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Choir: Fundacja Chórtownia
Country: Poland
Starting date: 2019-07-16
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French adventure

French adventure
Report from the XXiVth International Choral Festival in Provence

We didn’t plan it at all. We were going to devote ourselves entirely to professional work, making preserves for the winter and spending lazy evenings with nice books. However, fate likes to play tricks and all of a sudden we found ourselves traveling to France with our friends, Zabrze Youth Choir “Resonans con Tutti” as a delegation of Chórtownia at the 24th International Choir Festival in Provence.

Here it is necessary to explain what Chórtownia is — it is a foundation that supports amateur choirs, runs an international choral portal (chortownia.org) and initiates various music projects with choirs from around the world, believing in that if people sing with each other, they will never be able to shoot themselves …

This year choirs from France, Poland, China, Canada, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Belarus, Belgium, Italy and Portugal gave 42 concerts in 26 cities during “Festival International Choral en Provence”.

Concerts at this festival usually take place late in the evening in the charming small and large towns of the Cote d’Azur — in churches, concert halls or outdoors and this is an opportunity to meet with the audience and other choirs.

July 7, 2019, Flassans
Our participation in the festival began on Sunday, July 7, when we arrived after two nights spent on the bus and 9 break hours in the Italian resort of Lignamo Sabbiarodo.

The first “Resonans con tutti” concert took place in the church in the town of Flassans on July 7 late in the evening at 21:00. The program included mainly sacred compositions prepared by the choir for this trip, including evergreens such as “Ave verum corpus” by W. A. ​​Mozart or “Jesu meine Freude” by J. S. Bach. We weren’t particularly surprised that the audience reacted vividly to these songs, because, as the classic said, the best are the films we already know.

July 8, 2019, Rians.
Concert with the “Cle de Sol” choir from France

After intensive sightseeing of the beautiful city of Aix-de-Provence, that we went to instead of to Marseille (where you are sometimes allowed to drive in with vehicles of the highest ecological class only, and our bus did not have one) the choir was taken to Rians, where it was hosted by the local choir “Cle de Sol”. All this Provencal adventure was extra enjoying by the fact, that our bus was very long and could not enter everywhere, so we had to reach some rehearsal and concert places located among narrow and steep streets on foot.
Already at the rehearsal in the local hall, we met the conductor of the host choir, with whom we quickly found a common language — and it was not French, but Russian, because the conductor turned out to be Russian. The concert at the church Saint-Laurent located on the top of the hill, which led to a steep staircase, was initiated by the choir “La cle del Sol”. The Polish choir’s turn was after them and they also “bought” a large audience gathered in the church by means of their wonderful music. Finally, both choirs performed together (without rehearsal!) one of the songs that both had in the repertoire, then the mayor of the town took the floor, and then the parish priest spoke to the choir … in Polish! The Polish priest, Mariusz Piecyk, has been serving God in this charming place for some time. Of course, French choristers knew this, but for us it was a complete surprise;).

After returning to the rehearsal hall, a fantastic dinner prepared by the hosts began, followed by singing, dancing and having fun together. The ice was quickly broken, despite really huge age difference between the choristers of both choirs. Unfortunately transport regulations forced us to end this feast earlier — we had to obey the iron rule of bus stops. Still on the bus, we could not all forget the positive emotions that accompanied us throughout the day. It wasn’t the first time I thought that the amateur choral movement is doing more for international relations around the world than many institutions officially set up for this purpose: the most important thing is to meet ordinary people who do something beautiful together, learn their culture, language, customs, dishes, and the consequence of these meetings is that they make their own opinion and does not blindly believe in widespread fake news …

July 9, 2019, Sollies-Tucas. Concert with Dolphin Children Choir from China
The following day we visited seaside town of Cassis, famous for “Les calanques”, i.e. French fjords. We were supposed to see them from a boat, so we all set sail to the sea, checking the color of the water. It is really azure, clean and wonderful, and the coast is delightful. With blown hair and wind blowing all over the body, watching the lazy life in the bays rolling on yachts and coastal rocks and walkers on the steep paths surrounding the fjords, we felt immediately like the heroes of French films from the 60s, with a gendarme and Phantomas in one person. We even thought about hooking on St. Tropez to touch the legend, but we were discouraged because of traffic jams and supposedly uninteresting beach. Happy we got to the tiny town of Sollies Tucas, where the following concert was planned.

After crossing steep streets we reached Gambetta Square, tightly built from all sides, where the chairs for the audience were arranged — this concert was supposed to be in the outdoor. A nice change, because despite the fantastic atmosphere at concerts and the full audience at previous concerts, the temperature in the churches was very high.
During the choir rehearsal, I met Robert Francescato, the general director of the entire festival, and we were able to talk for a moment. His Choral Events organize festivals not only in Provence, but also in the Paris region, as well as several festivals in Italy and recently also in Portugal. We understood each other in three seconds — he organizes his festivals non-for-profit, just to create a meeting place for choirs and audiences, bringing people closer together through music.

