Musical Moments

Parisot Church – venue for many concerts

I never cease to be amazed at the high standard of musicians and music to be found in la France profonde. In the summer, of course, you can’t move for concerts and recitals. But even out of season there is a surprising amount going on. It’s a pity that some of it isn’t better supported.

Singing is a particularly popular pastime in France. Everyone can do it – well, there are some exceptions – it’s a good way of meeting people and it creates a feeling of well-being and goodwill. According to l’Institut de l’art choral , in 2009 there were 10,000 choirs in France, excluding liturgical groups and choirs associated with schools of music.

Choeur Départemental de l’Aveyron

Last night, I went to a lovely choral concert in Parisot church, given by the Choeur Départemental de l’Aveyron. Up till now, this choir has been a well-kept secret. Or maybe it’s simply that it is based in a different département and therefore a different country. It is a fact, though, that events in France are not usually well publicised. You hear about them either by bouche à oreille (word of mouth) or after the event.

This time, you couldn’t fault the publicity. I must have received at least 15 emails about it from different sources although, that, I suppose is a form of bouche à oreille. Posters advertising the event also went up locally about 10 days ago. Despite all this, the church was only about one third full. Nonetheless, the audience greatly appreciated the varied and well-chosen programme, which included Allegri’s Miserere, Spanish songs and eastern European sacred music.

The soloists included a young soprano with a clear, pure voice and a mezzo soprano with a melodious but incredibly powerful voice that made my eardrums vibrate. Our soprano friend Pauline also had a solo part. The audience called the choir back for two encores. They are singing the same programme at venues throughout Aveyron during the summer.

Parisot Choir

Carol Service 2011

From the sublime to the, well, not quite so sublime but making progress towards it. Maestro Peter Nowfel, our choir master at the Parisot Choir, is disappointed that I haven’t said more about it recently. (You can see the back of his head above.) So here’s an update on how we’re doing. Not that I’m trying to curry favour or anything.

The choir brought together for the Carol Service in Parisot Church last Christmas was felt to be so successful that it should become permanent. The SF was already in it but I decided to join, too, despite the fact that the last time I sang in a choir was nearly 35 years ago at university. Although a little rusty on the high notes, I am showing signs of improvement. Heureusement, some might say.

We’ve got off to a good start with 30+ members and a nice ambience. Some of them even know how to sing. Peter conducts the rehearsals in break-neck speed French. In addition to concerts in June (Saturday 30th at Parisot church) and October and the Carol Service at Christmas, we’re also taking bookings. Someone wants us to sing at her wedding in August.

A few weeks ago Peter had to go to England. The SF offered to take over that session. Among his many other attributes, the SF was a choir master in Sweden some years ago. He spent much of the previous week brushing up his rusty conducting skills and boning up on our set pieces. He also had to do it all in French. But all went well on the night and it was good that we didn’t have to miss a rehearsal altogether.

Peter’s dedication is such that he even took a rehearsal on his birthday. We sang along as usual until 8.30 p.m. Peter wanted to move onto a new chanson. He raised his hands and began conducting to complete silence. Thinking we were just being dim – a not unreasonable assumption – he did it again. Same result. Then we all burst into a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ and rummaged about for the various bottles and eats that Françoise had instructed us to bring.

So a lot of fun is had by all. We even do some singing sometimes.

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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14 Responses to Musical Moments

  1. Sue Whatmough says:

    I agree there’s an abundance of musical riches in rural France and we would attend more concerts if they were better publicised and with enough notice. We are Marciac fans and have come across some amazing groups over the years. Neither of us are particularly into classical/choral but love Spanish guitar and piano and folk music from all over.
    Good luck with rediscovering your singing voice – wish I had one.

    • nessafrance says:

      There’s a wide range of music available, if only it were better publicised. We also like Marciac, having been a few times, and I also love Spanish guitar. I don’t really have a singing voice, either, but I don’t think anyone has twigged yet.

  2. I’d love to sing in a choir, I adore singing but sadly, and absolutely no exaggeration, I was one of only four pupils prevented from singing in my school’s performance of The Messiah. My voice hasn’t improved with age.

    • nessafrance says:

      What a pity. I can imagine how that must have felt as a schoolgirl to be excluded. Maybe if you took some singing lessons it would help. I’m sure there are very few people who are absolutely beyond hope when it comes to singing. I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as the next Callas but I haven’t been thrown out yet! (Still time, I suppose).

      • Talking of Callas… We just stayed in a fabulous gite near Chatelleraut where the owners (who had the house next door) were both professional opera singers and we know to let forth their talent whilst wandering around the garden. Truly fab. Let me know if you’ve heard of Rose Angas – i think she was pretty well known in her time!

      • nessafrance says:

        It sounds wonderful and just the sort of place I would love. Oh dear, I hadn’t heard of Rose Angas but I’m sure that’s a reflection of my ignorance. I must ask my husband, who is more au fait with these things than I am, but he’s just gone to bed having arrived home frazzled from Sweden this evening. Will post a P.S. here tomorrow if he has anything to add.

  3. How lovely, I used to sing in choirs from early days till uni, even on ‘songs of Praise’ once (though that wasn’t much to write home about!) Sadly i’ve always felt prevented since having kids and an absentee husband most of the time – I think that’s what I miss most about village living – it seems easier to join in somehow!

    • nessafrance says:

      It can’t be easy with children and having to do most of it on your own. Even for those living in a village I don’t think it’s always that easy. Songs of Praise! I remember that from a long time ago. I wonder if it’s still going. I sang in the Festival Hall a few times in an inter-school choir – this is going back aeons of course. It was good fun, though, which was why I was pleased to take it up again now.

  4. Deborah says:

    The miserere is so haunting – even more so to hear it in a setting like that.

    • nessafrance says:

      Saved by posterity for Mozart, apparently. He went to hear it and, with his prodigious musical memory, wrote it all down when he got home. He went back just to make sure he hadn’t missed anything, made a couple of corrections et voilà! What it must be to be a genius.

  5. amelie88 says:

    I love choirs. :) My mother has sang in the choir at our church in New York for years and years, She had to take a break for several years when my grandparents weren’t doing too well–but she has since returned. Always singing around the house! Also not sure if it’s Mother’s Day in France–but it is in the USA today. So Happy Mother’s Day!

    • nessafrance says:

      I think it is Mother’s Day here today in France. I’ve never actually been a mother but I’m always happy to raise a glass in a good cause!

  6. Sounds lovely. The summer series of fundraising concerts at Nouzerines Church start shortly. I’m looking forward to them.

    • nessafrance says:

      It was a lovely concert last night. I hope we get a good turnout for our own on 30th June. Publicity starts now! The SF has been away all week and I am trying to keep it all going in his absence – difficult at this time of year with the weeds turning into triffids and the pool threatening to turn green. Never mind trying to keep the work going… Oh well, better than being idle.

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