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This article first appeared in the March 9, 2005 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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After two decades, swan song for Castenchel conductor

by By Ian Lordon

After more than 20 years on the conductor's podium, Germain Bertrand will be handing over the baton as director of the Castenchel Choir after a March 23 performance at St. Stephen's Church in Chelsea.

"Yes, that will be my swan song," Bertrand said. "I felt that the time has come."

Bertrand first joined the choir 25 years ago and took over as director soon after. At the time, the men's choir numbered just over 30 members but has since nearly doubled in size to just under 60. The outgoing director said the singers and their material matured as the numbers grew.

Valley Lives
Germain Bertrand.

"We chose to challenge the members and we started to take on more difficult pieces," Bertrand said. "The stuff we sing now is much more difficult that what we started with."

The choir's executive board has already picked Bertrand's successor - Chelsea baritone Gary Dahl. Dahl, a career musician, developed a reputatian as a fine soloist and has several national and international performances to his credit. Bertrand said he has no qualms about handing over the reins to a singer of his calibre.

"He's a great guy, a real pro," he said, "I don't think he needs anyone to keep an eye on him."

The switch at the helm won't mark the end of Bertrand's involvement with the Castenchel Choir. The 66-year-old tenor will simply turn around and join the chorus under Dahl's direction. And he's looking forward to the change.

"I made a promise I would keep singing," he said. "It's a good bunch and you don't want to lose that. I'll be able to enjoy it more because I won't have to cope with as much responsibility".

Bertrand said his fondest memories are of the two European tours he steered through France and Romania. He also wanted to see the choir through its first CD and with the record done, he's satisfied with his tenure as director.

"I'd been thinking about it for the last three or four years," he said. "But the CD was coming, so I said let's do the CD before I quit." It's not by professionals but it's a good record."

Even after over two decades at the helm of Castenchel, Bertrand can't recall any incidents or episodes where things went spectacularily wrong.

"No, there were no really big goofs. I never threw a fit, never lost my temper," he said. "There were many good concerts, especially over the last five or six years."

Tickets for Bertrand's final wave of the baton are $25. The show starts at 8:OO p.m.