Saturday, 19 June 2010

Country bumpkins and concert etiquette

It is summer, and hence festivals around here are all in full swing. Cormatin boasts each year two important festivals, the guitar festival (Guitares en Cormatinois - June/July) and the theatre festival (Les Rendez-Vous de Cormatin - July/August). The guitar festival is quite popular, also with tourists. Most likely music is much more accessible for foreigners than plays in French. Almost every year the opening of the guitar festival takes place in the romanesque church of Malay with a concert by the nationally well known French guitar player Emmanuel Rossfelder. This year he did not open with a solo concert; this time he accompanied the mezzo-soprano Yana Boukoff (of Yugoslavian origin) with a program called Viva España.
The program consisted of mainly Spanish music (not illogical, given the title), although the program also showed pieces like Bach’s “Jesus joy of man’s desire”, two pieces by Heitor Villa Lobos (Brasilian) and the well known aria from Bizet’s (French) Carmen “L’amour est une oiseau rebelle” (Habanera). As an encore they played Bach/Gounod’s “Ave Maria”, a German/French cooperation. But who cares, as long as the music is good! The program was nicely balanced between instrumental and accompanied vocal pieces. For me, as the father of a classical guitar player, it was really nice to hear again many pieces my son once had on his repertoire. There were “Andaluza” written by Granados, the famous tremolo piece “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” and the “Jota” by Tárrega, all played with gusto and technically perfect. And also the “Canciones antiguas” by Garcia Lorca were not unknown to me.
What I find very amusing during these sort of concerts in this environment is the (lack of knowledge of) concert etiquette. I have learned it, as many people, the hard way, e.g. by applauding at the wrong instant. And that certainly took me a number of concerts. I must say, that it all sounds easy for the average visitor of concerts, but what about those who rarely see the inside of a concert hall? Applauding during the performance? Very normal during jazz concerts; almost impolite not to clap after a solo. Applauding during an opera, after a beautifully performed aria? Perfectly ok, even shouting Bravo is allowed. Clapping after a good solo dance in a ballet? Nothing wrong with that either. But during a classical recital, after each part of “Seven popular songs” by de Falla? Ai, ai, ai, almost a deadly sin. It is also not uncommon, not to applaud in between pieces when the pieces are written by the same composer. But there are also exceptions to this rule....
I have to confess, that sometimes I lost count, causing me to applaud with the majority of the audience as well. Having said this, for those who lost count or do not remember whether a piece consists of three or four parts, it should be clear from the body language of the artists whether a piece is finished or not. Rossfelder for example raises his guitar demonstratively when he finishes his piece. But again, in this audience of farmers, ex-farmers or villagers the lack of etiquette seems to be no problem for the performers. Rossfelder as well as Boukoff were very grateful for every “illegal” applause. Most likely they thought to be better of with a public that did not exactly know how to “behave”, but was at least appreciating the music they played to the full extent!

For our own website click here.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A blogging community

What is more flattering for a blogger than to discover that people are actually reading his articles, and even enjoy them?
Not much, really.
I have had some unexpected positive reactions from an American couple living part time in a nearby village, but who else but family and friends is reading those little stories one churns out every so often?
Well, more than one thinks; living proof can be found on the following links.

Keith Eckstein reviews blogs about France on a regular basis, and I was happy, not to say a bit proud that he chose my blog recently to be reviewed, and published a nice rundown of it. Read for yourself what he has to say about it!

Before my blog was chosen, my better half’s blog has been reviewed by Keith as well.

Chris and Linda are (in my eyes) real bloggers.
At least Linda Hubbard blogs every day, which makes her stories in general short and very readable.

Chris Gulker writes less frequent, and consequently his articles are slightly longer, however not less readable.

My own blogs are normally published once every fortnight, unless I have got extra material to be published on my Saturday off. Since I have just made a new exception to my own rules, I can finally make an attempt to be a bit less long winded!

