THE Henley Symphony Orchestra has returned from a tour to Falaise to celebrate 40 years of twinning (“jumelage”) with the Normandy town and to commemorate 70 years since the D Day landings, which will be marked by a royal visit to the area on June 6 by the Queen.
The choirs of Falaise and neighbouring Putange joined the orchestra in two concerts, performing Faure’s beautiful Requiem and Rutter’s Gloria, conducted by Henley’s Chris Walker.
More than 100 singers sang to the packed Forum concert hall in Falaise on the Saturday night and to a warm and enthusiastic audience on the Sunday in the church of Putange, a truly memorable and emotional occasion.
The programme also included Walton’s stirring and patriotic Spitfire Prelude and Fugue, which was taken from his film score of The First of the Few, written in 1942 after the Battle of Britain turned the tide for the allies.
Members of the Henley-Falaise Twinning Association accompanied the tour. Speaking at a celebration soirée in Falaise on the Sunday night, chairman Edward Sandars said: “We are proud to be twinned with Falaise with the spirit of tradition and pride of our hosts in Falaise and in Normandy, a tradition which is modern, up to date and looks forward to the future.
“The hospitality, generosity and sharing of cultural exchanges are evidence of our friendship between families, towns and France and Britain. We consider ourselves very privileged to be able to share your homes and your free time. Merci.”
This was the orchestra’s fifth visit to Falaise, having given a concert there for the first time 37 years ago. Six current members who had played then were presented with CD recordings of that concert and recalled the lights going out in the church during a performance of Brahms’ Symphony No 2. The orchestra continued to play for some time in the dark until the lights came on again.
Anne Sandars, of the Henley-Falaise Twinning Association, said: “It was a really lovely weekend all round and would not have been as good had the HSO not been there. Thank you very specially from us. You were really marvellous and it made us all so proud to be with you this weekend.”
Judy Whittaker, who chairs the orchestra, thanked the people of Falaise, for their warm hospitality and expressed her admiration for the impressive Forum building, which hosted the soirée as well as the concert.
She said that when the French choirs visited for a repeat performance in Henley on Sunday, June 29, the concert would need to take place in a marquee as Henley did not offer a comparable venue and that “L’acoustique manque un peu!” In fact, the choirs of Falaise and Putange will perform with the orchestra at Shiplake College and will be joined by singers from Henley Choral Society, Benson Choral Society and Aliquando.
The concert will take place at 3pm with picnics in the ground and a bar from 1pm. The French singers will return home that evening.
Tickets cost £15 reserved, £10 unreserved, under-16s/students half price and are available from the Henley Symphony Orchestra box office on 01235 859210 or at wwwhenleysymphony orchestra.co.uk