The Sister Cities program has sponsored many worthwhile international exchanges, some with cultural components, that have benefited local communities and overseas towns, too. The latest of these to come to our attention involved a visit to Durham (NC) by the Stockton Chorale, of Durham (England), which gave a relatively brief, mostly light program at Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church on the evening of April 30. The concert was introduced by representatives of the church, and the intermission involved a walk-up offering and an appearance by Tim Midgette and Elbert Ellis, performing (in whiteface) as the Paneh Mime (Ministry) Group. They were attired in church-like robes and accompanied by recorded gospel/revival music. (This mime duo will accompany the Orange Grove Choir when it visits the UK in July.)
The 24-voice chorale (one member doubled as accompanist) was formed in 1998 for a US tour and has been brought together again for its present visit to America, the highlight of which was expected to be a May 1 appearance at the NC International ChoralFest, in Morehead City (http://www.nccoastchamber.com/specialevents/ChoralFest.html [inactive 7/04]); local readers may wish to know that the NC Boys Choir was also to have appeared there.
The Chorale's portion of the evening began with "Rhythm of Life," arr. Coleman and included Morten Lauridsen's lovely "Dirait-on" and Fauré "Cantique de Jean Racine" (arr. Rutter). These showed the choir to be a competent ensemble with good diction, but things didn't really come to life until the singers turned to music of their homeland (or arranged by their countrymen). A charming sea chantey about a mermaid and a sailor, larded with bits of "Rule Britannia," a group of North Country folksongs, arranged by the Chorale's director, Michael Pritchard, Charles Villiers Stanford's folksong-like "Quick, we have but a second," and the great Tallis hymn "Glory to Thee" were highlights of the visitors' offerings, which also included Rutter's arrangement of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "I will give my love an apple," also arr. Pritchard.
Although billed as a concert, this program was more akin to a church service than many such events. At the end, there were additional remarks from church staff and from a representative of Sister Cities, too.
The Chorale was apparently housed by local singers whose hospitality will be repaid in July, in the UK. All praise to Sister Cities for helping facilitate this sort of people-to-people exchange which, in this instance, concurrently enriched a reasonable number of local music lovers.