A FRENCH gospel choir has visited Ilkley as part of the town’s 50th anniversary twinning celebrations.

The Yorkshire town has actually enjoyed a warm relationship with the people of Coutances, in Normandy, for more than 70 years.

Those ties were formalised five decades ago when the communities were twinned, with the official agreement being signed on May 18, 1969.

The Coutances-based Appel Gospel choir visited last week to help celebrate the long-standing ‘entente cordiale’.

Ilkley Moornotes Choir hosted the guests who crammed in a welcome buffet, civic reception, trip to York and lots of singing during their three day stay.

Ilkley’s Twinning Committee Chair, Judith Dunn, said: “Whatever happens in the next few months there can be no doubt that the entente cordiale between Ilkley and our twin town, Coutances, is alive and well.

“Last week, as we celebrate 50 years of links, Appel Gospel visited Ilkley for three days as guests of Ilkley Moornotes Community Choir.

“This visit was the third time in as many years that an exchange has taken place between choirs from Coutances and Ilkley, with La Canterie du Rey coming here in 2016, and Ilkley Moornotes making the return trip to Coutances in 2017.

“Both Appel Gospel and La Canterie du Rey are directed by Frances Hook, an English-born soprano who has lived in Coutances since 1991.”

The visit began under clear blue skies on Wednesday, April 10 when French flags were flown on Brook Street and at the Town Hall ahead of an evening welcoming buffet at the Clarke Foley Centre.

Then on Thursday Ilkley Town Mayor Stephen Butler arranged a Civic Reception for the French visitors and their hosts in the Council Chamber, welcoming Appel Gospel to Ilkley with a scones and cream afternoon tea plus a bi-lingual speech.

Outings to Haworth and York followed and the visiting singers teamed up with Ilkley Moornotes to bring their trip to a rousing conclusion on Friday evening, by presenting a French Connection concert at Christchurch Sanctuary.

The show saw Musical Directors Frances Hook (Appel Gospel) and Kate Stevens (Ilkley Moornotes) leading their respective choirs, with soloists performing from both - including 12 year old Lucie Lefrance who presented her interpretation of John Lennon’s Imagine, accompanied by French sign-language from her fellow choir members.

Both choirs then combined to perform the final two songs together.

Chair of Ilkley Moornotes Choir, Jacki Barson, said: “During their all-too-brief visit members of Appel Gospel stayed with hosts from Ilkley Moornotes and, despite some language differences, old friendships were deepened and new ones made.

“When the correct words failed members of either choir, the shared and enduring language of song filled in the gaps!”

Ilkley Moornotes would like to thank Ilkley Town Council for supporting the visit.