Classical Music in the French Countryside. . . The Long Game

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.

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Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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8 Responses to Classical Music in the French Countryside. . . The Long Game

  1. Steve Borek says:

    What a wonderful story.

    We all enjoy music.

    Well done!


  2. mimijk says:

    How wonderful John!! Is there anything more perfect than the visual of a magnificent setting paired with magnificent music? I applaud (no pun intended) the festival, your wife’s persistence and the contagious enthusiasm that has resulted. Enjoy!


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  5. Ann Staplrs says:

    I am delighted to find “The Blog”
    Thank you for the profound joy your family has given. I am excited to think we will experience it again.


    • Ann: Having people like you with culture and charm enjoy our classical concerts in the French countryside makes it all worth while. See you in the village sometime soon, or who knows, maybe even in Wichita!


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