International relationships is rather a grand term to use when describing a visit to a provincial town near Brussels. Perhaps 'cultural relationships' would be better. And what are they? How do we see ourselves as linked and yet different? How do these 'others' (to use an ethnomusicological term) sound, what are their behaviours, their conditions of work, their aspirations? All good questions, but ones I intend to duck in order to get to a more important part of the experience: a better understanding of what we do ourselves by interrogating the differences we observe. I recall very clearly the insights I gained into my own work in the UK through a prolonged period of association with French children's choirs. In the same way, a visit to Aalst, combining our voices with the Cantate Domino
singers, threw things into relief. There was a level of personal commitment, a graciousness, a spirit that informed the work of this Belgium Choir that clearly told us that expertise was just one constituent of a successful ensemble.
On another note, within the geographical framework of mainland Europe, and a concert given on the weekend of Armistice, there was a consciousness of the sacrifices of war that felt very palpable. The European vision that was more about making further European conflict impossible than about creating a single currency was write large over the concert we gave, and the performance of Fauré's Requiem. Watch this video to get closer to that phenomenon, as at the same time you experience two choirs singing together. Separately they sound quite different; together they reveal themselves as a perfectly cohesive single ensemble. We thank David de Geest and his singers of Aalst for their generous welcome, and for their contribution to our own identity.