I don’t know if it’s a sign of all the chaos that is happening out there or not, but I’ve lately craved the structure and order of classical music, the balance and symmetry. -Helen Reddy
It’s July. Summertime in the south of France and the vineyards are bursting with bunches of grapes ripening in the hot sun. If the weather holds it will be another bumper year for Languedoc wines. The small villages that line the valley below our house are bustling with excitement, since this is the week of the 5th Annual “Festival du Musique de la Vallee du Cougain”. In other words, the classical music festival we sponsor each summer for a week in the south of France, outside the village of Limoux.
2012 is especially exciting since the 14th Stage of the Tour de France legendary bicycle race begins in Limoux and ends 191 kms away in the medieval town of Foix. But in our valley the real excitement is the five classical music concerts, in five different villages over the course of the coming week.
This year we have recruited 12 young classical musicians, aged 13-25, plus two Professors of Music, one from the Royal College of Music in London and the other a professor of flute from Istanbul, Turkey. They have been preparing for the past several months and this week is the culmination of their efforts.
To understand what a journey this has been, let me give you some background. We bought an old stone Chateau on a hill in the south of France in 1997, at a time when we were one of the few foreigners in the area. And this is an area, the deep south of France, where if you come from a village 15 kms away you are considered a foreigner. It took us a few years to remodel the house to modern standards and we didn’t have much interaction with the villagers, except the local tradesmen. So when the house was complete we started to invite our neighbours to dinner parties and picnics. It was difficult. Farmers interacting with an American, French-Vietnamese family from London. To say the least, we didn’t integrate very well, but my wife was determined.
So, she decided, against my sage advice, to organise a classical music festival in the tiny medieval church of Castelreng, our little village of less than a 100 inhabitants. We used our UK charity, Young Virtuosi, as the brand name, brought several professors from the Royal College of Music plus some of their junior students, and played a couple of evening concerts. As you can imagine, the locals were very wary, but a few brave families attended, the word spread and interest grew.
So here we are 5 years later and the mayors of each of the 5 villages in our valley have decided it is “their” music festival. They have recruited local sponsors to provide printing, food for the musicians, piano rental, and even a film crew with 4 cameras. These little medical churches haven’t seem such activity since the Inquisition of the 12th Century!
Here is the list of the pieces for the first concert, in the village of La Digne d’Amont:
- Beethoven Spring Sonata, Op. 24 (violin and piano)
- Mozart Duo No. 1 (violin and viola)
- Hayden String Quartet, Op. 76 (2 violins, viola, cello)
- Hayden London Trio No. 1 (flute, violin and cello)
- Mozart Quintet K581 for strings and clarinet
In case you would enjoy a voyage to the south of France, here is video of one of the pieces; the Hayden London Trio. Enjoy.
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress