Christmas Blog Hop: Carols at Cajarc

Eglise Saint-Etienne at Cajarc
Eglise Saint-Etienne at Cajarc

Today, my blog is taking part in a blog hop, organised by blogging chum Steph over at Blog in France. The idea is that you visit the participating blogs, whose owners will be posting about Christmas, expat-dom, writing or books (or all four). This is a great way to find new blogs and make new virtual friends. The list of blogs taking part is at the bottom of this post. Just click on the links. **This post is now quite old, and some of the blogs no longer exist. I have removed all the links, because some of them no longer work. **

Carols at Cajarc

What better way to mark a Christmas blog hop than by telling you about our first carol service? As well as our regular date at the church in Parisot (Sunday 16th December at 17h00), the Parisot Choir was invited to sing at Cajarc in the church of Saint-Etienne. Cajarc is a pleasant town alongside the River Lot. I visited in autumn last year for the annual saffron fair.

The church is a little austere but I prefer them that way. To paraphrase Virginia Woolf, it is in the nature of churches to be cold and this was a church to the core. The heaters are placed about 20 feet up on odd chandeliers. Didn’t anyone tell them that heat rises? So our heads were mildly warm while our feet were freezing.

However, the church does have some magnificent wall paintings in a small room at the back that have recently been restored.

Wall paintings in the church
Wall paintings in the church

They had also rigged up a rather clever Chinese lantern-type affair depicting the crèche. This was a bit more original than the usual frayed and mismatched figures you see populating Christmas crèches.

Original idea for a crèche
Original idea for a crèche

Our choir is an international affair, with French, English, Scottish, Dutch, Belgian and Swedish members – and no doubt a few nationalities I’ve missed. Most Christmas carols are in English, of course. But we sang a few French versions and original French carols. We even did one verse of “Silent Night” in Dutch, which required considerable coaching. We added a couple of songs from our repertoire – two different versions of ‘O Nata Lux’ separated by hundreds of years; one by Thomas Tallis and one by Andrea Angelini.

International bun fight before
International bun fight before

We spent the early afternoon rehearsing for the first time with the musicians (the Camerata Ensemble from Figeac). Just as well, since some of us kept coming in during the instrument-only introductions. Director Peter Nowfel was metaphorically tearing his hair out.

Rehearsal in full swing
Rehearsal in full swing

Fortunately, as usual, we rose to the occasion. Only one or two little glitches remained – mostly concerning when we should stand up and sit down. The high point, naturally, was my reading of Luke 2 v 15-20, about the shepherds visiting the Holy Family. I did it in French, having been given the choice. In the event, most of the readings were in French. I could have switched to English but I decided that since I’d practised it long and hard I would stick with the French version.

For obvious reasons I was unable to take any photos while we were singing. A bigger audience would have been nice: there were about 60. Since we are the home team at Parisot, we are hoping there’ll be standing room only next week. But the denizens of Cajarc were very enthusiastic. The incumbent, Père Guillaume, sent an appreciative message. And an elderly French lady came up to me at the end and said, “I really enjoyed it. It’s years since I last heard a choir. I’m so glad I came.”

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36 comments

  1. Looks freezing cold in that rehearsal pic! The kind of event that makes you realise Christmas is nearly here. Have a good one.

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    • It was freezing cold. When we got home I virtually sat on top of the woodburner. At least it was much warmer yesterday for our service at Parisot, on our home territory. Joyeux Noël.

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  2. Love the Chinese lantern crèche!!! What a lovely, original idea! I think the international choir must be really interesting. You have that chance to learn about different cultures and most of all singing in other languages. That must have been something else to have to sing in Dutch. I’m glad it all went well. Happy holidays!

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  3. …”I have not yet mastered the art of producing an e-book” it is actually a lot easier than the verbose guides would have you believe. And of course you can always edit/update and republish for free! Happy Christmas and all the best for 2013.

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    • I haven’t mastered it because I haven’t yet tried – no time. My resolution for next year is to take on less and say “no” more often to people who want me to do things.

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  4. I just wonder what the French might think if I went carol singing door to door as we did as kids.
    Maybe the French dogs would chase me off instead of chasing cars, which seems to be their normal past-time.

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    • Thanks for organising it. Thankfully the weather is forecast to be warmer (but rainy) this weekend. And our own church in Parisot is smaller than the one in Cajarc and has underfloor heating so we will probably be more comfortable this Sunday.

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  5. I remember the first Christmas Mass I went to in France and there were no Christmas carols, I was shocked, believing all those songs to be much more universal than they clearly are. Silent Night in any language is always a tear jerker for me, it was my mother’s favourite carol and I can no longer sing it at all, far too choked up, but absolutely beautiful no matter who is singing it and a necessity each and every Christmas.

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    • The French seem to have far fewer Christmas carols than we do. One or two of ours are also sung in French, it seems, and they have a few, like ‘Il est né le divin enfant’, which we don’t have at all in English. These carol services are an interesting cultural mix.

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    • I think it’s a nice tradition, although of course it isn’t particularly French. The French audiences seem to appreciate it, though.

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    • Yes, I miss carol singers too. It’s a shame you feel an outsider at yours. Do they do it in Portuguese? I am terribly ignorant about what they do at Christmas in Portugal.

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  6. Wish I’d been there! We need a bit of Christmas spirit in this part of the world! What a gorgeous church, too….

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    • I hope you enjoy the pdf. Sorry I couldn’t do an ebook but I haven’t had time to master the requirements yet. Joyeux Noël.

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  7. You were absolutely awesome! I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about your performance. As I told you yesterday, I really appreciate the program being in both English and French (Dutch as well, but only my friend, Ankie could read that!); it will give me something to study my French with. Keep singing and good luck in Parisot on Sunday!

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      • Peter is pleased to hear about them. What stands out from these comments and very much from the crowds that packed the church yesterday evening is just how strong the emotional pull of simple Christmas carols can be. Or did they all just come to hear Vanessa declaming in French?

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  8. I love the creche. One of the things I really miss about living in the UK is the carol services, the one in Bordeaux is a good hour’s drive away and never at a good time for us so we haven’t been for years.

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    • I thought their crèche was a great idea. It’s a pity you don’t have any carol services close to you. When we moved here, they were few and far between.

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