FREXIT not BREXIT!!

Whatever your opinion on Brexit happens to be, it is undeniable that strong and lasting connections between the people of Europe are of paramount importance and Global Harmony’s trip to France has demonstrated that perfectly. The joy and friendship shared on this wonderful weekend of singing inspired optimism and a sense of fraternity amongst everyone. As Liz so aptly put it..

“I don’t know whether it’s the case that singers are nice people anyway, or that singing makes people nice!!”

A small but perfectly formed choir of 31 was bound for the Loire Valley on 21 July. The majority, with some “lovers and supporters” departed from Melton at 9.30am, collecting further choristers at Oakham and Stamford. The journey was reminiscent of a school trip, with the rowdier elements at the back of the bus and a lot of singing of songs that some of us hadn’t sung since we were in Guides and Scouts!! Our driver, Adam, was a true gent and it’s thanks to him and Anita’s Google Earth that we are not still going round a roundabout in Sorges. We finally arrived at the meeting place at midnight and were delighted to meet up with our hosts.

Friday dawned warm and sunny, but it is doubtful that anyone actually saw the dawn. The workshop in Gennes was an opportunity to catch up with our French friends learn a couple of new songs and to revise the numbers the two choirs were due to sing together in the concerts. 

The president of the choir association gave a very warm speech of welcome, which moved many of us to tears.

Our hosts provided the most amazing array of dishes for lunch, which was taken en plein air on the grass under the trees in gorgeous sunshine – parfait!

 

Excursions had been planned, The term “herding cats” comes to mind when recalling the attempts to allocate everyone to the cars transporting us to the venues. To....

The Mysteres de Falun (an example of the amazing tufa caves of the region)

 

                                                        Of course, we took the opportunity to try the acoustics!

 

                   MBgate

                                 and the medieval village of Montreuil Bellay, in a beautiful situation by the river, with a fascinating history.

 

 In the evening, we ate at Les Cathedrale de la Saulaie, a restaurant in awe inspiring tufa caves which sat, rather incongruously, in an industrial estate on the fringes of Doue la Fontaine.

 

  Every course, bar dessert, involved bread, in the shape of small pouches a little like pitta bread, into which one inserted the other dishes – mushrooms, duck, beans and salad. Dessert looked a lot like apple crumble and I was not surprised to hear that the French called it “cromble” (my spelling!). There was, as always, a copious supply of wine and we were a little unsteady on our tour around the surrounding caves after the meal.

Saturday gave us a chance to spend some time with our hosts exploring the region before the evening, which saw us gathering in Salles Emstal, the cavernous community hall in Pont de Ce for another civic welcome involving sparkling wine and macarons and further snacks to prepare us for the arduous evening ahead.

                                                             Liz and Global Harmony teach "Adios Mama" to Canta Koume 

We arrived at the church of Saint Aubin to find it locked, so Canta Koume rehearsed outside.

                                                                                                                     Global Harmony entered through a side door and managed to run

                                                                                                                              through a few numbers before the concert.

The church has the most marvellous acoustics and I can confidently say we used them to full effect. We sang first, and could then relax and enjoy Canta Koume’s set sung, as always, with great precision and their very unique sound. Our joint set was an absolute joy to be part of and I wasn’t the only one to have goosebumps after over 100 voices had sung the Samoan hymn, Fa Fetai. The audience, though relatively small, gave us a standing ovation which was most uplifting. Please see the end of the article for a full set list.

 

After the concert, some ladies of a certain age hoofed it back to the hall to avail themselves of the facilities only to find it locked! However, a key was soon found and comfort restored. The soiree followed a familiar pattern. Food – again a wonderful selection provided by Canta Koume,

                                    plenty of wine and a great deal of singing and camaraderie.

 

  

We enjoyed a morning and lunch on Sunday with our hosts. The afternoon concert was in the church at Les Rosiers, a picturesque little town on the banks of the Loire with the most spectacular floral displays and a unique fountain. Global Harmony’s set ended with Let there be Peace all over the World, which Maggie, our talented interpreter, explained was dedicated to friendship between our two nations, remembering the recent tragic events in Nice.

Alain, from Canta Koume:

“I was moved by your message translated compassionately by Maggie with whom we shared tears”

As we processed back down the aisle, I was not alone in finding it very difficult to continue singing through the emotion as many of the audience smiled at us and applauded through their tears.

On a lighter note, we enjoyed the response of two very small children in the front row-beautifully behaved and dancing as we sang and the audience response was rapturous - here are Gilles and Liz getting ready to take a well deserved bow.

Our final evening was spent at another community hall, in St Saturnin. Supper was provided by caterers this time. A combo of guitar, keyboards and fiddle, somewhat erroneously called “Two’s Company” (there were at least four of them) entertained us in fine style with familiar songs in English and French. Canta Koume have been hiding their dancing talents under a bushel – they rocked some very neat footwork in waltzes and traditional dances. Global Harmony joined in with more enthusiasm than skill and a good time was enjoyed by all. The traditional final song session was tinged with regret that such a wonderful visit would soon be ending.

A very subdued party of Les Anglais departed from Sorges at 6am on Monday morning, tired but happy to have been part of such an uplifting and joyful event.

Many thanks to our French hosts, in particular those who organised all the hospitality and visits. Thanks to Liz and Gilles, our indefatigable musical directors, to Maggie for her briliant translations, to Adam our lovely driver and to Duncan for everything he did to facilitate the visit.

My personal thanks to all my friends in Global Harmony and Canta Koume.

Sarah Bowie