all the way to Robin Hoods Bay, where we had planned to spend the afternoon anyway. The second part of the hike led us steeply downhill presenting changing views of the wonderful scenery.
We finally reached the beach at low tide which ment that we were able to cross the bay. We then met up again with the others in this picturesque little town for a classic tea at the Victoria Hotel. As the sun was still shining, we decided to make use of the picnic tables in the garden, enjoying the sunset. After beer and wine had replaced the cakes and scones we were moved to sing our French drinking song. This so impressed the other guests that we received a round of applause and even a greeting in French when we left.
On the way to the moor, we had passed Whitby and seen the ruins of the ancient abbey from afar and therefore decided to stop there briefly on our way back. Tom had recommended to us that Whitby has the best Fish & Chips and a nice town centre, so we had dinner in Whitby before returning to Darlington. Tired and happy.

Friday was our last day in Darlington and the day of our evening concert in the Dolphin Centre After a good breakfast, we spent the late morning rehearsing there, following a gym class which had been taking place there. A perfect example of multi-use of the Dolphin Centre.
The rehearsal included three songs presented in the hallway in order to encourage some participants of the local Rotary Club meeting to visit our concert that evening.
Following some final organizational clarifications, the afternoon was free for everyone to do as they wished and was mostly used to take a rest or for late minute souvenir shopping. We met up again in the hotel for voice exercises in our breakfast room, which was the hotel’s ballroom - with excellent acoustics.
We then made our way over to the Dolphin Centre. The Central Hall had been fitted out with carpet, tables and chairs for the concert. Tom introduced us to the audience which even included Mülheim’s Fellerband, along with Darlington’s Mayor and Mayoress. This was a very exciting moment for us This was the musical highlight of our week.

We all thoroughly enjoyed it. Hopefully, so did our audience. Surprisingly, the numbers in the audience grew during our performance.

Later, we discovered that was due to a traffic jam round Darlington. When thanking us at the end of the concert, Mr Mayor spoke of our rare perfection We cannot completely agree because each member of the choir knows of their own little mistakes.Obviously these did not show too much.
Afterwards, we joined the official dinner with the Fellerband and delegates from the town (including Mr and Mrs Mayor) and had a most pleasant evening which was supplemented with even more songs during and after the meal.

Even though this had been a full evening, most of us returned to the Quakerhouse for a final drink. This turned out to be more than one and led to even more singing; definitely nowhere near perfect this time, but sung with great enthusiasm and gusto, voices becoming more and more croaky. But we had the time of our lifes, taught Tom a Charisma-specific toast and made friends with some local guests who encouraged us to sing even more German songs.
It developed into a very late night... Nevertheless, everyone was awake in time for a punctual check-out the next morning. It was great that Tom made the effort to come to the coach to say goodbye and wave us farewell.

The trip back went by like this: no traffic jams, reached the ferry earlier than expected, and spent the windy trip on deck, enjoying the sunset – and singing more songs. After that, we finally went quiet in the coach for the remainder of the trip and reached Mülheim at 1:30 am.

Our thanks go to Tom and the team who prepared for this tour so well, to our coach driver André and also to everyone else who made this tour possible.

It was unfortunate that some members of the choir were unable to join us on the trip and missed this fantastic week abroad.

We are very much looking forward to seeing you all at Christmas Market in Mülheim

More photos to follow.

Report by Uta Prechelt

Charsima Choir Conductor Lucius Ruehl, Andrea & Bernd Richters, Robert Husemann, Beate Kaiser-Husemann, Ulrike & Hartmut Ristow, Berit Bastert, Maren Hase, Katrin Splawski, Christina Magnus, Gudrun Ramlow, Susanne Mills, Silke Wesskamp, Annette Husmann, Uta Precheit, Vera Zollinger, Thoedor Roetzheim, Katja Riege, Sandra Schoelzel, Desiree Nevries, Ralf Meyers, Martin Davidheimann, Andreas Krueger, Robert Bonsmann.

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