Albatros visit – 22/23rd June, 2013


Albatros at St James Louth, 2013Well what a wonderful weekend. Our very good friends, Groninger Christelijk Mannenkoor, better known as Albatros, came and performed in a  joint concert with us. We have had a 35 year relationship with Albatros, this was the 13th back and forth visit since 1979 and was timed to coincide with LMVC’s 40th year anniversary. They also performed the next day at Marshchapel which was far more enjoyable for me as I was able to have an aisle seat and got the full on visual and sound experience (on Saturday we were waiting in the side aisles). What a choir. We compliment ourselves well as their Russian songs and interpretation of other choral music is done in a different and pleasing manor to ours. I made the comment to my guest, Johan van Oosterom, that their booming sound was inspirational, he came back with: he wished they could sing our style which is so pleasantly quiet which is amusing as Graham Burrell, our MD says we don’t sing softly enough!

I have put together some photos and video of the weekend showing the social side as a momentum and below the link is a critic by our good friend Fred Goodwin, the well-known composer and arranger:

On my birthday I like to be surrounded by friends, uplifted by music and warmed by a suitable beverage.   I suspect that the last of these flowed freely after the concert, but the first two were present in abundance in St James’s Church on Saturday as the Louth Male Voice Choir celebrated its fortieth anniversary.    The friends on this occasion were not only a huge audience of supporters, but also the Dutch choir Albatros, with which the LMVC has a special relationship that it has maintained and nurtured for thirty-five of its forty years.    A festive atmosphere was assured.
We began in the usual manner with music floating magically on the air from under the tower, creating atmosphere like a well-chosen introit:   Lily of the Valley, sung softly by the LMVC with perfect blend.    Then, after an impressive crocodile of singers had processed up the side aisles, LMVC Chairman Malcolm Kerridge introduced the concert, told us something of the choir’s growth from its origins in a few singers round the piano, and welcomed the members of Albatros, the important guests of the day.  We heard how the two choirs became associated owing to a chance encounter in 1978 between David Bryant and Klaas Wieske, the then chairman of the Dutch choir.   Since then Albatros have visited Louth eight times, and LMVC have been to Pekela in Holland six times, and many individual friendships have been forged.
Now the concert could begin in earnest.   Albatros sang first, with a group of Russian songs, for which they were colourfully attired in red tunics.   Under the energetic control of their conductor Anton Stulp they at once displayed their richness of sound, dynamic range, lively diction and rhythmic ensemble, and their singing was enhanced by the addition of an accordion beautifully played by Gertie Bruin, the accomplished drumming of visiting player Christopher Neal, and a fine succession of vocal soloists from within the choir.    Particularly enjoyable were Ephita, a gentle love-song, and the Cossack song Kozachje Pesjna, with its striking rhythmic effects and acceleration to a breathless end, drawing enthusiastic applause.
Did I hear the words ‘Follow that!’?     The LMVC certainly did.   They took the stage next with conductor Graham Burrell, and began with their favourite Maori songs, the opening war chant with actions striking terror into our hearts, but soon relaxing into beautiful, sweet, blended harmony.   In the three calypso songs that followed they coped effortlessly with the syncopated rhythms, with energetic diction and excellent ensemble.    The rest of their group showed rich variety, from a lyrical rendering of O Danny Boy to the verbal dexterity of What shall we do with a drunken sailor? and the lovely close harmony of Bridge over troubled waters, with extra colour being added by the excellent piano-playing of Gwyn Law.
In the second half the order was reversed, the LMVC singing first.   Again they demonstrated their wide range, from the dramatic effects and hand-clapping of Homeless and quiet singing in Prayer of the Children to strong unison singing in The Rose and vital off-beat rhythms in Blue Skies.  They were again ably supported by Gwyn Law on the piano.  Albatros followed, with songs in mainly excellent English, and we were treated to yet more examples of their versatility.  The richness of their sound and their expressive capabilities were apparent from the first song, Shine your light, and they went on to captivate the audience with traditional gospel music in Elijah Rock, with a brilliant new ingredient in the jazz piano-playing of Cas Straatman.   Sullivan’s Lost Chord was accompanied on the organ by Graham Burrell.    Soon all will be done gave us more examples of their energetic rhythm, dynamic range and sheer enthusiasm, to provide an exciting end to this section of the concert.
Finally the two choirs sang two items together, one in Dutch and one in English, the sound filling St James’s Church in a fitting climax to the evening, rewarded with a standing ovation from the audience.    Presentations were made to people who had contributed so much to the success of the two choirs, and a birthday and a bond of friendship had been well celebrated.
Frederic Goodwin