A very brief history of one of the country’s  many choirs.

Concert at 20h on Friday, 9th June 2017 at the Comú d’Escalds-Engordany

It all started in January, 1989. Christmas was over. All the joy of singing in the church choir for the annual Christmas Eve service had dissipated. The next gathering of ex-pat choral enthusiasts wouldn’t be until the Anglican Church’s Harvest Festival.

Brenda Ross and Jean Axten, two retired English ex-pats, were walking down La Massana high street discussing a new idea. “Why do we only sing at Christmas and Harvest Festival? Why not sing all the year round? We could meet in each other’s homes, take turns to choose and direct songs. No smoking of course. Mustn’t be any smoking!”

And so it began. By March we had grown to 18 singers of six nationalities. But here was a problem. In those days, in Andorra, no more than 19 foreigners could gather together without police permission – unless they were part of an association.

By chance the International Club – or Club Internacional d’Andorra as it was then called – was just being formed and so it was agreed that the singers could join en masse. By then we had a proper professional director. René de Knight was a highly intelligent and talented black American jazz pianist who’d been part of the Delta Rhythm Boys back in the 50s. Watch the film Rain Man and you can hear the Boys’ version of Dem Bones on the soundtrack.

Indeed René, in his 90s when we knew him, had a grand story to tell about that. One day he’d had a call from an old friend back in the States. “Hey René, did you know they’re using your ‘Dem Bones’ in Rain Man?” René replied in astonishment, “No!” “Well, they are and you better damn well make them pay you for it!” So René found their contact number and rang. “Hi. My name’s René de Knight from the Delta Rhythm Boys and I hear you used our recording of Dem Bones in the Rain Man film.” “Hell no! Are you really de Knight?” came the reply. “We thought all you guys were dead!”

Also when in his 90s and living here in Andorra, René invented and patented a golf practice mat that worked on the right – or was it the left – side of the brain! But then he came from a talented family. His brother, an artist, had a painting hung in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and his sister was head of one of the country’s top libraries.

It was René who named us the International Singers. Under his direction we grew and collected several more nationalities. We sang parts of a musical he had composed, enjoyed the fervour of singing Gospel and West Side Story and even introduced non-English songs into our repertoire. But eventually René grew disillusioned. We were never going to match up to his own past professional performances and so he retired.

Since then we have had directors from the United States, Holland, France, Andorra (Pyrenees) and Spain. We have sung for local choir aplec’s or gatherings here in Andorra. These are great cultural events aimed at preserving Catalan musical traditions. Often featuring some dozen or more choirs, the day starts with a joint breakfast. Next each choir sings two songs, usually in Catalan, in one or other of the host town’s outside squares. Then there’s a big ‘family’ lunch followed by a pause before a joint rehearsal in preparation for the grand finale when all 200+ singers cram onto a stage and raise the roof with their rendering of some five songs each conducted by a different choir director. All great fun!

Today our choir’s name has changed to Cor Internacional d’Andorra mainly because ‘Singers’ is not easy for Catalan speakers to pronounce. We continue to boast of our cultural diversity. Right now we have choir members from eleven different national origins: Andorran, Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Surinamese, Japanese and South Korean.

This Friday you’ve got the great opportunity to join us for our annual celebration and fundraiser, At Home with the Cor Internacional. Much more than just a concert this is when we let our hair down and have fun. First you’ll be welcomed with an aperitif and a wide array of tasty, international pica-pica /finger foods. Whilst sampling to your hearts content you will be approached by one of a cheerful group of raffle ticket sellers (1€ each). This year’s group, too, is typically international. One seller is from England, one from Spain, one from France and one from Catalonia.

In the lobby you’ll see the first three raffle prizes on display, all donated by well known Andorran shops. Down stairs in the theatre at the back of the stage are a good many more. You better be quick at buying your tickets because, come 8.25pm, a bell will ring and all the public and the singers will take the stairs down to the theatre there to be offered a programme with a list of prizes inside and probably the words of one verse of a Korean song to be sung by the public during the show. Don’t worry, we’ll all be singing with you while our South Korean member keeps us in time with her Korean drum.

Our concert, while mainly featuring popular English songs this year, will also feature ones in Latin, French, Japanese, Korean and Zulu.

Entrance tickets are only 5€.

The money raised helps pay our costs for the coming year.

Culturally yours,



Look for about the author of the blog Clare Allcard

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