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For over forty years Beare Green and Newdigate Choral Society have been enjoying exchange visits with their linked German choir Manner-Chor Koln-Vogelsang.
This year, the 15th exchange, it was our turn to visit Germany and we have just returned from a very successful whirlwind trip to Cologne. We travelled by coach and arrived in the early evening to be greeted by the ringing of the bells of St Konrad in Vogelsang and by a sea of welcoming German faces with trays of the local beer, Kolsch. We were overwhelmed by our hosts hospitality and generosity and very soon old friendships were being renewed and new ones made.
Over the next two days we were whisked around a Cologne chocolate factory, Cologne Cathedral, the Eau de Cologne premises, a tour of the old town of Cologne and a fascinating guided tour of the Praetorium, the massive foundations of the Roman governor's residence of 1st to 4th century.
We also managed to fit in rehearsals for a combined Manner-Chor Koln-Vogelsang 60th Anniversary Concert and for a celebratory party. The concert was a resounding success, We sang the Choral Suite from Karl Jenkins 'The Armed Man', which the audience found very emotional and the singing of Rogers and Hammerstein on Broadway called for an encore. For the finale both choirs joined together to sing Beethoven's 'Choral Fantasia' in German. The party on the following evening involved more singing followed by entertainment from a costumed German brass band then dancing to 1 a.m.
After good night's rest before it was off to St. Konrad for the morning service where we sang again, then sadly said our farewells and we were waved onto the coach to the peal of the church bells.