Open-air Concerts at the Château de Mayragues

Château de Mayragues

Château de Mayragues

One of the pleasures of summer life in SW France is the range of events that take place outdoors (weather permitting, of course). For almost the whole of July so far the weather has permitted and, having been starved of sunshine for about six months, we have taken full advantage. One of our favourite places is the Château de Mayragues in the Tarn, not far from Castelnau de Montmiral, where they put on several open-air concerts every year.

It’s a 45-minute drive from here but we try to go at least once each year to the outdoor chamber music concerts, which they hold in front of the wonderful château. It’s a fortified house rather than a château on the Loire scale and it’s a magical setting in which to hold these musical events.

Alan Geddes (Scottish) and his French wife Laurence bought the place in 1980 because they were interested in having a vineyard. Then, despite already having been classified as an historic monument, the house was virtually a ruin. So their first concern was to stop it falling down before restoring it to its former glory. After many years of working with Bâtiments de France – who regulate historic monuments – and a specialist builder, they have finally recreated a wonderful piece of patrimoine (cultural heritage).

Close up of Château de Mayragues

Close up of Château de Mayragues

The house dates back to the 12th century. Set on a rocky spur and surrounded by rolling countryside, it is a rare example of its type, with a covered walkway running around the entire top floor. The château was enlarged in the 17th century and the interior décor refurbished, including a superb stone staircase and an ornate fireplace in a bedroom. A pigeonnier perched on four stone columns is also listed.

Pigeonnier at Château de Mayragues

Pigeonnier at Château de Mayragues

We went on Wednesday with friends, who were entranced by the setting. The musical ensemble, Architecture et Musique, headed by oboist Laurent Hacquard, put on the concert. This time, it was a trio of oboe, flute and cello and the theme was le siècle de lumière, i.e. the 18th century. The programme covered works by Marin-Marias (who was eclipsed by Lully but came into his own after the latter’s death), Handel, Telemann, Quantz, Haydn and Salieri.

Le Château de Mayragues is a vineyard (Gaillac appellation) producing organic wines. In the interval, they serve a glass of their own wine in the garden.

Of course, playing in the open air has its hazards. First, the weather. Despite most of July being fine, thunder storms were in the air on Wednesday, so the interval was postponed till the end, au cas ou. As it happened, the weather was perfect and around 200 people listened to the music without meteorological interruption.

Concert with harp on a previous occasion

Concert with harp on a previous occasion

However, there were plenty of interruptions of other sorts: a pigeon set up in competition in a nearby tree; a woodpecker flew about, uttering its laughing jackass call; the Geddes’ dog, banished to an outhouse, spent most of the time barking; a helicopter hovered overhead; a combine harvester chewed a nearby field; finally, a gust of wind took away the cellist’s music during his solo piece. It was a mark of the musicians’ professionalism that they didn’t turn a hair. The cellist simply picked up and rearranged his music, secured it with a clothes peg and started again from the phrase in which the breeze had interrupted him.

On a previous occasion, the Geddes family cat had to be forcibly removed from the scene for loudly voicing his opinion of the music. But despite these things – maybe even partly because of them – going to one of these concerts is a wonderful experience.

The château is not generally open to the public, except during les journées du patrimoine every September. So please don’t just turn up – unless you want to buy some wine.

Copyright © 2013 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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10 Responses to Open-air Concerts at the Château de Mayragues

  1. Sue Whatmough says:

    I’m not a fan of chamber music but love the harp. We had a harpist at a evening of modern ballet at our village chateau. The harp in that setting was magical too.

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  2. Anita says:

    We took some visitors to Chateau Mayragues a few years ago to do some wine tasting, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. I can imagine it makes a perfect setting for an open air concert. I had no idea they did several concerts a year and I will make a point of looking out for them in the future.

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    • nessafrance says:

      They are very active in marketing their wines and do wine tastings all over the region as well as at the chateau. However, tasting it in situ must be best!

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  3. What a beautiful venue for a concert. The first outdoor concert we were attending here in Caunes, was moved indoors due to the threat of a storm. However, now the summer seems to have really arrived, I am sure, as you say, this lovely area of France will be full of fabulous opportunities to listen to beautiful music in beautiful surroundings. J.

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    • nessafrance says:

      It is absolutely magical. In all the 10 years or so we’ve been going, we have been very lucky with the weather. Only once have we had to be inside because of the weather. On another occasion, we sat outside listening to the music and watching flashes of lightning getting closer. The heavens opened just as we got back to the car.

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  4. Evelyn says:

    This trio is doing a concert on Monday evening at Chateau Cenevieres which I will attend with 4 friends. I’m looking forward to hearing them there. Although they will perform inside in the grand salon of the Chateau, they will still have to compete with a flock of screaming swallows that circle the building at dusk…feeding on flying insects, I think!

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    • nessafrance says:

      I expect they will perform the same programme that we heard on Wednesday. The speciality of this ensemble is to play at places of architectural/historical interest. The oboist is the constant. He is always there but the other musicians vary from year to year.

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  5. lizgyooll says:

    Looks like a wonderful place … I think we tasted their wine at the Najac food thing we went to …Lx

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    • nessafrance says:

      It’s a magical setting and perfect for an open-air concert. Worth a visit during les journées du patrimoine in mid-Sept if you’re here then.

      Like

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