It has been a peculiar summer for us, as for all of you no doubt, but we do appreciate how lucky we are to live at les Sarziers with space and the natural world around us, which keeps everything in perspective. We have been able to go for long hikes and bike rides and see our friends at the market (although recognising and understanding each other with our masks on is not easy). And of course the country rhythms have not been affected – the grape harvest happened, the fields are being ploughed and prepared for winter.
In fact probably the most immediately alarming phenomenon over the past few months is the spectacular drought and high temperatures which we have experienced. All the ponds are dry, the river reduced to a trickle, springs have stopped running and the meadows and pastures have been as scorched as doormats for months. Our vegetable garden, which faces south, had a very hard time and we are seriously considering colonising a patch of west-facing woodland next year for summer salads and beans which cannot stand the searing heat. That said, we have had wonderful crops of tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers and butternut squash and we have been able to grow beans, beetroot, carrots and lettuce on a little wedge of land in the shade of the barn, which we refer to as the allotment.
So it’s all a question of improvising and adapting, which pretty much covers 2020 so far.
We also feel fortunate to have been able to organise a number of musical events since the end of lock-down on May 11th. We started in June, when we were allowed to meet up to 10 people in private, with a series of concerts in our sitting room for invited groups of people who new each other or lived in the same household. We called them “Musique en Petit Comité” and they proved tremendously popular.
Markus and I performed an acoustic international folk repertoire – with, as usual, Markus doing the heavy lifting: accompanying me variously on guitar, accordion, harmonica and vocals while I simply sang (and occasionally banged a tambourine). Each evening was rounded off with a glass of wine and nibbles and we really enjoyed getting to know new people in a setting where it is possible to have proper conversations and discussions rather than just flitting about making chit chat. We are planning to continue this format into the autumn; everyone is so starved of live performances that we feel it’s important.
After ten successful concerts, we were asked to expand the idea for four outdoor events to be held at different local artisan food producers.
After the first, at La Gitée du Pain, a delightful rural organic bakery, we enrolled our multi talented musician friend Vincent for one solo concert and invited him to join us for number three, which was held at Morlanche. This was a very special event both for us and for Brice and Lisa, who opened up their rear courtyard for the concert. They had arranged seating and lighting beautifully and the space formed a wonderful natural amphitheatre with great acoustics. We were joined on some numbers by Jerôme, a mutual friend from Paris and a fabulously versatile violinist, which added a special quality to some of the Irish and Balkan pieces. Towards the end, someone lent a guitar to Daniel Jamet (of whom more later) and he too joined us. It was a magical evening.
What about Jazz though? Well the final event was a big jazz concert, held at the family farm of our favourite drummer Nico, now run by his brother, who grows organic fruit. Markus had lined up a great band with Nico on drums, Linda on piano, Frans, a recently met Dutch trombone player, Steph à la bass and of course himself on trumpet and me on vocals.
Plus Daniel Jamet for the final jam. So who is Daniel Jamet? If I say he is the French Eric Clapton you will think I am exaggerating but it’s hardly an overstatement. He played lead guitar with the legendary punk rock band Manu Negra in the 1980s and, after they split up had a highly successful career with Mano Solo. He now works as a studio musician in Paris but for two years running has spent his summer break here. So it’s pretty fantastic to have the opportunity to jam with him!
He suggested two pieces for the boeuf and the instrumentalists were ecstatic, especially as these were not at all the kind of thing they usually play. Suffice it to say that their version of Jungle Strut by Santana brought the house down!
There was a crowd of around 180 people, but lots of space for everyone to spread out. Brice and Lisa were there with their wine, there was local beer and simple tartines, with bread from la Gitée du Pain and Caillé Doux, our local unsung hero cheese, which we hope is shortly going to achieve AOP status.
Here’s my take on Mood Indigo.
The rest of the set was pretty amazing too, featuring an original composition by Linda and a world première of Markus’s first jazz composition “Don’t shoot Lee Morgan”. He says he messed up and doesn’t want me to put up the recording, so I’ll give you a little bit of Santana instead! Thank you to Carolien for the video. Yay, back to 1971!
Vendange video by Vreni Vogt.
Jazz video by Carolien Van den Bosch
Photo credits for the Jazz concert: René Frélon .