The tradition in France is that you may wish someone Happy New Year until the end of January, so I am just slipping under the wire to wish you all the very best possible 2022. It would be wonderful to be able to welcome some of you for a Walksweek this year and in the meantime we will keep you up to date with happenings here at les Sarziers.
We kicked off the year with a series of four concerts, held in private venues for a limited audience, in order to comply with the restrictions currently in place. Our programme is called “A entendre les arbres . . .” and is the result of a commission we received as part of a three day event, due to be held last October, based around the environment, sustainability and associated social, political and economic questions. Unfortunately the event had to be postponed for a year but we went on working on the project and in the late autumn we decided that we needed to have a date to focus on and set ourselves a deadline for January.
The première was in the magnificent barn above the bread oven at our friends Daniel and Jacqueline, artisan bakers at la Gitée du Pain. It is the most wonderful space and we spent two days rehearsing beforehand, warmed by the oven below and wreathed in the scent of fresh bread! After the show Daniel cooked up pizzas for the audience, accompanied by a glass of Brice’s wine and the evening was a brilliant success.
The other three concerts were also held in unique and magical venues which perfectly suited the style of the show, and we are so grateful to our different hosts for inviting us. It was very clear how much live performances mean to everyone after these long months of virtual contact. We received so much validating feedback from people starved for so long of poetry, emotion and artistic exchange and it felt wonderful to be able to perform again for a limited, but live audience.
Our concert features musical pieces referencing trees, and in particular trees that resonate most powerfully with people of a particular culture or nationality. Which tree reminds them of home when they are far away? Which tree comforts them, restores them, listens to them? We range from Schubert’s Lindenbaum and The Bohemian Forest by Dvorak to jazz classics such as Les Feuilles Mortes. There are traditional pieces in Italian, Russian, Yiddish and even Old Norse, original compositions and arrangements by Markus and much more.
We are delighted to be working again with the wonderful Pascal on cello and lovely Linda at the piano, melodica and percussion. Markus as usual excels himself, playing guitar, accordeon, trumpet and his father’s beautiful bass flute. My role is voice and occasional banging on a tambourine!
With our training in theatre we are quite incapable of producing a show like this without some scenographic elements and texts and we had fun creating a stage tree and “crowns of light” which give the concert a cosy, intimate atmosphere.
Because the musical content is so varied we needed some way of connecting the pieces, and Markus came up with a brilliant original idea. The audience is invited to pick each song by drawing one of the giant playing cards he created. In this way each evening is unique, since we do not know which piece is coming next.
It certainly keeps us all on our toes and we have each developed our own system for organising our sheet music in such a way as to eliminate too much panic and rustling!
We will be recording some of our pieces in a few days, watch this space for a teaser.
In other news, the weather is clear and frosty and we are snug with our new central heating! We can hardly believe it ourselves! The house has been transformed by the installation of a wood-pellet boiler in one of the cellars. The idea is that it heats the house with conventional radiators and, eventually, the barn conversion via underfloor heating. Said barn conversion has ground to another halt for all the dreary pandemic-linked reasons that you can probably imagine but we hope to have some exciting updates before too long.
Riri and Fonfon will be back soon, until then,
Bonne Année et Bonne Santé
from us both.