To the King of Belgium!

As the conductor of the Chorus of America's Youth in Concert, I experienced our first journey to Europe in 1971. The group was a very large collaboration of over 300 young musicians from all over the USA. Our first concert was at Carnegie Hall in New York City, followed by a concert in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, a performance for the certification of the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution at the White House, a concert at Royal Albert Hall in London, and a full concert at the Grand-Place in Brussels, Belgium.

Following these outstanding concerts, we found ourselves at the Kirk St. Jan de Doper in Herentals, Belgium. It was a grand afternoon concert with a large audience. After we concluded our last piece, young women from the audience came forth and presented a beautiful rose to each female in the group.

Belgium - Roses
Roses presented

It was a full house and we received a standing ovation (not an unusual event with this group.) Having never been to Herentals before, we were somewhat surprised by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.

Belgium - Applause
Audience applause

After the concert, awards were presented to the conductors Ralph Matesky, orchestra, William Ramsey, Chorus, and Max Dalby, Band. Lynn Geddes, the organizer of the tour and president of America's Youth in Concert, responded with appropriate remarks and the conductors departed for a formal reception.

Belgium - Conductors
Ralph Matesky, William Ramsey,
Max Dalby, Tour Director Lynn Geddes

As we sat at the reception, a high-ranking politician (I can't remember what his title was) lifted a glass of champagne and made a wonderful toast regarding the group, the outstanding performance, the conductors, and finally, the President of the United States of America. I was sitting next to the US Ambassador to Belgium. He quietly leaned over to me and said, "The toast included the President of the United States. Don't you think it would be appropriate to offer a toast to the King of Belgium?" Immediately I jumped to my feet and said, "To the King of Belgium!" Everyone stood and toasted the King. As a relatively young man ignorant of international politics, I was as embarrassed as I have ever been.

Belgian Monarch
Albert II

From that day forward, I (and some friends who know and love this story) always offer a toast to the King of Belgium! To the King of Belgium!!!

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