Archive for the ‘Festivals and events’ Category

Et ça swingue aux Sarziers

August 10, 2017

 

When we found Les Sarziers 30 years ago, Kate fell in love with the spectacular view over the Doux Valley and I a was taken by the enclosed courtyard of the house.

Last Sunday 150 people shared our love of Les Sarziers by first having a drink in the garden and then moving via dinner under the horse chestnut tree to the courtyard for our annual summer concert.

We organised our first summer concert five years ago and since then had on average a audience made up of friends of around 60 to 80 people.

Last Sunday the number of spectators doubled and there was a slight flair of Woodstock in the air. Not really surprising as we had invited 8 musicians and 2 professional dancers to join me (on the trumpet) and Kate (singing).

The programme was made up of music to dance to from the Golden Age of American Jazz. Tunes that everyone can hum along with, like “Ain’t misbehaving”, “Bei mir bist Du Scheen”, “After you’ve Gone”, “Why don’t you Do Right”, “It don’t mean a Thing” etc.

Towards the end Les Sarziers Junction became Tuxedo Junction and the dancing spread onto the “stage”. The weather could not have been more perfect and the full moon accompanied us all along.

Many thanks to my sister Vreni and my brother-in-law Jürg for setting up and helping with the logistics of catering and of course thanks to “my Band” of the night:

Linda Gallix (Keyboard), Kate (Voice), Emilie Blache (Voice), Jean-Pierre Almy (Tuba, Bass, Harmonica), Nicolas Thé (Drums), Anthelme Millon (Guitar), Manu Falguière (Cornet), Hans Verschoor (Trombone), Thomas (Washboard), Christophe and Arnaud (Bass), Jean-Yves and Ashley, who joined us spontaneously on a couple of numbers and of course Jean-Phi and Emilie for their dance demos.

Markus

Photos by Sabine Carlier and Brice Banchet

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La Plume de ma Tante . . .

February 10, 2017

. . . est sur le bureau de mon oncle.  This famous, grammatically interesting but practically useless phrase started many of us off on our journey into learning French.  The reverse equivalent is “my tailor is rich” which is supposed to reassure French learners that they already understand more than they think of the impenetrable English language, (tailor/tailleur and rich/riche).  Once again it is an improbable phrase of extremely limited use, but the biscuit has to be taken by the opening sentence for study in my German book:  “Mein Bruder hat die gleiche Harpune wie du”  My brother has the same harpoon as you!  Oh yes?

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We both remember our school French teachers.  Mine was Miss Downer, a dedicated middle aged lady who drove herself to school sitting very upright in her duck egg blue Morris Oxford.  She was a grammarian and a stickler for correct pronunciation, but also guided us through the intricacies of the poetry of Rimbaud and the overwrought alexandrines of Racine’s Phèdre.  Markus cannot recall the name of his French master but describes him as an “extraordinary vehicle” with a fondness for the films of Jacques Tati, which is honour enough in itself!

At all events these two must be considered as having had a major influence on our life choices – from where we live to the fact that we ever met at all.  So thank you to both!

So it was with school-time memories and trusting to our earlier grounding that we decided to try our hands at the Dictée à l’Ancienne held in Arlebosc last Saturday.

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Dictation tests are still used in French primary schools and, predictably enough, there was an article in the paper recently bemoaning a decline in standards.  For the same short text, 10 year olds scored 10.6 errors in 1987, 14.3 in 2007 and 17.8 in 2015, most of the mistakes being grammatical faults.

The chief difficulty in a French Dictée is not so much the spelling, as it would be in English, but more the agreements, plurals and grammatical traps, many of which cannot be heard but need to be applied according to the rules.  For example, qu’il soit poli and qu’elles soient polies.

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However the linguistics professor writing the article did make the point that children nowadays are confronted with so many new subjects that there is not sufficient time available to drum grammatical rules into their heads.  She went on to raise the question, do we want to produce proficient little grammarians or children who can function effectively in society?

Anyway back to our Dictée.  This was an altogether less stressful affair and around 45 of us, all adults, gathered at the Mairie to be issued with a blotter, a dip pen, an ink bottle and a page of that infuriating squared writing paper that the French (and Swiss) know how to use and I don’t!

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The atmosphere was good humoured with us all trying out our nibs and remembering blots, scratches and ink monitors from our primary school days.  There were to be prizes for anyone scoring fewer than ten mistakes and hot drinks and crêpes (we’re just past la Chandeleur) to cheer us up whilst marking was in progress.

In fact outside the schoolroom la Dictée has been a favourite French pastime since the 19th century.  The most famous is the fiendish text dreamed up by Prosper Mérimée in 1857 at the request of Empress Eugénie to amuse the court of Napoleon III.  Results:  the Emperor 75 errors, Eugénie 62 and ….. the punctilious Austrian Ambassador, Metternich junior, THREE!

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More recently the cultural TV host, Bernard Pivot, organised regular televised dictation tests up to 2005 and it is still possible to take part in the annual Dictée organsied by the Rotary Club.

We all settled down and listened attentively.  It must be said that there were frequent calls to repeat certain tricky phrases and a great deal more chattering and comparing of notes than I remember from my school days.  A collective drawing in of breath and exclamations of Aïe aïe aïe! helpfully signalled the more fiendish traps to the otherwise unwary.  When it came to the results, the well deserving winner had made only 4 errors and a further three or four people came in under 10.  The rest of us lagged way behind but, as the only non native speakers there, we felt we had acquitted ourselves fairly well with 19 and 22 ¼ mistakes, which was far from being the worst score.

Even in these dreary dark days of winter there is always something going on in the village.  It could be a fête du boudin (black pudding) boiled up on the village square, competitions of the card game belotte or a matinée dansante – a sort of tea dance.  Spring won’t be here for a while but there’s enough to keep us all busy.

 

Swingin’ on la Dolce Via

December 13, 2016

Faithful readers may recall that in August 2014 after our walk along the Ballastine we were all set to test out the stretch of disused railway line between Le Cheylard and the Eyrieux valley on bikes.  The entire line has now been revamped for use by wheelers and walkers and has been re named La Dolce Via.

La Dolce Via

Well time flies by and we were simply not getting round to it until  our friend JP took matters into his own hands and organised the whole excursion for us.  We drove, on brilliant little twisty roads, as far as les Ollières sur Eyrieux, where we had arranged to hire bikes.  There was time for a quick coffee before the local bus rolled up and we hitched them to the back for the ride up to le Cheylard – another super scenic 30 km trip, along the river valley and an absolute snip at 3 euros.  Then it was saddle up and away!  A short stretch of open road brought us to the track and we had a beautiful ride down on a gorgeous day passing through tunnels and over viaducts as we followed the course of the river.

The views are varied but always breath-taking and quite different from those you get from the road, the surface also varies but is mostly excellent and at lunch time JP knew the perfect place to stop.

La gare

The station at Chalencon at le Pont de Chervil has been closed for years along with the hotel, but this summer a brand new food truck appeared.  Having been made redundant from the local jewellery factory, which is in difficulties, Raphaelle decided on a career change and persuaded her husband to graft a holiday chalet onto a trailer base to create a bespoke and very nifty kitchen.

Raphaelle's food truckShe’s an excellent cook and we parked the bikes in the shade to enjoy a delicious lunch and a pleasant break.  Altogether a fabulous day!

And that might have been that but for this intriguing poster which caught our eye some months later.

l'Autre Nous

It was the day after Jazz n Cakes, but we couldn’t miss it and we rolled up, somewhat groggily, mid morning to find the station buzzing in a delightful and peculiarly French way.

There was bunting up, couples dancing on the goods platform, pétanque players on the track, children everywhere.  Raphaelle was busy cooking up a giant paella whilst her husband and daughter served jugs of cool white wine to people sitting at tables in the shade and bemused cyclists rode by.  Emilie and Jean Phi led the lindy hoppers and a jazz trio provided the music.

It was just a great scene.  We had met Emilie before when Markus played for her at Kaopa, but now it transpired that Manu, the trumpet player was moving to Bordeaux ……

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No doubt you can guess the rest!  Markus has been rehearsing regularly with the Emilie and the band and they had their first gig at the end of November.  Watch this space!