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Repeated offenders

My better half has already published a Blog dedicated to guests who not only are regularly coming back to La Tuilerie, but who also (on a voluntary basis!) help out in making the vegetable plot ready for the summer and by splitting big logs which are to big to fit in the wood burner.
Fortunately they are not the only ones who seem to like it so much here. We have a number of guests, campers as well as gîte lodgers, whom we can welcome on a regular basis over a number of years. And what is better than discussing the state of affairs in Cormatin as well as in their home country over a nice glass of whine in a sunny patch in our garden?
People come here for a number of reasons. Part of our clientèle are very much attracted by the vicinity of Taizé, where they can follow the services whenever they wish, but where they are not submerged in the hubbub of 6000 youngsters; others come here with bicycles, skeelers or good walking shoes in order to do reconnaissance of the many possibilities the Voie Verte has to offer; some people come to indulge in the over abundance of romanesque (norman) architecture; and of course there are those who like to chill out for a week after having been in the rat race for a year.
Recently we had a couple here for the third year, who came here the first time after in depth investigations. Their son in law, an acquaintance of ours, popped in one day in 2008 on his way to a different holiday destination in the South of France, seemingly for a cup of coffee. however, he was told by his in laws to take pictures, inspect the place thoroughly and find an answer to the question of questions “Is everything clean there?”.
Obvioulsly his reconnaissance satisfied his in laws, because that same autumn Hermann and Carla became our guests. We got on very well, and when they left they booked straight away for 2009. That year they ordered a meal, a service we render, if convenient for both parties, on their arrival day. Our guests share our table, and we as well as they find it a pleasant way to getting to know each other a bit better. Sue always tries to come up with something local, and her boeuf Bourgignon can compete with the same dish pepared at La Terrasse in Cormatin (which we find the best within a radius of 50 miles). And although Hermann and Carla could not give us a definite date for 2010, it was quite obvious that they would come back again.
And lo and behold, by the end of 2009 they made another reservation for two weeks, under the “condition” that we would feed them again a boeuf Bourgignon. But that was not all. A couple of days before they arrived, another e-mail came in with the question whether we would appreciate it if Carla brought an Indonesian meal over for the second evening.
There are few things in this part of the world that I miss every so often, and one of them is a genuine Indonsian meal, in the Netherlands, and certainly around the Hague, readily available everywhere. So the second night the tables were turned, as a matter of speech, and we sat at their table and enjoyed a wonderful meal with nassi putih (white rice), sajur lodeh (vegetables in coconut milk), babi ketjap (pork in sweet soy sauce), rendang (spicy beef) and ajam semoor (well simmered chicken).
And that is, irrespective of the quality of French cooking, one of the few things I miss every so often; a simple, good Indonesian meal.

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Questions pour un champion

How to improve your French listening skills, if you hardly ever have contact with Frenchmen? One way is listening to radio or TV. However, whilst living in the Netherlands I was never a keen TV watcher, and the French channels we can get, France 1, 2 and 3, are not much better than the Dutch ones. The only watchable programs were the weather forecast and the news.
Clear pronunciation and diction, known subjects, at least that did not have disaster written all over it. Some time later we discovered game programs and quizzes. After watching some rather stupid programs for a couple of weeks, we stumbled upon Questions pour un Champion. The program has just celebrated its 20th birthday, has all these 20 years been presented by the same charismatic presenter, Julien Lepers, and is immensely popular. I will not bore the reader with a description of the rules of the game, but the candidates, each having a tremendous general knowledge, must answer question on many subjects, such as art, science, gastronomy, geography, history, etc. The presenter asks the questions in a tempo that makes a machinegun sound like an old lady, because there is also a time limit in answering. We normally switch on the subtitles for the deaf, because without that it really goes far too fast most of the time. Not only is it good for our French, but we started to like the program as well. Nowadays we both are sitting in front of the TV, shouting out the answer on the rare occasion that the candidate has not got the answer before us. By now we are so addicted, that we switch on the answering machine between 17h50 and 18h30, because we do not want to be disturbed during that time!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle