The beautiful region of Alsace in eastern France was the venue of the Chorus Urbanus’ 8th choral tour which spanned between 7th and 12 December 2006. The Choir was invited to participate in Les Noeilles, a major choral event in which a choir from each EU country performed two concerts in two different localities in Alsace.
Moreover as a climax to this event, all the 25 choirs met at the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral to perform altogether a number of carols as well as the world premiere of Gloria de Noel by Oliver Spelling.
This meant that about 1000 choristers sang together in one big choir, an epitome of the European Union itself which integrates the 25 member states that form the Union.
The Chorus Urbanus was invited to represent Malta in this event on the strength of the name it holds in international fora, especially after its acceptance as the first Maltese member of Europa Cantat. The Choir’s first choral commitment was a concert in L’Eglise de l’Assomption in Bergheim, a picturesque town amid large expanses of vineyards which produce the famous white Alsace wine. The concert included carols coming from different parts of Europe, including England, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Wales, France, Germany, The United States and last but not the least from Malta. In fact the Choir performed Ninni La Tibkix Izjed and Ejjew La ddumux on special arrangements for 4 voices by Mro. John Galea. The concert was very well received by the highly appreciative audience which filled Bergheim Church. The other concert was held in Truchtersheim, a small town to the north of Strasbourg. The huge success in Bergheim was a spur to all members to give an even greater concert in Truchtersheim on Sunday 10th December. On Sunday morning, the Chorus Urbanus sang during the 10.45 am Sunday Mass at L’Eglise de S. Pierre at S. Paul. Then in the evening the Choir gave its concert in the same church at 17.30 hrs.
A local male choir, the Pluricanto, opened the concert with a number of musical Christmas pieces. However, the highlight of the evening was the concert given by the Chorus Urbanus who was given a standing ovation by the 1000+ audience that literally packed every corner of the Church. As an encore the two choirs joined forces and sang Stille Nacht and Les Anges des Montagnes. This concert in Truchtersheim was highly acclaimed by those present as one of the best concerts ever given in their locality and this after the experience of past years when choirs from other European countries had been invited to their town.
The grand finale of this memorable and unique choral tour was held in Strasbourg Cathedral on Monday, 11th December, where the Chorus Urbanus joined with the other 24 choirs for a grand finale that culminated in the performance of Gloria de Noel by all the choristers. This event was filmed by the European Broadcasting Unit and televised in every EU country. The concert ended with a procession aux flambeaux to Place de Kleber where the Flame of Peace that was brought from Bethlehem was placed at the foot of a gigantic Christmas Tree. On arriving in the square, the Chorus Urbanus members started singing the Maltese traditional Ninni La Tibkix Izjed something which was immediately imitated by the other choirs who started singing their traditional carols. The event ended with an impromptu chorus by all present at the square of Stille Nacht.
Apart from the choral and cultural aspect, this tour offered a unique educational experience at the Euroscola in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The choir members had also the opportunity to visit the picturesque town of Colmar. This tour in this region which has a rich and deep Christmas tradition was a fitting occasion for the Chorus Urbanus to celebrate its 31st anniversary from its official foundation on Christmas Eve in 1975. This tour offered the opportunity to the Choir to make new contacts with choirs from other countries and the exposure to different styles of singing and music helped to widen the choir members’ perception of choral singing.
This choral tour in Alsace started with a unique educational experience to all the choir members especially the young choristers of the Choir. On 8th December, all the 25 choirs convened in the building of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg for an interactive programme among the members of all the choirs. The choir members were split up into 6 workshops which discussed aspects of Education withing an EU context. In the meantime, the Choir directors as well as the choir officers attended a round table discussion about how music can increase the integration among the EU member states. Mro. John Galea made an intervention about the Maltese choral life which was very well received by those present.
After lunch everyone convened in the Hemicycle of the EU parliament itself, where each Choir took centre stage in turns and presented itself together with a short piece of music. Hilda Galea made a short presentation of the Choir followed by Ejjew La ddumux by the Chorus Urbanus. Later on, the reports of the 6 workshops were read out by a rapporteur from each group and the audience present voted for each resolution, the same system used by the Members of European Parliament. A member of the Chorus Urbanus, Charlene Debrincat, was rapporteur of one of the workshops, whereas other members of the Chorus Urbanus conducted the individual workshops.