The countdown to Christmas has started with a vengeance. The traditional service of nine lessons and carols at l’église de Saint-Andéol at Parisot was an event not to miss. An international choir – English, Scottish, French, Dutch and Swedish (the SF) – led the congregation in a packed programme of carols in English and French. The SF is 4th from the left in the back row with the basses, above.
The choir, which comprised about 35 people, had been rehearsing for the past six weeks. Our cat had already voted null points for the SF’s rendering of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. I have to say, I’m with him there. As a public service to everyone, I declined to be in the choir but belted out the carols from near the front. Hopefully, the choir drowned me out. The church was packed. Françoise, one of the organisers, reckoned that around 250 people were there. This is a tribute to the publicity we have been giving the event for the past two months.
This carol service has resumed after an interval of several years, under new management. In previous years, the French stolidly remained seated during the carols while we Brits stood up. This year, everyone was enjoined to stand up for each carol. I don’t know if this worked, really. The French couldn’t sing along with the English carols since they knew neither the words nor the tunes and stood stiffly feeling a bit embarrassed. However, everyone seemed to enjoy the event, which the Maire in his address oddly described as a ‘spectacle’.
The lessons were read alternately in English and French. The high point was, without a doubt, the eighth lesson, which yours truly read – in French. Luke 2, vv 25-32 ‘The Lord’s Peace’ about Simeon who could die in peace because he had seen the Messiah. It was mercifully short but full of words that were difficult to pronounce, like Israël and païennes. However, I got through it without stumbling over either the step up to the lectern or the words. My performance is immortalised – as is the whole service – on video. Strangely, Hollywood hasn’t been in touch yet.
Père Serge gamely read the final lesson in English. He did extremely well. Not only was it long but it was full of words that are difficult for French people, such as ‘Word’, ‘shineth’, ‘dwelt’ and ‘comprehended’.
The final part of the service involved two brothers reading a poem, one in French and the other in English, and blowing out their candles at the end to great acclaim.
On our way to mulled wine and mince pies at the salle des fêtes we stopped off to admire the living crèche that some children had set up under the halle. The donkey was remarkably well-behaved under the onslaught of about a hundred people plus me taking flash photos for all I was worth. Joseph looks as if he has had a nasty accident to his hands and the shepherd looks decidedly sinister. However, the crèche was a nice touch and the kids were handing out small bags of bonbons as their contribution to the festivities.
After the obligatory speeches and presentation of wine to the conductor and a bouquet to the organiser we gave a dinner party for nine of the choir. The pent-up excitement and tension was evident in the increasing noise level as everyone relaxed and we conducted the inevitable post mortem. Next year’s event is already being planned.
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