Monday, December 29, 2014

A Sunday concert in the countryside of Provence




"Nous sommes en Provence et on est fier d'y être!" the Mayor of Saint-Pierre-de Mézoargues declared with pride in front of the audience that had packed into the tiny village church. His arms were thrown open wide and his comment was met with hearty applause. "Yes," I thought in agreement, "we most certainly are in Provence...and I am proud to be here."



It is something that I am still understanding, even after these many months of having moved out of the wonderful town of Arles. Finally, I live in Provence. That recognition comes in waves of feeling or bright little sparks, such as in finding myself at a free local concert filled with bonhomie.


I couldn't have guessed that so many people would turn out on a Sunday afternoon to hear four local youths play...the accordion...


...and yet every seat was taken. Our friends, the elegant Ms. L and Mr. W were surrounded when I arrived. Late-comers genuflected briefly before shuffling towards what space they could find. I took a seat - carved out of wood with a cane bottom and most certainly made in the area - at the very back of the chapel and listened to three elderly women as their voices overlapped with the gossip that each doled out with marked emphasis, as well as to the singsong hubbub of the crowd.


A giant crèche had been installed in one of the naves, clearly done with love and skill...


...and yet the well-worn hymnals would lie untouched in their alcoves. For the program, selected by the two young men and ladies forming the group, each seeming to be not more than eighteen, was not at all of a Christmasy nature.


Instead, they proposed a voyage around the world through famous songs and pieces, from Bach to Piazzolla, all played on the punch and roll of the accordion. I could practically hear the audience smiling with delight as the concert advanced and watched as a pair of pint-sized sparkly boots, dangling down from the mezzanine overhead, thumped in time.


The players were composed and deft. They knew, instinctively or not, what so many had truly gathered to hear and when one of the young women rose to sing Edith Piaf's "Hymn à l'Amour," we collectively held our breath as she reached out longingly towards monumental aspirations of love that she couldn't possibly fully understand at the tender age of fifteen.


At the end of the final tango, the audience rose to their feet, applauding in time and then erupting in chants of "Edith Piaf! Edith Piaf!" until the quartet appeased their wishes with yet another song originated by La Môme. Arms were draped around shoulders of loved ones and soon the audience began to sway, then sing along, softly, reverently for a France that was and still is. Their voices echoed against the stones after the last note. My heart was brimming. "Je suis en Provence et je suis fiere d'y être."


For this final post of the year, I leave you with a song, the very one which the lovely young woman to be sang with such simplicity during that Sunday concert in the countryside of Provence:


With all my Very Best to you as we bow out of 2014 with a regard of attentive hope towards the New Year,
Heather


PS. Remi kindly pointed out that I hadn't included a photo with the musicians. That has been taken care of and hence the update...

39 comments:

Mumbai said...

not only your concert-story was lovely and interesting because you described the audience so well but the
hymne a l'amour made me sentimental. L'amour ..nothing else matters for 2o15 and forever.

Loree said...

Delightful. It's the little things that make a place special and you have truly found a wonderful place to call your own. Happy new year Heather and here's to more adventures from Provence.

Bill Facker said...

Edith Piaf ... so powerful, you could post a blank white page with her name sitting simply in the middle. For that alone, Merci Heather. You were fortunate to view and hear a beautiful French Flower .. in Provence .. in the cold winter .. while I sit quietly with the orchids ... c'est la vie ... Mahalo et Merci for sharing .. and stirring my soul.

Aloha,
Bill Facker
www.kauai-to-paris.com

puppyfur said...

Have hoped to comment for ages, if my iPad will only cooperate. From your last lovely post, we found a turkey this year, too, for the first time....they have, indeed, proved elusive. Remi's sounds delicieuse! So glad you had a merry and bright ( love les bougies) Christmas. And that the concert was so sweet. Happy New Year to you, Remi, Ben, and Kipling. <3

La Contessa said...

LOVE the church.............the stone the light all of it!
XOXO

Rowan said...

Heather, what a lovely, heartfelt post to your adopted homeland and its people! It was so wonderful in its description I felt I was in the room too, seeing through your eyes! The first photo - gorgeous!
i played the Edith Piaf piece and of course the song was very familiar - so stirring! But the old black and white images were wonderful! Some dated from during the war I guess. So poignant.
Heather wishing you and Remi (and the boys) a wonderful New Year, with much good to look forward to!
Cheers,
Deborah C.

edgar said...

What a lovely day with a concert inside a village church, with the holy family in a "giant crèche”. I can imagine everyone’s excitement and yours.

I didn’t know anything about Edith Piaf until I read a poem,The Day the Lady Died, about Edith Piaf,an unusual elegy, by Frank O’Hara. Of course, now, I heard her sing.

Thank you Heather.

RebeccaNYC said...

Lovely. Thank you for sharing this. And happy new year to you and yours!

Maywyn Studio said...

Thank you for the beautiful post
Teary happy I be, moved by such a magical a concert.
Happy Holidays!

emilia tremante said...

Good morning Heather,
Wonderful atmosphere! It was like being there at the concert with all those people... romantic description... good music ... young people playing ... my favourite world in a few sentences.
Happy Happy new year!

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

What a beautiful end of the year post, Heather! Seems a lovely way to say goodbye to one and to welcome another. Here is wishing you much health, happiness and wonderment as you continue to show us Provence in the coming year. I look forward to the treasures you unearth for us all!

Anna said...

