UR Life

KING EDWARD CHOIR GOES TO HARROGATE, ENGLAND

Al MacLeod

By Al MacLeod

From June 29 to July 10, members of Barrie’s King Edward Choir and accompanying guests visited and performed in our twin city of Harrogate in Yorkshire, England. In this first cultural exchange to the Borough, the choir performed 3 concerts and one Memorial Service. The first show was on Canada Day in All Saints Church in the village of Ripley where Sir Robert Barrie—our city namesake—is buried along with his wife Lady Julia Wharton (nee Ingilby). This event was sponsored by current Baronet of Ripley, Sir Thomas Ingilby. After the performance, Sir Thomas hosted a reception in Ripley Castle (which has been continuously occupied for 27 generations by his family), complete with a magnificent fireworks display—in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday and wanted to be included in our National celebration.

The choir performed twice with a local choir Rock Up and Sing at the Ashville College auditorium and the band shell at Harrogate’s annual Big Picnic in the picturesque Valley Gardens.

Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate was the site of a memorial service at which the choir sang accompanied by the Tewit Youth Band. This Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Cemetery is the last place of repose for 1010 WW II servicemen including 988 members of British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, of which 666 had served in the Royal Canadian Air Force—many of whom were trained at RCAF Station Borden. Wreaths were laid at the Memorial by Major (Ret) Jean-Maurice Pigeon, on behalf of the Citizens of Barrie and LCol (Ret) Bill Sergeant at the grave of Flight Officer William H. Porritt, a member of RCAF and a citizen of Barrie on behalf of the RCAF Assoc 441 (Huronia) Wing. The Service was celebrated by Canon Tony Shepherd, MBE. Harrogate’s Mayor Anne Jones, as well as Member of Parliament for Harrogate and Knaresborough Andrew Jones, LCol Simon Rushen, CD on behalf of the Canadian High Commission, and Stephen Liversage, the CWGC Regional Supervisor also laid wreaths. The 58 Squadron - Harrogate Air Cadets provided the Colour Guard. After the service, 150 Canadian Flags were distributed and placed at the graves of Canadian Airmen.

Between concerts, choir members and accompanying guests were cast back over 1000 years in history as they visited attractions in the market town of Knaresborough, the city of York, the 12th century Fountains Abbey and Studley Water Gardens, Skipton Castle and Ripon Cathedral among others. The entourage was often accompanied by Michael Newby, the former Mayor of Harrogate who signed the Twinning Agreement in 2013 with our Mayor Jeff Lehman. Mr. Newby proved to be a wonderful host and guide providing a lot of colour and history to the events. He was even witnessed quaffing the occasional pint with some of the Barrie folk who were more than willing to immerse themselves in the local British customs.

Jason Helmond, our official Ambassador, as designated by Mayor Lehman, quite cheerfully distributed commemorative pins to officials, concert attendees and local townsfolk with an exuberant smile and friendly comment.

The King Edward Choir, which is always looking to accept new members, and is currently conducting auditions for a musical director, had a memorable time singing and experiencing British hospitality, culture and heritage. Members of the Barrie and Harrogate Twinning Committee are currently discussing the opportunity to welcome a Youth Band from Harrogate in July/August 2018. These activities greatly help forge the bond between our two cities that share major elements that unite us—Sir Robert Barrie, and the RCAF—which provide a deep and indelible connection between Barrie and the picturesque and historic Borough of Harrogate in England.

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