Morpeth choir on song in Slovenia

A NORTHUMBERLAND choir which meets in Morpeth went on an enjoyable and emotional trip to Eastern Europe.

A dozen members of the Voicemale men's choir, which has 21 members in total including some from Castle Morpeth, travelled to Slovenia for a week and performed in a range of places including concert halls, churches and schools.

They also sang at a ceremony for World War II veterans by a countryside memorial in Stranice.

Alastair Hardie, choir member and Voicemale Events Organiser, said: "We were told that the Partisans Memorial was for 100 World War II partisans who were hung from apple trees as a reprisal for the death of one German.

"It was a very moving ceremony which affected us as well as the veterans and we will certainly never forget it."

Voicemale, which formed in 2000 under the leadership of renowned folk musician Sandra Kerr, spent most of the week in farmhouse accommodation in the small town of Zrece in Eastern Slovenia.

Its performances also usually included poetry readings and Northumbrian piping interludes.

Explaining how it came about, Mr Hardie said: "The trip was arranged through the extensive contacts of David Burbidge, a singing enthusiast whose home town of Sedbergh, Cumbria, is twinned with Zrece.

"We had sung with Slovenian choirs in Sedbergh and it was fantastic to be invited to their country, which is a beautiful place."

The choir members spent some time in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. They sang in its main square and spent a morning tutoring and exchanging ideas with sixth form pupils at The Wardorf School in the city.

And they had a surprise when they saw their accommodation there — the Celica Youth Hostel.

"Not only was it a converted prison where you still stay behind bars, each 'cell' has been individually designed and decorated by Slovenian artists," said Mr Hardy, who lives at Thropton.

"We had a fun time there, which included performing in the bar in the evening alongside a superb local 'Celtic' band."

Choir members come from as far afield as Seahouses, Hexham and Newcastle and are directed by Graham Stacy, with Sandra Kerr Honorary Musical Director.

Its broad range of songs includes traditional tunes from the British Isles, with particular emphasis on Northumberland and Tyneside, as well as contemporary material and folk songs from around the world.

The choir has recorded three CDs — two of them together with its 'sister' group Werca's Folk, the Northumbrian women's choir directed by Sandra Kerr.

Members meet every Wednesday evening at 7.30pm in Morpeth at the St George's United Reformed Church on Bridge Street. Anyone interested can come along or telephone Mr Hardie on 01669 640263.

• Voicemale and Werca's Folk are staging a concert on Thursday, December 4 in aid of the Morpeth Flood Victims Appeal.