Yesterday, I had one of my best birthdays ever. The SF and I sang in a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in the church at the spectacular fortified village of Puycelsi in the Tarn Département.
This concert is an annual event in aid of the church restoration fund. L’église Sainte-Corneille was built in the 14th-15th centuries and contains some magnificent wall and ceiling paintings. For the first few years, the choir sang excerpts from Handel’s Messiah but branched out a couple of years ago to sing different works.
This was the first time that we had sung in the Puycelsi concert, although a number of our friends have done so regularly. Seventy of us (French, British, Dutch, Polish, Swedish and Belgian), including four soloists, came together for the weekend to rehearse this difficult piece. I had sung it before, which was a distinct advantage, even if it was a long time ago. Even so, we and our local friends got together for a couple of pre-rehearsals over the previous month to give us a head start.
We had four hours of rehearsals on Saturday and the same on Sunday, punctuated by a delicious lunch and afternoon tea. The conductor, Mark Opstad, is a talented musician who plays several instruments and is Professor of Choral Music at the Conservatoire de Toulouse. He doesn’t take prisoners and homed in on our weaknesses with unerring accuracy. We learned a lot from his direction. As accompanist on the organ, we were lucky to have Nick O’Neill, whose flawless playing and understanding of how choirs work were a great help.
Despite Mark’s efforts, some knotty bits remained. As always, though, the adrenaline somehow got us through those during the performance. The church was packed, the tickets having been sold out the previous week. Lots of people we know came. Judging by the audience reaction, it was a great success, we got a standing ovation and did an encore. It was over all too quickly.
How much would you bet that three people out of 70 would have their birthday on the same day? My maths isn’t good enough to work out the odds but they must be pretty long. Anyway, the tearoom resonated three times to the strains of “Bon Anniversaire”, belted out by some powerful voices. I hope the other two enjoyed their birthday as much as I did.
Puycelsi itself is worth its own post, so watch this space.
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