It all began last winter when a group of village worthies decided to direct their energies into reshaping the area behind the church. Since they are retired farmers, masons, plumbers and electricians there was no lack of expertise, tools and machinery and they set to with a will, at times braving the worst the weather could throw at them.
At first we were a little sorry to see a lovely old wall demolished and the disappearance of a couple of little kitchen gardens along with some, admittedly rather ramshackle, sheds and hen houses but as the work progressed the east end of the church took on a whole new aspect and a delightful garden began to emerge.
Markus was quick to spot the potential. How about organising a series of pop-up concerts during the summer, which would encourage people to discover the new secret garden and help to put Arlebosc on the map culturally speaking? He discussed his idea with our friend Elizabeth, who is both a member of the Comité des Fêtes and the Conseil Municipal. She was immediately on board with the idea and, after Markus had made an enthusiastic presentation to the Committee, we got the green light! Elizabeth enlisted the support of François and Sophie who live just next to the church and the team was in place. We were going to put on concerts every Thursday for five weeks!
From the off it was clear that we would need sustenance as well as music and we all agreed that we wanted to showcase high quality food and wine from our local artisan producers, of which there is no shortage. Then Markus and I came up with the idea of the planches, which caught on really well. All the offerings were priced at 1€ and customers chose from a selection of items which changed every week.
Elizabeth offered to make vegetable spreads (no tapenade, since we don’t have olive trees here, but a choice of tasty aubergine or spicy carrot), Sophie produced spinach and salmon roulade, I made fish terrine and cakes (by the end I had made 7,2 metres of poppy seed cake) and other delicious delicacies were available, along with the staples of locally made goat cheese, soft cheese, saucisson and bread, all made in Arlebosc or the two closest villages. Of course Brice’s wine was featured, together with white wine from Bozas, fruit juice from Arlebosc and artisan beer from St Jean de Muzols.
So, what about the music? Markus wanted a range of different styles, not least because the Committee had expressed its reservations about Jazz! His plan got a real boost when our amazing friend François the bass player suggested that he could do two or three of the gigs, with different line-ups and moods. So we kicked off with a trio of François, Linda and Pierre Lafrenaye on trumpet, a delightful acoustic jazz combo which went down extremely well.
We were surprised to pull in a crowd of around 90 people, the food sold out, the bar almost did too and the music dispelled anyone’s lingering reservations about jazz!
From then on it was all go. The next Thursday it was eclectic folk with Vincent, then Dixie with Brass Ferraille. After that Markus and I did a gig of Smooth Jazz with Feel Edge, featuring Olivier on piano Christophe on bass and Nico on drums.
The word spread like wildfire and numbers just went up and up, from 120 the second week to 250 for the final concert with Latin Bird! The catering was wild, the weather was gorgeous and the atmosphere was magical every single Thursday.
I have been so impressed, since we got involved in the music scene here, how spontaneous and generous our musicians are, welcoming other players – often perfect strangers – to join them for a number or a jam. This summer was no exception, and the visiting musicians were in several cases world famous, such as John Payne of the band Asia, and, to everyone’s astonishment, Daniel Jamet, former guitarist with the legendary French world fusion group Mano Negra, who took part in the most amazing jam at the end of the final concert.
When it was all finally over the cry went up immediately “You must do this again next year!” but we and the team are determined that the project was conceived as a pop-up (the clue is in the title: les Ephémères d’Arlebosc) and that’s how we want it to be – a one-off. We achieved all of our objectives, everything worked out as we had hoped, or better, and the Dream Team of five, (plus Johanna whenever she could come up and join us!) was just amazing.
We worked our socks off and we had so much fun, we met some extraordinary people, made new friends and welcomed others to Arlebosc who had never bothered to stop before. We will remember the great dinners with the musicians beneath the stars after the concerts, the swifts swooping around the church tower as we performed our set under the plum tree, the sun setting behind the château and five hot summer evenings when the new garden rang with the sound of chatter, music, laughter and applause. Truly magical.