‘Ce concert a été magnifique’………… il y avait au moins 600 à 650 auditeurs…Ce qui est l’un des plus gros concerts de ces dernières années…………. à l’année prochaine peut être ?
So you see – The YPC has been to France and these are just a few of the expressions of thanks received from the venues upon our return.
For ourselves we would agree – The concerts were indeed magnificent…stunning and large venues and each one packed to capacity and more, in fact 600 – 650 in the audience was the average at the 3 concert recitals, with perhaps towards 1000 in the magnificence of Bayeux Cathedral. The best for years it seems!
Can we go back next year – I’m afraid not the YPC is committed to touring every 3 years and where next is not yet determined, although memories of our reception in Normandy must ever be a strong draw.
A full day’s travelling, leaving Wakefield early morning and arriving at our Hotel in Bayeux late that same evening did nothing to weary the choir for the Friday morning start to Argentan. Everyone was up, ready and on the coach on time.
As the concert was not until 8.30 in the evening, we had chance to stop at the lovely town of Falaise, the birthplace of William the Conqueror. Time was taken to tour the castle and the town, with the leisurely enjoyment of a French lunch being taken by many.
On to Argentan for rehearsal in the Eglise St Germaine and the warm welcome of the church family there, who has worked with the tourist authorities in the city to ensure the concert was well advertised.
Tingling with excitement and eagerness to start, we watched the crowd arrive, and then keep coming, more chairs were brought and still more as the concert began. Each piece was greeted with enthusiastic applause, whether the grand presentations with Organ, Trumpet and Choir of such as ‘Zadok the Priest’ or ‘I was Glad’ or the quieter and relective ‘How lovely are your dewellings’ or ‘God so loved the world’. Prolonged final and standing applause brought the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ as an encore, more was demanded , but no more was given…….perhaps they’ll all come back tomorrow night?
Before leaving for the 90 minute journey back to the hotel the lovely people of the church provided us with home made cake and local produced apple juice and cider, what a treat and a fine end to our first performing day.
Saturday brought much discussion at breakfast about how good the night before had been and would tonight in Bayeux Cathedral match or would it be more restrained.
Saturday allowed visits to the local Saturday Market, the beautiful town itself and of course to the famous Bayeux Tapestry. For some also a chance to relax and enjoy the hotel’s outdoor pool and terrace in the sunshine.
The business end of the day began with an early evening rehearsal in the Cathedral ready for the 9.00pm concert. Cathedrals across the world are sometimes a ‘mystery of administration’ and we almost fell foul of a ‘no tick in the box problem’ – but negotiation skills and good sense prevailed, to everyone’s relief and everything fell into place.
The positioning of the great organ at the back of the cathedral and the smaller organ adjacent to the altar meant the Choir would sing in 3 different places – at the back for works with the grand organ, at the altar steps for more intimate pieces with the small organ and in the centre cross aisled section for other works. This we tried with great success in 2006.
Bayeux is a city alive with tourists, especially American and British, as the D Day beaches are so near, so tonight our superb compere, Paul Dowling, would have to not only have to be informative in fluent French, but also in English too. Our audience began to assemble and continued to do so as the majestic sound of Daniel (Justin) on the Organ and Anthony (Thompson) on Trumpet brought forth the introduction to Parry’s ‘I was Glad’. The choir, standing on the back steps with the great West Door open behind them ensured the English Choral Classic was heard across the old city.
As a result more flocked in until they were standing 6 deep on the back steps as the choir moved to sing at the front of the cathedral where the audience enjoyed such classics as Bach’s ‘Jesus Joy of man’s desiring’
Daniel’s skills on the grand organ were remarked upon all through the tour and tonight he thrilled the audience with works by Bairstow and Macmillan.
Anthony too presented flawless versions of Purcell and Stanley, Telemann and Jeremiah Clark bringing those great Baroque composers to life as the trumpet sound resounded in that glorious space.
At the centre crossing, Vivaldi’s Gloria and the French Classic ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’ were truly well received. The audience were in such close proximity that their individual words of gratitude and congratulations were conveyed to many choir members before we moved to conclude on the back steps again, but this time having to ask the crowd to try to make room.
Zadok the Priest was never going to be allowed to be the final item though. So again after a prolonged standing ovation we were ‘forced’ into ‘Hallelujah’ once more.
What a night, what a place, what a crowd….Can we take it all home please?
A quiet Sunday in Caen allowed us back to earth gradually. Some visited the moving ‘Memorial de Caen’ with its reminders of the huge cost and sacrifice of the 1944 liberation. For others a leisurely stroll or little tractor/ train ride around the city, interspersed with a patisserie or two.
The Abbeye aux Hommes is the final resting place of William the Conqueror and is simply huge. In size, larger than Bayeux Cathedral, so much so as to give repertoire choice challenges to Andrew.
Again performance at front and back was essential the grand organ being very distant indeed from the smaller organ in the altar area, but what a grand organ it was and what a player we had. We all felt ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’ coming on strong!
A French city on a Sunday with a concert at night is a daunting experience. In the day, you may not see enough people to form a crowd, so where will they all come from….but come they do! 650 packed into the Abbeye and they were every bit as welcoming, receptive and enthusiastic as their predecessors. This time almost entirely French, so Paul reverted to his French only introductions but found himself walking considerable distances between microphone and his 1st tenor position in the choir.
Indeed the earlier feeling was right – Parry’s ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’ rang out towards the end of the programme with the organ’s magnificent sound enhancing everything to the utmost. It was received as rapturously as pieces such as ‘Mozart’s Lacrimosa’ had been with sensitivity.
Once more the concert had to conclude with ‘that encore’ and sustained applause as, by now, a very weary choir took its final performance bow of the trip.
Monday was a leisure day. We had 2 coaches so 2 different choices of destination had been planned, or you could do your own thing. One trip went to Rouen, the second to Lisieux Basilica, a cider distillery (free drink) and the well healed resort of Deauville. (4 times more took the latter trip – I wonder why!)
Our last evening together on tour is devoted to a choir meal and then what has become known as our Cabaret. This time a 20 item event of fun and laughter, serious song and comic words of all kinds. A chance to let our hair down together and to appreciate just how good it is to be in an organisation like the YPC. It is also an opportunity to appreciate all our wonderful non singing supporters, who not only came with us on this trip but who support us throughout.
Tuesday brought an early start and the long trip home, but somehow happy memories make the miles go by quicker.
It was indeed a Magnificent Trip, not just because of the wonderful music, venues and crowds, but because we experienced it together and we will benefit as a choir as a result. Here’s to the next time – wherever we go!