At the end of May 2014, the boy choristers were invited to participate in the Europäisches Jugendchor Festival (European Festival of Youth Choirs) in Basel, Switzerland.
Every two years, the Festival brings choirs from all over the world together to sing a week of concerts to full houses, and, through sponsorship and the generosity of local and national government, covers the travelling and accommodation costs of each visiting choir. It was an honour to be chosen to represent the UK.
Jesus College's fourteen boys, aged between eight and fourteen, sang in five concerts, two services, and in a demonstration of the English choral tradition at a talk at the Musik-Akademie. Highlights were the sold-out Singende Jungs (Singing Boys) concert at Peterskirche, and a very full vespers service at the architecturally glorious Basel Münster. The boys adapted themselves well to the several venues, which were all much larger than our home chapel, and embraced the familiar comfort of being accompanied by the college's previous organ scholar, Robert Dixon. Media coverage included French television and German and Swiss radio.
Our choristers stood out as the smallest and youngest of the choirs by far, and as one of only three all-boy groups out of a total of 20 choirs. Their simplicity provided an important contrast to the large, secular choirs, many of which incorporated props and gestures into energetic performances. The College’s Director of Music, Mark Williams, led the boys with his usual skill and charm, inspiring them to express both the musical nuances and the meaning of the words.
Besides performing, the choristers were indulged by their generous homestay families, welcomed to play football with local boys, danced with the other choirs, took a boat trip down the Rhine and discovered playgrounds, a flea market, and multiple ice cream vendors. For one boy, it was his very first flight whilst for another it was his first time away from his family. They all supported one another with genuine camaraderie and made the most of this fantastic and memorable trip.