Friendship without borders

by Astrid Schürmann

“Here we go again” – that was the motto of the partnership between the Linlithgow Academy and Arnsberg’s School of Music Choir for many years. Young Arnsberg Choir members visited guest families in Scottish West Lothian a total of fve times in the 80’s and 90’s. With the families of the Linlithgow Academy students, they became familiar with the daily lives of their guest families and came to appreciate their friend­liness and special form of hospitality..

It’s hard to imagine the conditions under which the visits back and forth between the choirs, the travel plans, and the concerts in St. Michael’s Church, Linlithgow and Edinburgh were planned: no emails, no mobile phones, no laptops… only telephone booths, letters and a camera with a fash cube on top. The amazing organizational skills of Maureen Rhode in Linlithgow and Rosemarie Schüttler in Arnsberg are in no small part to thank for the fact that still, to this day, after so many years, the visits are looked back so vividly and fondly upon.

Youth choir Arnsberg under conductor music director Gerd Schüttler on tour 1995.

Youth choir Arnsberg under conductor music director Gerd Schüttler on tour 1995.

The numerous Arnsberg Choir concerts, under the direction of its founder, Gerd Schüttler, are still fondly remembered in Scotland and were the highpoint of the concert travels. Under his leadership, the singers were able to thrill full­ houses in the world­renowned St. Giles Cathedral on the  Royal Mile in the capital city of Edinburgh.

The choir served as musical and vocal embassadors for the Sauerland region of Germany using pieces from Mozart, Schubert and the Arnsberg composer, Gustav Biener. The choir was expected to practice and present amazing pieces of music with enthusiasm and cheerfulness.

West Lothian and the Sauerland are separated by over hundreds of kilometres – a foreign language, a foreign land. All of the concert trips (’82, ’83, ’87, ’91 and 1995) are ever­present in the minds of the participants, due to the great performances, the Scottish landscape, and of course due to the friendliness, generousness and noticeably relaxed attitude of the guest families. At the German­Scottish farewell evening during the first trip, Musicdirector Gerd Schüttler shared his hope, “That this idea of friendship would take root and bear fruit again and again…”. The proof that this idea of a friend­ship between two peoples is still alive and bears fruit are the contacts which remain and the regular visits, still today,  over the Channel… and beyond!