We did not plan it at all. We were going to devote ourselves entirely to professional work, making preserves for the winter and spending lazy evenings reading fine books. However, fate likes to play tricks and we all inexpertly found ourselves traveling to France with friends, and the Zabrze Youth Choir (Resonans con Tutti). That was our undertaking for Chórtownia (International Choral Portal) for the 24th International Choir Festival in Provence, France.
It is essential to explain what Chórtownia is, it is a foundation joining amateur choir. It runs the multinational and cultural choral portal (chortownia.org) and it initiate various music and choral ventures from all around the world, believing that if people sing with each other, they do not find time or the opportunity to create friction with anybody around. Notes sound the same regardless of race, religion or origin of the composer or performer. Music unites and helps to start a dialogue which could be appreciated during our musical tour to Provence. Sharing passions, that is what brings people together and stronger than differences, the friendships they shape are undying.
This year choirs from France, Poland, China, Canada, Ukraine, Czechia, Belarus, Belgium, Italy and Portugal gave 42 concerts in 26 cities during, the International Choral Festival in Provence. Shows at the festival usually happen late in the evening in charming villages and towns of the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) in churches, concert halls or simply outdoors. It was an unlimited occasion to meet the audience and other choir members.
July 7, 2019, Flassans,
Our participation in the festival began on Sunday, July 7. We arrived after two nights traveling in a coach.
The first being the “Resonans ConTutti” concert, which was held in the church of a small town called Flassans at 9pm. The agenda included mainly sacred compositions prepared by the choir for the trip, including such as “Ave verum corpus” by W. A. Mozart or “Jesu meine Freude” by J. S. Bach. We were not surprised that the audience replied with a standing ovation, because as we know the classic are the best and are the compositions we already know.
July 8, 2019, Rians. Concert with the “Cle de Sol” choir from France
After exhaustive sightseeing of the beautiful city of Aix-de-Provence, the choir was taken to Rians, where it was hosted by the local choir “Cle de Sol”. Our tour vehicle was very long and could not reach every place because of very narrow and steep streets around. So, we made many pilgrimages to get to the different concerts and rehearsal on foot, which looked very funny indeed.
During the rehearsal in a local hall, we met the conductor of the host choir. We quickly found a common language and it was not French, but Russian. The conductor turned out to be Russian. The concert in Saint-Laurent church located on the top of the hill with steep stairs was initiated by the choir “La cle del Sol”. The Polish choir followed them and also charmed a wonderful audience gathered inside. Finally, both choirs performed together, completely spontaneous, without a rehearsal, a song from both repertoires. After the Mayor of the town spoke, the parish priest addressed the choirs, not in French but in Polish! It was a Polish priest, Mariusz Piecyk, serving God in this charming place for a while. Of course, French musicians knew this, but for us it was a complete surprise.
After returning to the rehearsal hall, a fantastic dinner prepared by the hosts begun, followed by singing, dancing and having fun together. The ice was quickly broken, despite of really huge age difference between the choristers of both choirs. Unfortunately transport regulations forced us to finish the feast earlier, we had to obey the iron rule of bus stops. We all still could not forget the positive feelings which accompanied us throughout the day. It was not the first time I thought that the amateur choral movement is doing more for international relations around the world than many institutions officially dedicated for this purpose. The most important thing is to meet regularly people who do something beautiful together, discover their culture, language, customs, food dishes, or even believes.The result of these meetings is that they build their own opinion and do not blindly believe in wide spread, common fake news.
July 9, 2019, Sollies-Tucas. Concert with Dolphin Children Choir from China
The following day we visited the seaside town of Cassis, famous for the French fjords “Les calanques”. We were supposed to see them from a boat, what we did was admirer the coast and azure color of clean water. With wind blowing in are hair, we were observing the lethargic life in the bays on yachts and coastal rocks and walkers on the steep paths surrounding the fjords. We felt immediately like characters from the French movies of the 60s, headed by Gendarme and Phantomas. We even thought about visiting St. Tropez to be in touch with the legend, but we were discouraged because of traffic and an uninteresting beach. Finally we reached the tiny city of SolliesTucas, where the next performance was intentional, this time open-air.