 

 

Le Morlanche Nouveau

October 13, 2016

Day one

Things have been pretty hectic around here recently and the news is stacking up, but it’s time to backtrack a little and tell you about the exciting new developments at Morlanche.

We are so thrilled to have Brice and Lisa as our neighbours.  Since Brice’s grandparents moved to sheltered accommodation eight years ago their house has been empty and things haven’t felt the same.  We bought our house from them and we have developed a close attachment to the family, so when, after the old couple had passed away, Brice decided to move to Morlanche and to revive the vineyard and traditional wine making activity we could not have been more delighted.

the vineyard

They have been here for just over a year and in that time so much has been achieved.  Brice has completed a course in winemaking and vineyard management and Lisa has done an incredible job renovating the house and getting an amazing vegetable garden going.  Together they have been systematically rejuvenating and encouraging the vineyard, using natural methods and a minimum of chemicals and their efforts were rewarded with a bumper crop of excellent quality Gamay when the time came round for the vendange.

The weather had been warm and sunny, the grapes were testing well for a projected alcohol content of 13% when Brice made a snap decision and called the vendange for Saturday 24th.  A small band of family, friends and neighbours spent a hot but very cheerful day harvesting what turned out to be just under 500 kg of grapes.

However, what made this vendange really special is that, for the first time in 40 years, the grapes weren’t sold on to a local wine maker, but taken to the vast cellars under the house to be trodden, before being poured into the vat to start their journey towards becoming the cuvée Morlanche 2016.

The pictures tell their own story:

the vendange arrives in the cellar

the vendange arrives in the cellar

and is carefully weighed

and is carefully weighed.

Treading the grapes

Treading is next – a messy business!

Into the vat

Into the vat . . .

and the adventure begins!

and the adventure begins!

There’s still a long way to go and constant monitoring, testing … and tasting are required.

Measuring the alcohol level

Measuring the alcohol level

checking the vat

checking the vat

Tasting

tasting . . .

But the old cellars are once again filled with the wonderful aroma of fermenting grapes – Brice says that you can even smell it in the kitchen – and the centuries’ old tradition of wine making at Morlanche lives again!

la cave

It ain’t necessarily so – Jazz n’Cakes

September 19, 2016

it-aint-1

The little dog is Philibert Froidevaux who we purchased (or was he a free gift?) about 25 years ago at the Arlebosc bakery together with a baguette.  As we did not know what to do with him, we stuck him into a small hole in the outside wall by the house steps.  A few days ago a guest asked me “Did you notice there is a dog in the wall?”

it-aint-2

This gave me the idea to make him the star of my first Jazz video clip based on last weeks Jazz n’Cakes concert.  After a quarter of a century being rained on, he still looks the part!

So here is the link              It ain’t necessarily so – Jazz aux Sarziers

Kate is working on a Rhone Cruise so it is up to me to keep you informed about our last event at Les Sarziers.  Jazz n’Cakes was a great success, with over 70 people attending and no cake crumb left at the end of the evening.  Here are a few pictures …

 

Baking started three days before the concert and by Saturday afternoon the “n’cakes” part of the evening was ready.

 

 

The barn had to be cleared and the seating to be set up and an hour before the concert – between a bite to eat, getting the drinks ready (and washing the hair) we moved the piano from the sitting room to the barn (Thank you Brice).

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… and then the show started

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The night was beautifully warm and many stayed until ’round Midnight.

PS.       Don’t forget to watch Philibert in his star role.

 

September 10th

September 6, 2016

Flyer

We did promise that we’d get off the subject of food, so apologies for the cake element in this post!

This is going to be a great evening, with François and Linda Gallix and Markus playing a relaxed selection of numbers from the 20’s to the 50’s.

The concert will be in the barn and after the music people are invited to stay on and sample a selection of typically English cakes in the kitchen.  There should be something to please everyone!

Lemon Meringue Pie … suite et fin

August 31, 2016

Markus points out that all the last few posts have been to do with food, so a change of subject is coming soon!

But meanwhile some pictures of the very convivial Sunday morning event at Kaopa.

Contestants begin to arrive. Paloma the dog is on message

Contestants begin to arrive. Paloma the dog is on message

 

A very high standard of entries

A very high standard of entries

The judges are ready

The judges are ready

Serious concentration required

Serious concentration required

At times it was hard to keep up!

Yum! All delicious!

Yum! All delicious!

Winners of the Citron d'Or, Argent and Bronze

Christine, Sandie and Nathalie, Winners of the Citron d’Or, Argent and Bronze

Winners and Judges (with Suhail being silly in the background!)

Winners and Judges (with Suhail being silly in the background!)

Paloma's had enough!

Paloma’s had enough!

Markus in his monochrome finery

Markus in his monochrome finery

The judge’s decision is final

August 26, 2016

Concours Tarte au Citron meringuéeet Tenue Monochrome

The ever inventive Laurent from Kaopa is holding a lemon meringue pie competition on Sunday.

The idea arose at a party to which we had been asked to bring desserts.  He was singing the praises of his partner’s tarte au citron meringuée.  Discussion ensued – I find the French have peculiar notions about pastry and tend to mke things too sweet for my taste – and the result was the competition.  I am now rather taken aback to have been asked to be one of the judges.  Laurent says its OK for me to participate as well and that we will be blindfolded, relying solely on our taste buds and palate, but still I feel that this is a bit irregular.

My mother, amongst her many other accomplishments, was a judge for the WI – I still have her badges and certificates – and I remember spending mornings with her amid the cool grassy smells of a marquee set up in the grounds of some stately home, assessing faultless ranks of victoria sponges, cottage loaves, apple pies and jars of jam and preserves.

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They all had to be tasted and graded.   Tiny slices were cut out of the cakes, spoonfuls of jelly, lemon curd and chutney had to be sampled (too many entries in the pickles class was something she found extremely trying!) and the loaves were cut open to check for any backsliding in the kneading process.

It so happens that my friend Jane has recently been very successful with her redcurrant jelly at the local show and it brought it all back to me.

At such events there are strict rules about general appearance, presentation and colour as well as texture, fluffiness/crunchiness/density and so on, depending on the item.  Labels have to be attached at the approved height and imposed recipes scrupulously adhered to.

judge's comments

A Dorset friend who regularly enters items in the Briantspuddle Summer Show (I am not making this up) takes particular exception to the little notes that the judges leave with their comments, in what he calls their nasty cramped writing.  He usually carries all before him with his marmalade but there was an occasion when the jar (or was it the Gentleman’s Class Fruit Cake?) came off the back of his motorbike and arrived looking somewhat dinged in.

The Kaopa event is sure to altogether less stressful and formalised.  I think it’s largely going to be an occasion to eat lots of lemon meringue pie and drink delicious coffee.

dsc_0562a_slice_lmp_watermarked1 (800x531)

PS  Attentive readers will have noticed that we all are to wear une tenue monochrome.  Markus has dyed a whole outfit kingfisher blue, in which he will certainly cut a dash.  Photos to follow.

Canti Sognanti at les Sarziers

July 23, 2016

Giulia and Elida

The evening was an enchantment, as we knew it would be.

The weather was perfect; a delightful collection of people gathered and enjoyed an apéritif in the garden, a delicious ‘auberge espagnole’ dinner and dessert in the calabert after the concert.

For those of you who were not able to join us, and for those who did, Markus has put together a short video which gives a flavour of the magical voices of Canti Sognanti and their wonderful performance at les Sarziers.

Markus really does not have the right software for this kind of thing, so he’s not entirely pleased with the result, but he’s done a pretty good job all the same.  (Be sure to have the volume right up and headphones or speakers!)

Many thanks to Manu for the sound recording, and the photo.

And to Catherine, Elida and Giulia: Grazie mille!

Here’s the link

 

Concert at les Sarziers

July 9, 2016

We are getting geared up and excited about our summer concert which will happen next Saturday, July 16th.  We are thrilled to welcome the fantastic Canti Sognanti – a trio of a cappella singers from Italy with a repertoire of polyphonic songs from around the Mediterranean and much further afield.

It’s going to be a beautiful concert and if you are around you are very welcome to join us.

Canti Sognanti 2016 final


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