The Chairman of Leicestershire County Council, David Bell, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
After having enjoyed such a splendid musical feast, no lengthy speech is needed. Nor would i t be appropriate in this relaxed atmosphere. That is the lesson I learned last year. So I should be brief, restricting myself to just two points.
Firstly, a few words of appreciation for all the individuals and organisations that have made this evening's extravaganza possible. May I thank Jonathan and Yoshimi Gregory for planning, arranging and delivering such a wonderful Christmas concert? By the same token, let me pay tribute to the other half of the equation - all the talented artists and members of the choir for their unforgettable performances. Our thanks are also due to Leicestershire County Council for once again generously sponsoring this reception, and to all the other supporters and music lovers for their participation.
Secondly, an expression of celebration. I would like to celebrate the friendship and cooperation built up between the British and Japanese peoples through music. This achievement owes a great deal to Jonathan and Yoshimi, who set up the UK-Japan Music Society shortly after the Japan Festival in 1991. Over the ensuing years they have overseen a number of magnificent events such as the one we have witnessed this evening. In addition, they have pursued other initiatives, such as arranging exchange visits between British and Japanese choirs. On this note, I am glad to hear that the visit to Japan of the Leicester Cathedral Choir last October was so warmly received by everyone concerned, and that young people from our two countries were able to get to know each other better through the wonderful medium of music.
My colleagues and I at the Embassy place great importance on vibrant grass-roots exchange as the solid foundation needed to support our two countries' excellent bilateral relations. One cannot overestimate the contribution the UK-Japan Music Society has made to this worthy end. This evening's concert, coming under the umbrella of the EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges, is a case in point.
In concluding, may I reiterate my gratitude to Jonathan and Yoshimi, and everyone involved with the UK-Japan Music Society, for the pleasure and inspiration they have given us - not just this evening but for well over a decade. I am confident that, with the continued support of its many friends and backers, the Society will prosper still further, thereby making the warm friendship between our two peoples even stronger.