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!
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.
A somewhat depleted choir thoroughly enjoyed singing for a select audience in the lovely surroundings of St Andrew's Church, Whissendine. Your correspondent was one of those unfortunately absent due to the virulent bug which swept through our numbers, so it's down to some of those who did make it to give an account of the proceedings.
Liz, our Musical Director "It was a really beautiful church to have a concert in and you did the venue proud.
So sorry for all of you who wanted to be there but the "lurgy" prevented you - we really missed you. You can rest assured though that those there (just over 30) sounded like a large full choir and did magnificently - especially the only 5 tenors left standing!
Close Harmony and the Boys' contributions made a nice change of texture for the audience and were much appreciated.
Well done everyone for a great evening!"
Frances "This concert was just amazing, and I felt to be one of our best. The tenors did outstandingly well and did us proud. Also we were most fortunate to have such a responsive and welcoming audience. As I left the church, I was walking behind a group of ladies who were saying what a wonderful, enjoyable evening they had had. They even expressed a wish to start singing themselves".
Liz H "I thoroughly enjoyed my 2nd concert with the choir & I thought the evening went with gusto and great enthusiasm".
Sue J "We all enjoyed the evening in the beautiful Whissendine Church. Not a large audience but they were appreciative and enthusiastic and appeared engaged with the programme".
Ann H "I really enjoyed singing, the atmosphere was great. The ladies at the back,who I think were from Woven Chords, were waving their arms and singing. All the learning was so worthwhile."
Many thanks to Vicar Janet and to Alec and the team who made us so welcome and looked after us so well.
A group of us enjoyed demonstrating how singing can contribute to wellbeing at a workshop in Melton Library
on 10 October. We're a good example, aren't we - everyone looks very jolly!
The heavens opened as the audience arrived at our Christmas concert, held this year at Sage Cross Methodist Church, the weather adding a couple of centimetres of rain to the record of the wettest December ever.
The Church was a warm and welcoming contrast to the storm outside and we were delighted to have a capacity audience to whom the singers responded very positively.
Liz had introduced several new songs to the choir in the Autumn term and they rose to the challenge of performing them for the first time. The rousing Gaudiamus Hodie opened the concert in medieval style. The traditional theme was extended in an arrangement of The Holly and the Ivy. A contemporary carol, Ivy and Holly and the touching Cradle Hymn were also new additions to the repertoire of Christmas favourites such as Fum, fum, fum, the Sans Day and Coventry Carols.
World music included two new songs; Isa Lei, a beautiful song that Sue, one of our members, had brought back from her holiday in Fiji and Asikhatali from Africa.Other world music numbers such as Nkosi Sikelele Africa, Varado from Georgia and Gomo guru re Zimbabwe were rendered with great gusto.
Close Harmony sang Dirty Old Town. Coughs, colds and circumstances had depleted our numbers; we were glad to see Sue Wilson in the audience, but missed Anne-Marie and Carol. We were very grateful to Astrid who stepped in at the very last minute to join Helen and Alison in singing the first verse of Stille Nacht.
As always, a successful event is supported by many willing hands. Huge thanks to Mary Ward and the church members from Sage Cross who were so helpful. Thanks to choir members, friends and family who got stuck in to help with refreshments and raffle ticket selling, to Cath and the Christmas Tree elves and to my committee colleagues.
As always, hip, hip, hooray for our brilliant and tireless Musical Director, Liz.
A really wonderful evening of music and festive celebration which made a fantastic £600 for our chosen charity, Home-Start Melton and Rutland.
An Entente tres Cordiale!
"I could go on and on and on about how lovely it is to spend time with, and to sing with, such a warm and together group of people"
Liz, a singer with Global Harmony.
"After our home, I say to you a great thank for these days. I was very moved by the exchange and the meeting with all the singers and for the welcome in the families. From me, can you transmit my best thanks for these 3 marvelous days to all of the Global Harmony members Very, very best regard from Les Rosiers and see you quickly in the future.
Francoise, a singer with Canta Koume
“My wife Elizabeth and I enjoyed your superb performance with Canta Koume this afternoon in Wymeswold. Our deepest thanks for a moving experience. Michael, an audience member
Some impressions of the long weekend, 16-20th July, spent with our friends from the Loire Valley, fellow World Music enthusiasts, Canta Koume.