The concert at Gambetta Square began with the children’s Dolphin choir from China. This is not an ordinary children’s choir. All children are either not hearing at all or they are very hearing impaired. However, thanks to modern technology and many volunteers they have music classes. If we did not know this from the information contained in the program, we would have no idea that the children were disfunctional in any way, because they sang clean and nice. And also in exotic for us Chinese folk costumes and with full makeup, which is seen in the Chinese theater. After their performance, it was the turn of “Resonance”, which this time sang pop choral music and folk Polish repertoire, causing storms of applause after each subsequent issue and almost broke the stage while performing an intense stage movement to one of the songs;). Like previous concerts, this one was also very well prepared; additional effect was given by colorful lights cast on the wall of the church, behind the choir.
Another day full of excitement was passed through and we went for a well-deserved rest, or rather for further lobbying meetings: partly with the university choir from Minho from Portugal, and partly with the Artos choir from Ukraine, with whom we shared the dormitory. For us personally, the meeting with Artos was even more magical because this choir took part in the project “The Sound of Europe II” organized by Chórtownia: their recording is in the album, but we have never seen them before, except for their manager, Andriy Onyskiv, who once visited us in Gliwice when he returned to his Lviv in Ukraine …

July 10, 2019, Hyeres les Palmiers, Concert with the “Les Magnarelles” choir from France
The next day, we were waiting to explore Toulon, which until now we knew as a place where our dorm was located and we did not expect anything interesting from this city. Well, one doesn’t read the guide, one doesn’t know things… but these scandalous deficiencies in education have already been made up, don’t worry. Toulon did not disappoint us (oh, these yachts in the marina!) and after getting to know the city on foot, and then with from the little train, we drove to the lovely city of Hyeres les Palmiers, to meet and sing with Les Magnarelles choir. Together with the choristers from Hyeres, we ate the meal they prepared (delicious!) on tables standing right on the market square, we wandered a bit around the charming streets and squares, full of aromatic goods of native production (lavender, Herbes de Provence, cheese, wine) and then about 21 : 00 the concert began.

The first song performed by the Les Magnarelles choir was Gaude Mater Polonia and as you would expect the entire Resonans from the back of the church joined this performance. All of the sudden, the older Frenchman sitting next to me, hearing the first sounds, also stood up … and sang the bass part flawlessly. I have to admit that I was slightly stunned;) Here is an explanation for non-choristers — Gaude Mater Polonia is known by all Polish choirs and everybody gets up while performing this song, as we treat is as inofficial anthem of Polish choirs.

During the concert, some cell phone began to ring. I sat quietly until it was turned off, and suddenly, as all the other sounds faded away, I realized that the sound was coming out … from my bag. Earlier I was asked to store the cell phone of one of our choristers and I had no idea that the alarm would sound. In a panic, I turned off the phone and the concert continued, but in 10 minutes the phone turned on again by itself. I grabbed my bag and ran out of the church in panic so as not to disturb. A few minutes after me one of the choristers came out, pale, supported by a friend. We are not used to such high temperature and humidity, but thankfully thanks to the help of the French, we managed to quickly control the situation by cooling the lymph nodes with water from the fridge. As you can see, the medical service is invaluable on such trips. After turning off the phone for good, I returned to the church just in time to hear the applause at the end of the concert. But this was not the end yet — there was a quick action and the combined choirs performed once again Gaude Mater Polonia, this time all on stage, conducted by Waldemar Gałązka. Me too ;)

11 July 2019, Le Pradet. Concert with the “La Cle des Chants” choir
We spent the last festival morning on the beaches of Toulon, after which we went to Le Pradet, where Madalina Spataru, an energetic choir conductor from Romania, was waiting for us, along with her choristers who hosted us royally with such specialties as liver patties creamy and baked, mango and shrimp salads, pies with something, onions, all kinds of casseroles, probably Parma ham (wonderful!) and other delicacies in liquid and solid form. Feeding a 50-person choir is a challenge, but all our hosts did it perfectly. The revenge will be difficult, but the stories about the hospitality of Poles cannot be worse than those about the hospitality of the French.

Nourished, we went to the rehearsal. Madalina, moreover, as the only conductor on the part of the hosts, had previously sent notes for joint performance. Madalina’s choir sang really well, entertaining both the audience and each other: the repertoire of “Le cle des chants” at the concert were mainly film themes with piano accompaniment, sung with verve, with clean and nice emission . The final “Pink Panther” performed together was pure madness, hard level endorphins and full happiness at all.

The concert of “Resonance” was appreciated by both French choristers and the large audience, including the delegation of the Polish-French Association, who came to the concert especially because of the Polish choir. After the concert, still in a state of euphoria, everyone took pictures of themselves in paper masks depicting Silesian national caps of girls and coal miners, that we took from Zabrze for joking purposes and found by chance before the concert.

We would like to thank Arlena and Waldek Gałązka, conductors of the “Resonans con tutti” choir for taking us with them to this trp. We participated in a great adventure, met new friends, dragged ourselves in the footsteps of our beloved Louis de Funes from childhood, and at the same time we had the opportunity to be in a great community of singert and listen to the music they make. And on the other, more serious side, we experienced sublime moments with them and we were a bit of a bridge between the Polish choir and the French audience, because during the concerts we sat in the audience and talked to people (I had to dig up my lame French, but it was somehow enough to get along) and in return, they told us their stories.


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