Phew, what a week it’s been. Who says nothing happens in la France profonde? I’ve already told you about our fête last Sunday and I’ll say a bit at the end about the verdict. This week’s major event was the inaugural concert of the Choeur de Parisot, held last night under the direction of maestro Peter Nowfel.
The choir started in earnest in February, the offspring of the choir brought together for last year’s Christmas carols. The 40 or so of us are an international lot – French, Belgian, British, Dutch and, of course, Swedish (the SF).
We went straight into rehearsing a programme of 12 pieces ranging from Rameau to Rutter and from the simple to the fiendishly difficult. For me, not having sung in a choir for 35 years and being of a certain age, getting my voice back into shape has been challenging. But at least I can read music and follow a conductor (most of the time), which makes things easier.
That swine Nowfel (private joke) put the pressure on recently by increasing the rehearsals’ duration from 1½ to 2½ hours. This week we had rehearsals totalling five hours, including two on the day itself. It still felt a bit slippery in places but tant pis.
As we stood outside the Church of Saint-Andéol, waiting to file in, the punters were still turning up at 20h40 (10 minutes after the starting time). This is normal. Nothing starts on time down here. When we marched in we were astonished to see that the church was absolutely packed. There was standing room only. We have been doing a lot of publicity – and Peter has a Herbert von Karajan-like aptitude for it – but this was beyond what we could have hoped for. Would they be disappointed?
In the end, intensive rehearsing, adrenalin, a sense of occasion and a few nuggets of talent carried it. We got a standing ovation and a slow handclap – which in France is a sign of appreciation and not the reverse, as in the UK. They particularly liked a rather odd but stirring song called “Adiemus” by a composer called Karl Jenkins. The words are in an invented language but it sounds sort of African. We were still battling with it an hour before the concert. But they loved it and asked for it as an encore.
The SF had a solo part in a Negro spiritual, which suited his rich bass voice down to the ground. He has never sung a solo in a concert before. He had to get to – well, a certain age – before doing so. I made extra sure before the concert that his flies were up and his collar down. When we were milling around outside the church afterwards, one of our male neighbours came up, grabbed the SF by the shoulders and gave him three smacking kisses.
Local priest Père Serge, who sings tenor, said to me afterwards that it was a good thing we had called the choir simply le Choeur de Parisot. It was much better than some clever but meaningless title. He said, “They came because they felt it was their choir.” Even so, it wasn’t just the denizens of Parisot who turned up. People had come from places as far flung as Figeac and Cahors.
We now have bookings for someone’s wedding in August, a further concert at the end of October and two carol services – one in our own church and one at Cajarc in the Lot.
As for last Sunday’s fête, we had our post mortem on Friday. It seemed that people had greatly enjoyed it. Naturally, there were things we could do better next year – this is only its second year. We also made around 3,500€ profit for the Teysseroles chapel restoration fund. It’s a long way from the total we need but every little helps.
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