Membership is a Privilege

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The definition of Community singing is an unrehearsed mass singing of familiar songs by any assemblage or audience. Singing in groups is one of the universal features of human musical cultures, and group singing has been often suggested as the primary form of the early human musical activity and that human group singing was promoting its cohesiveness.

It’s a familiar sight at this time of year. People singing carols together, in your local church, going door to door or in a shopping centre and last night in the British Embassy!

“Encore!” “A stroke of genius!” “He got it to 100% right!” These are only three of the numerous comments I received from our delighted members after the short but very emotional singing of Austrian and English Carols, which our Vice President Dr Alexander Christiani had originally suggested, selected and organised for this evening. 180 Members of our Society crowded into the main reception room of the Ambassador’s Residence filling it with the joyous sound of four well known carols, led by Charlotte Sleha - soprano and Peter Strempfl - bass, supported by our very own Dr Ahmadolla Abdelrahimsai and, last but by no means least, Jochen Ressel accompanied on the piano by Nikos Pogonatos. What else was needed to promote “cohesiveness” of our group?

Last year I titled my report with the words: “The Privilege of Membership”. Maybe after last night’s experience I should re-title it with the words: “Membership is a Privilege”.

It is true, the Pre-Christmas Party of the Austro-British Society at the British Ambassador’s Residence is our treat! This is where members (paid up, of course!) happily celebrate together and hard working board members receive the general presidential accolade, in other words a thank you and the proverbial pat on the shoulder. The presidential speech by Prof Dr Kurt Tiroch, after the welcoming words of Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador Leigh Turner CMG, whose residence we had taken over for the evening, was as billed brief and entertaining. He pointed out that this was the 38th event with one more to come, a 39th on New Year’s Eve, which means one up on last year and therefore a new record.

Allow me one comment though: Praise by our President for us eighteen Board Members may be justified and is gratefully accepted by all of us but the well oiled cogs of the wheels on which the ABS runs can only work, when the engine at the heart of it drives it on. This engine at the heart of this machine is no one else but our President. So, don’t let us forget that.

I had great fun during my photo safari the following hours, capturing laughing faces and thus hopefully the jolly atmosphere of our gathering (“Jolly” and “Good Cheer” as in “Christmas Spirit” belong firmly together). The “golden glow” of bonhomie radiated throughout aided and abetted by the golden glow of delicious wine and other liquid refreshment of which there were plenty and a deliciously hot and cold buffet.

As tradition wants it, many desired to be photographed in front of the huge Christmas Tree but unlike last year, Theresa May’s signed photograph on the Bösendorfer Piano, the 2018 photo motif, was, as expected, no longer there but neither was Boris Johnson’s counterfeit. “Sic transit Gloria Mundi”?

Finally I leave you with two thoughts:
The Early Bird catches the Worm. Get your registration in for the 2020 Pre-Christmas Gathering on time and

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year!

Wolfgang Geissler


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