Christmas Carols 2011

Carol Service - part of the choir

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’.

Choir - the sopranos

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’.

Poetry reading

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.

Living crèche under the halle

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.

Copyright © 2011 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

 

 

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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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11 Responses to Christmas Carols 2011

  1. Pingback: Winter Warmers: Chansons and Cassoulet | Life on La Lune

  2. Deborah says:

    Happy Christmas, Vanessa! What a lovely account of the event with all its cross-cultural striving for mutual understanding – with the inevitable occasional misinterpretation. Hats off to you all and good wishes for 2012.

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  3. Peter Nowfel says:

    The world is a small place. The link to this was sent to me by friends in London who were googlestalking me wondering what I was up to. What a pleasant surprise all round! Thank you for your kind words and and for recording the back of my head for posterity. The downside of conducting I suppose. I have a stony feeling that you blog will become my new breakfast time addiction. Thank you. PN

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    • nessafrance says:

      Ah, my cover has been blown! Small world indeed. Good thing I didn’t say anything rude about you. Sorry about the back of your head but this must be a fate you share with Daniel Barenboim and Mariss Jansons. I do have a side view of you which is marginally better than the back-of-the-head ones: I’ll send you it by email.

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  4. Steph says:

    Give Hollywood time … it’ll take a while for the news to filter through to them!
    Well done! I had Israël in my reading too.
    There’s a living creche in a village fairly close by on Christmas Eve apparently. It’s one of those things we keep meaning to go and see, but never quite feel motivated enough to turn out to see at 10pm on a cold winter’s night. Maybe this year …

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    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, I suppose I mustn’t be too impatient. After all, even Meryl Streep had to start somewhere. The only living thing in our creche was the donkey but at least he was well-behaved. We wouldn’t have seen it if it hadn’t been on the way from the church to the salle des fetes.

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  5. Sounds absolutely lovely. Sadly the nearest place to us with carol services is an hour away.

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    • nessafrance says:

      It’s a pity you’re so far away from one. The good thing about this event was its international nature. Often the different national communities around here are a bit isolated but the carol service helped bring them together this year.

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  6. I sounds like a lovely occasion. Our little village is too small for such communal celebrations, but I did get to hear, and join in with, carol singers at a Christmas Fair on Saturday. Was surprised to find, I could remember most of the words, I haven’t sung for ages! The children’s rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas in English (!) and with gestures, was adorable, especially when they got up to the Lords-a-Leaping and started to lose their way.
    Have a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS and 2012.
    Sue

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    • nessafrance says:

      It really was a highlight of the pre-Christmas events. The size of the congregation surpassed everyone’s expectations so we hope it will go from strength to strength.
      Thank you for your Christmas wishes and all the best to you for Christmas and the New Year.

      Like

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