Their coach arrived on schedule at 5.30 pm on Thursday 26th July. Our visitors were escorted to the swish new extension at Melton Theatre for tea and excellent cake baked by the students of Brooksby/Melton College. The Mayor, Jeanne-Marie Douglas, extended a warm welcome in splendid French and a splendid hat. Hosts and guests returned home to restore their energies for the events to come.
On Friday morning, we gathered at the Samworth Centre for a workshop/rehearsal. Global Harmony taught Canta Koume a song from Senegal - Kakilambe. Gilles, the musical director of Canta Koume introduced a new song for both choirs to learn which, he casually mentioned, he had written the previous night. It was untitled and contained the phrase “It is simple” in three languages, the last of which was Arabic – your correspondent is unable to recall the other two! A rehearsal of the songs we were singing together was followed by lunch – tables were literally groaning with the huge quantity and fantastic variety of dishes provided by Global Harmony.
Absolutely replete, groups set off to visit their choice of a number of destinations in Rutland – Barnsdale Gardens, Easton Walled Gardens, Woolsthorpe Manor, the Rutland Belle and the Grainstore Brewery. We all met up again at Braunston Village Hall for the evening; a Hog Roast and “Home grown entertainment”. The latter could be described as a micro Eurovision song contest – if you want to know more, you will have to visit the Members’ site!
Saturday morning was free for guests and hosts to arrange their own activities. In the afternoon, we joined forces at All Saints Church, Oakham for a technical rehearsal. Afternoon tea in the Victoria Hall was followed by our first joint concert.
The highlight was certainly the British premiere of “Toto iro” – a 20 minute original work composed by Gilles in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Canta Koume. The words were taken from Antoine St Exupery’s book “The Little Prince” – We see well only with the heart – the essential is invisible to the eye. These words were sung in eleven different languages in a variety of musical styles, a challenging singing task to which Canta Koume rose magnificently.
The concert was followed by a 20th birthday celebration for Canta Koume with sparkling wine and cake.
Sunday morning afforded another opportunity for hosts and guests to enjoy time together, including Sunday lunch.
The afternoon saw our second concert; this time in St Mary’s Church, Wymeswold. The programme from Saturday was repeated. Global Harmony’s set included two new songs, “Teo oono” from the Rotaruan Islands and the Elbow hit, “One Day like this”, along with a very touching version of the gospel song “All my Trials” and the choir’s all time favourite, “Fa’afetai ile’ atua”- a Maori hymn. Both choirs sang together in the second half, the 100 odd voices blending gloriously in songs such as “Yenamanoa” gaelic mouth music, “Ya se Va”, a love song from Chile and a song we learnt together when Global Harmony visited the Loire Valley in 2013, “Rolihlala Mandela”.
In the evening, we gathered in Wymeswold’s very grand village hall for a Curry and Bollywood evening, introducing our guests to an important aspect of the culture of Leicester. The food, provided by Café Mash of Burton on the Wolds, was first class. Dancers from the Naipur Academy in Leicester gave us an energetic and skilful demonstration of Bollywood dancing and I suspect that they were somewhat astonished by the enthusiastic participation of well over 2/3 of their audience in the subsequent workshop! The dressing up pile of sequin and bell embellished garments was soon diminished and booty was well and truly shaken by the gorgeously attired dancers!
It was with mixed feelings that we said au revoir to our chers amis at 8am on Monday. We were very sorry to see them go and equally looking forward to putting our feet up for a couple of hours to recover from a long weekend that had been, in every sense, full on.
We heard that they had unfortunately experienced a marathon journey home, missing disruption at Calais only to be delayed by angry farmers blocking the toll at Le Mans and arriving home after 11 pm.
The success of the visit was attributable to the tireless work of the organising committee, led by Janet Donnell and to Duncan Manderson, who ensured that every French visitor had somewhere to stay – no easy task! Thanks as always to our ever effervescent Musical Director, Liz Underhill and to everyone else who contributed to a weekend which will stay in our memories for a very long time.
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