Making music in Normandy
Leaving school early on Saturday July 5, the day after the end of term, 36 Bedales musicians and six members of staff set off for a five day concert tour of Normandy. We crossed the English Channel to Calais and arrived at our hotel in Rouen in time for supper, the first rehearsal on mainland Europe and an evening stroll around the floodlit city.
After breakfast the next day, we drove to the beautiful town of Honfleur, with its picturesque harbour and typically French buildings. The 90-minute afternoon concert in the church of Saint Catherine – the largest wooden church in Europe – was a great success, attended by a very appreciative audience of about 450 people of all ages.
Monday’s concert was in Bayeux. Another early start gave us plenty of time to look around this important city, arrange informal lunch parties and then view the exquisite Bayeux Tapestry which depicts events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England. The strong connection between this part of France and England, over almost a thousand years, was still in evidence. The music and administrative staff of the Cathédrale de Notre Dame could not have been more helpful, making sure that everything was in place for the afternoon rehearsal and subsequent evening concert. Exactly a month before, this cathedral had been the focus of world-wide attention on a service commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Its members of staff were genuinely delighted that a “famous English School” was now performing a concert of British, French and German music. The atmosphere inside the spectacular cathedral during the concert was amazing and the acoustic in which the choir and orchestra performed was fantastic. There was a huge range in our repertoire, which included Callum Anderson’s breath-taking performance of the Toccata from Widor’s Fifth Organ Symphony on the Cathedral’s magnificent organ, built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
On Tuesday, for our final day of performing, we stayed in Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy and one of the largest and most prosperous cities of Medieval Europe. In the afternoon, the choir performed an informal concert in Rouen’s Cathedral. This attracted the attention of the cathedral’s visitors, many of whom chose then to attend our evening concert in the Church of Saint-Maclou. Saint-Maclou is one of the jewels of Flamboyant Gothic Architecture in France. The large audience was made up of visitors and local residents who, delighted with the concert, stayed behind to talk with us after the concert and asked that we might return again in the near future.
This final concert was the climax of a wonderful music tour which was enjoyed by all. Many parents came to support us. The invitations to return to Normandy were received with a real and happy intention to do just that. Many thanks to everyone who made this fantastic trip possible, especially Sheila, Keir, Nick, Will, Giacomo and Debbie.
By Emma Duncan (6.1)