During the rehearsal I met Robert Francescato, the general director of the entire festival. We were even able to talk for a while. His Choral Events organize festivals not only in Provence, but also in the Paris region, as well as in Italy and Portugal. We bonded in just seconds, he organizes his festivals on a non-profit bases, just to create a meeting place for choirs and audiences, bringing people closer together throughout 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 deaf or hearing impaired, however thanks to new technology and many helpful volunteers they have music classes. Incredible, if we did not know this from the information contained in the agenda, we would have no idea about the dysfunctionality of the children. Their music was good, clean and pleasant. As for us, they also had exotic Chinese folkloric costumes and stage makeup, typical for Chinese theater. After their performance, it was the turn of “Resonance”, which this time sang pop choral music and folk Polish repertoire, achieving a standing ovation. The Polish “band” almost destroyed the stage while performing a passionately stage movement, during one song under the colorful lights cast on the wall of the church. It’s evidence that choral music is not always so serious.
Another day was over and we went for a well deserved rest, what in our case means further lobbying meetings: partly with the university choir from Minho, Portugal, and partly with the Artos choir from Ukraine. For us personally, the meeting with Artos was even more magical because this choir took part in Chórtownia’s previous project “The Sound of Europe II” organized by Chórtownia. Their recording is on the album, but we have never seen each other before, except for their manager, Andriy Onyskiv.
July 10, 2019, Hyeres les Palmiers, Concert with the “Les Magnarelles” choir from France
The next day, we were waiting to explore Toulon, which as we were thinking was not a very breath taking place. Well, if you do not read the guide, you will not know about these scandalous deficiencies in the education you have already been given. Toulon has not failed to surprise us and after sightseeing the city on foot. Then we drove to the lovely city of Hyeres les Palmiers, to meet and sing with Les Magnarelles choir. We ate delicious meal prepared at tables standing right on the market square together with our French friends. After, we wandered a bit around the charming streets and squares, full of local aromatic products like lavender, herbes de provence, cheese, or wine. The concert began about 9pm..
The first song performed by the Les Magnarelles choir was, Gaude Mater Polonia and as you can expect the entire Polish choir sitting in the back of the church joined in with this show. All of the sudden, a older Frenchman sitting next to me, hearing the first words and notes, also stood up and sang the bass part flawlessly. I have to admit I was slightly shocked. Here is an explanation for non-choristers, Gaude Mater Polonia is known by all Polish choirs and everybody stands up while performing this track, as we treat is as an unofficial anthem of Polish choirs. It is a small world.
11 July 2019, Le Pradet. Concert with the “La Cle des Chants” choir
We spent the last festival morning on the beach of Toulon and after 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 majestically with such specialties as baked creamy liver patties, mango and shrimp salads, pies with fried onions, all kinds of casseroles, wonderful long maturing ham and other specialties in liquid and solid form. Feeding a 50 strong choir is a challenge, but all our hosts did a very good job. The payback will be difficult, but the stories about the hospitality of Poles cannot be worse than those about the hospitality of the French.
We went to the rehearsal with full stomachs. Madalina was the only conductor during our travel who had previously sent notes for our joint performance. Madalina’s choir sang really well, entertaining the audience and having such fun. The repertoire of “Le cle des chants” at the concert consisted mainly of movie themes with piano accompaniment, sung with energy clean and enjoyable. The closing “Pink Panther” performance together was pure madness, adrenaline and endorphin release, full happiness. It was our day.
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.
We would like to thank Arlena and Waldek Gałązka, conductors of the “Resonans con tutti” choir for taking us on this trip. We participated in a great adventure, met new friends, Taking ourselves in the footsteps of our childhood, beloved Louis de Funes, and at the same time we had the opportunity to be in a great community of singers and listen to the music they created. On the other hand on a 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 and in return, they told us their stories.