Happy New Year, Heather!
We made it from France to England to put our toe in the water with a view to staying permanently... I have followed your blog for years and was interested and excited about the search for a home of your own. We're renting in Narbonne - so lovely. But, my husband has been diagnosed with a problem that requires him to have a series of small operations - back to the UK! John Lennon's "Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans" never felt so apt!

Anna said...

Aarrgghhhh! "We made it from England to France" I meant to write. And I've only had a fruit juice.

Lisa Southard said...

Always had a love for the voice of Piaf! It practically bursts you, I think. I love the curves of the church and that wooden roof- and the sparkly boots- wishing you similar gorgeousness all the New Year Heather :-) xx

Catherine Robinson said...

Such a beautiful post to end the year...wishing you a very Happy New Year, Heather...looking forward to reading more Provence tales ;)
With my love xx

Silke Bauer said...

Oh Heather, I am late now for your last post!

The accordion in a church? Well, you have to be in Provence! Definitely in the south of Europe where different traditions meet and melt into one another. Its funny, but if I think of that tiny church turned into a concert hall for that evening, the problems we have nowadays in this world with religion, tradition and freedom seem so distant.

And isn't it great to know that people of that young age perfomed and people of all ages (and SOME nationalities) where in the audience? In such a small village in Provence! Thats something to be proud of!

Now, I don't want to close with such heavy words, I wish you a gorgeous evening and all the best start for the New Year. We just finished a nice meal at home enjoying a quiet evening.

And I am very much looking forward to hopefully meet you again either in April or in September 2015! I will email you about the when and how later...

Heather, all my best wishes for 2015 to You, Remi, Ben and Kipling. Much Health and Happiness and Inspiration!

Gros Bisous, Silke

Jennifer Connolly said...

It's all so quaint and beautiful. How very fortunate you are to live in Provence.
Wishing you a very Happy New Year.

Lorrie said...

I can imagine the music pouring from the old stone building and drifting on the Provencal air. Your words evoke the loveliness of the evening. I can't listen to the music just now, but I'll be back when I can.

Bonne Année, Heather. Happy New Year.

Stephen Andrew said...

How on earth have I never read this blog? I can't wait to read back and see more peeks into Provence. I wouldn't mind going to an accordion concert!
And btw, I will definitely come to your house and make lasagna. I've been paid in PYT before and will happily accept it as payment again! Happy New Year!

Heather Robinson said...

I couldn't listen to that song - certainly with this beautiful video - without tearing up. Much Love and Happiness to you R.

Heather Robinson said...

Looking forward to more adventures from Malte, Loree now that you have your exams behind you!

Heather Robinson said...

Bill, it was so simple but so beautiful, you would have loved it. Mahalo for being here...

Heather Robinson said...

Oh my puppyfur, I am afraid you are not the only one who has been having trouble commenting! But how happy I am to hear that you too found a turkeylurk, they really just are perfect aren't they? We have been eating much heavier for years and it really was good! A very Happy New Year to you and yours too!

Heather Robinson said...

The light fixture is a little weird but it is a lovely church! We would have had a good time. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you Deborah and warm Wishes to you and yours too. Wasn't that video lovely? The photographs - many of them famous in France - only made it more special.

Heather Robinson said...

What a surprising path to hear La Mome! There was a very fine film made of the same name that you might find interesting too.

Heather Robinson said...

Cheers! I wish you a healthy voice for 2015!

Heather Robinson said...

And to you! As for "teary happy"? I take a little curtsy in gratitude.

Heather Robinson said...

Mais bien sur, la musique, l'ambience! It was made for you. Sending you Gros Bisous lovely Emilia for this new Year...

Heather Robinson said...

And I look forward to the treasures that you unearth for us all!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh Anna, I am so sorry to read of your Husband's health worries. I hope so much that all goes well and that you both are back pursuing your dream when you can. I am sure that will happen! And thank you so very much for reading here for so long. That touches me very much. Health and Happiness to you both in 2015.

Heather Robinson said...

The voice, not the sparkly boots, makes me cry like a baby.
Again, wishing you all sorts of wonderful for 2015, Lisa.

Heather Robinson said...

Wishing you a 2015 as soft as cashmere Ms. Robinson!

Heather Robinson said...

Silke, if you had been there, you would have loved it! And yes, everyone all mixed together in that tiny church/concert hall. Just wonderful. I am sending you so much Health ( sur tout!) and Joy to you and R for 2015 with the big hope that we will spend time together again...
xo

Heather Robinson said...

California is not so shabby either! ;) Happy New Year to you too Jennifer.

Heather Robinson said...

I hope that you were able to listen to the music as it is just such a beautiful song. I have been singing it all week!
Bonne Année à toi aussi, Lorrie. Bisous!

Heather Robinson said...

You know, I had to admit that I was a liiiittle bit snobby about the idea at first - especially when I found out that it was young musicians that would be playing - but I the fools on me because it was just insanely charming. :)

And oh my, I better start stocking up on PYTs just in case - hooray!
Happy New Year to you too, Stephen.

Michel said...

There are not a lot of concerts in Sablet but when there are, the church is always packed. I love accordion music and I love the music of Edith Piaf, so I am sure I would have been in musical heaven. Thanks for sharing the video. I wish you and Remi a very happy New Year with good health, good times and prosperity. I hope our paths cross this year.

puppyfur said...

Thank you, dearest Heather. New dog on the way, soon. Will keep you posted. Xx