We were once in New Zealand and it happened to be my birthday. My daughter who was working there bought a musical instrument from a friend and gave it to me. Not being terribly musical I didn’t even know what it was. But it was splendid, like two violins conjoined, polished and smooth. It was a real talking point going through Aukland airport, as much admired as if I was carrying a new puppy. Since then it has adorned the wall of my office.
Then on Saturday evening we were invited to a concert chez Brigitte and Bernard in Bray. They have a beautiful house with a salon big enough to hold musical evenings. The performers were some of Brigitte’s musical friends who came up from Lyon. Cinq de Choeur consists of Michel Colin and his daughter Maud, Maud’s husband Benjamin and friends Annie-Laure and Patrick. You can listen to their music on http://cinqdechoeur.free.fr.
Michel, Benjamin and Michel from Cinq de Choeur
As well as being extraordinarily talented singers they switched between the flute, violin and guitar with ease. What interested me most was that Maud and Michel were playing dulcimers. I had never seen one played, although I have since read that Joni Mitchell and Cyndi Lauper have played the dulcimer for years. And Brian Jones played one in several Rolling Stones recordings in the 60s.
Playing the dulcimer
Dulcimers originated in the Appalacian mountains and were made by the first Scots and Irish settlers who wanted something easier to make and play than the violin. They are not usually as curved as mine but a simple triangular shape. They just about died out in the early 20th century but were revived by Jean Ritchie, a Kentucky musician, who played a dulcimer to audiences in New York. By 1965 dulcimers were well known in folk music circles.
A dulcimer is said to be one of the easiest stringed instruments to learn to play. It lies across your lap and you pluck or strum with the right hand while fretting with the left. There are plenty of dulcimer advice groups on the internet so perhaps I’ll give it a go. On verra.
Yet again I’ve been left alone cat-sitting in sunny Burgundy whilst Mary is in Glasgow babysitting our granddaughters. Needless to say there was a list of things to do, reminders to feed the cats and to put the bins out, and also reminders to go to badminton, to go to riding and to go to the fête de champetre.
This year for the first time our village decided to hold a fête de champetre in honour of our patron saint, St Maurice, whose saint day falls on the 22nd September. (More about St Maurice in this earlier blog. )
The fête started with a concert in the church by Christal’Fragil, a guitar and vocal duo, this was followed by a musical stroll with the ‘festive fanfare’ of the gardening themed jazz group Fanf’arrosoir. Then an outdoor concert by our local rock group, Awen, at the Cortambert lavoir.
Awen at the Lavoir
This was followed with another musical stroll this time up to the Foyer Rural for supper.
Festive fanfare by Fanf'arrosoir
The supper was accompanied by more music from Fanf’arrosir and was followed by a ‘Bal Trad’ – dancing to the traditional music of Bals de Gailairme.
Dancing whilst we wait for supper
The 'Bal Trad'
It’s midsummer and festival time. I’ve never seen so many people as there were in Cluny tonight. There were bands outside every café and on every street corner. A cacophony of rock and jazz where you couldn’t hear yourself speak.
The evening began on a quieter note with a superb concert by our local choir Cant’Azé, enhanced by singing outside on this warm summer evening.
Cant'Azé perform at the School of Music & Dance
Our own rock group from Cortambert were also performing outside the Cafe du Centre…..
An energetic performance from Awen
and a jazz band was playing further up the street.
And for a change some line dancing. I hadn’t even realized that there was a line dancing club in Cluny.
The Cluny Dream line dancers (by the time we saw them dancing it was too dark for a photo)
When we left at 11.30 the night was yet young. I only wish we were!
We enjoyed an excellent concert last night when Bon Débarras performed in Cortambert. Despite the thick fog there was a huge turnout. Afterwards there was typical Burgundy hospitality with wine and a meal hosted by the committee of our group of villages.
Dominic, Jean-François and Luzio are three young performers from Quebec who are touring France before returning to Canada in December. Their music is a blend of traditional folk, manouche (gypsy jazz) and Cajun, all of it very lively. It conjured up images of the rivers, the trees and the tundra of Canada.
Quebecois folk is a mixture of French lyrics to music of Irish and Scottish influence. There is a distinctive foot tapping on a podorythmie, a board used with special shoes. This evolved from the time when a fiddler would play at home, sitting on a kitchen table so he could tap out the rhythm for the dancers.
Bon Débarras played an astonishing range of instruments. Dominic was an expert on the washboard and Jean-François beat out a rhythm with his feet while playing the guitar, banjo, mandolin or the harmonica. They could even produce a tune without any musical instruments, just by tapping, clicking and slapping.
They talked to us about Quebec and French Canada. Having only ever visited English-speaking western Canada I had never looked at it from the francophone perspective before. It would be interesting to visit Quebec if only to hear a bit more of the music.