Sunday, 24 December 2017

Let the music play

Chazelle church in the December snow
It is a busy time for us throughout the winter and early spring, as we are on the organising committee of Les Guitares en Cormatinois which is a music festival held every June/July in the church in Chazelle, a venue which has the most amazing acoustics.

The artists have been fixed for the coming festival and yet again we will have a very wide range of different guitar music.

Irish Kind of two years ago
We start on Saturday 7th July with an old favourite “Irish Kind Of” who surprisingly enough play Irish music. They are usually a sell-out, so get your reservations in early for that one.

On Sunday 8th we have a violin/guitar duo who should be very interesting. They haven’t given us their programme yet so I can’t give any more details on that one but it will be classical.

The following weekend we have only one concert, it will be on the Sunday (15th) we have Hair Brother a duo of guitars with humour thrown in for good measure.

The last weekend of the festival 21st and 22nd, we have Duo Atlas (guitar and cello) from Spain with interpretations of voice within music, which we are really looking forward to and a Manouche band Paris-Gadjo Club which should be a real crowd puller.

Let's hope we have plenty of sell-outs like this one
This year we have a time change for the concerts, all of the concerts will be at 17.30. We have always had more people to the Sunday afternoon concerts than to the Saturday evening ones, so we will see how this change goes.

Not only are we collecting information, designing and preparing the flyers and posters, but this year we have decided to renew the website to bring it up to date both stylistically and technically. We have had discussions with a designer and have found our new-look, all we have to do is put that into practice.

So there is lots of work to be done before we can sit back and listen to the music.

For the latest updates check out the website in the new year.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas Markets

Every "nest" has a bird!
It is that time of year again when every weekend is chock-a-block with Christmas markets. So far this season we have had Les Oiseux Rares in Cormatin and Les Mères de Noël in St-Gengoux-le-le National. Both were absolutely fantastic. Cluny starts this weekend, but we haven’t been yet, it is also one of the best ones round here and “must visit” leading up to Christmas.

The theme for Les Oiseux Rares this year was “time”. We were all encouraged to participate by providing photos, drawings, poems or prose which signified time. Cees came up with a Dutch poem by Hans Dorrestijn and two photos and I managed a piece from Macbeth. I wasn’t at all convinced they would motivate the good people of Cormatin into coming up with anything, but how wrong I was, there were over 300 entries and that meant every tree, doorway and gate in the village was covered with our offerings. It would have taken hours to read and admire them all. We cheated and just looked for our own and that took us long enough.

Our collection is getting bigger
It was freezing cold so we went to warm ourselves up with a delicious lentil and split pea soup courtesy of Pascale Hautefort eaten out of the collectors’ item soup bowls made by Pierre Arnoud, Cormatin’s very own potter.

We enjoyed visiting the different venues, including some lovely photography of water drops. A great start to the market season.

Macbeth on a rusty gate
The next week and on to Les Mères de Noël who didn’t disappoint either. It was a completely different collection of artisans who were exhibiting in the gymnasium in St-Gengoux and luckily we managed to visit during a lull in the crowd, giving us easy access to all the stalls.

The exhibitors include someone making felted hats and a chap doing Arabic calligraphy. There really was some really beautiful stuff was available to sort out all your Christmas present needs.

I’m really looking forward to the next couple of weekends – I still have one or two items to buy, what will they be?....

Saturday, 9 December 2017

A nation in mourning

Jean D'Ormesson in his Académie Française uniform
In Tuesday evening’s news the first 10 minutes were dedicated to Jean D'Ormesson, a member of the Académie Française, a philosopher, former head of Le Figaro and a prolific author, who passed away at the age of 94. President Macron called him "a prince in the world of literature".

As we watched that item on the news, we were impressed that an intellectual giant should get the first 10 minutes, summing up for us the French love of literature and philosophy and how that is engrained into their education system and hence the national character.

But the French also have a love of the performing arts, musicians and actors are held in great respect as well. None more so than Johnny Hallyday who is a national institution.

Rather prophetically we wondered how many minutes the rock star would get when he passes away and the next evening we found out.

Johnny Hallyday on stage
Johnny Hallyday is the biggest rock star France has ever had, was a legend in his own lifetime. Whilst he never made it outside the French speaking world, he was obviously well respected enough in the world-wide business to get the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Peter Frampton to play on his albums.

Even though (or maybe because) he had a “Bad Boy” image, he was loved by everyone. Generation after generation of kids had Johnny as their idol and in an ever changing world where kids grow up rebelling against their parents’ old-fashioned tastes and almost automatically dislike their parents’ idols, that is quite an amazing feet. He managed to change with the times and grow his audience. Helped in no small part by his charismatic performances both on and off the stage, he fell and he picked himself up many times, he failed and he came back and all the time he never stopped working. President Macron summed up Johnny very nicely "There was something of Johnny in all French people….. Across generations, he carved himself into the lives of French people”. He was both an ordinary and an extraordinary man.

The man himself in his iconic leather jacket
So when he passed away, the evening news was not only dedicated entirely to him, but it was extended to last more than an hour. There were no other items. After the “news” there was a two hour documentary on his life and music and that was followed by one of his most recent concerts. That is how big this man was in the French psyche.

So France is a country in mourning. It lost two of its greatest human treasures almost on the same day.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

First Sunday of the month

Looking up at the main tower
Winter is a great time for some serious museum visiting. Firstly there are not too many tourists around, which lets you get a very good look at what there is to see without jostling with bus tours and over and above that, most museums are free on the first Sunday of the month starting in November and going through to March.

The first Sunday in November we were at the doors of Cluny abbey to see what has happened since our last visit.

Viewed from the "Farinier"
They have changed the film again, for the better this time. Gone are the 3D glasses, which is a relief as they never fitted me well and always made me feel a little queasy. Also at the entry to the film room there was a rack which suggested that you could use a headset to translate what was going on in the film. This is an excellent idea because the film gives a lot of information about the abbey and considering the number of foreign visitors there are, it would be a good idea if they can understand it too. However, I don’t know if they are considering the idea or if the headsets are only available in the summer, but there weren’t any when we were there. So please Cluny, we are waiting!

It is also nice that you can get back into the area where there are some half restored columns which are outside. This particular point of view, looking up and down the length of the church from “inside”, really gives you a real impression of the original length.

Cees emerging from the blue lit carpet....
Sadly the interactive screens have gone which projected the 3D model on to what you can actually see. They were not in very good working order last time we were there and I am not surprised they have now gone, but it is a pity that this facility has been lost purely because the hardware was not robust enough. Let’s hope they will get some more sturdy screens and reinstall this facility before the next tourist season.

There was a temporary art installation where you could go inside a blue lit cubicle made out of carpet and listen to the sounds of birds and Gomera whistling language. A bit surreal and I am obviously a Philistine as I didn’t quite “get it” but it was nice and warm on a cold day!

However, in the transept there was a beautiful sculpture by Anne Poivilliers made up if filaments and layers of material swirling around itself, the explication says “The filaments are assembled to creation a volume which appears to be suspended in space.” It certainly adds to the transept and I hope they will leave it there, but I suspect it is only temporary.

Anne Poivilleirs' beautiful sculpture
I am sure there are more details that I missed, but it just shows that the site is constantly developing and worthy of regular visits.

So tomorrow is the next “first Sunday” - we are still debating where to go, can't wait.
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