Opus XVI in Normandy, May 2017
The run up to late May bank holiday weekend saw members of Opus XVI making their way variously by car, train, bicycle and motorbike across the Channel and into the beautiful countryside of Normandy. The idea came from tenor Chris, who owns a holiday home in Fontenai sur Orne near Argentan and had for some time been thinking of inviting the choir over for a concert. Arrangements were made with the priest of the local church and suitable accomodation found (although the gite where half the party stayed turned out to be somewhat further from the concert venue than anticipated - about an hour’s drive - but made up in character and comfort for what it lacked in proximity).
Saturday morning was for some an opportunity for sightseeing, including locating the mystery house that Lesley had found on Google. We met for rehearsal in the afternoon, all bar one - until the roar of a Harley Davidson announced the arrival of the missing alto.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny and at 3 pm the little église St-Martin was packed as virtually the whole community turned out for the concert. Several brave choir members ventured to address the audience in French, which was well, or at least politely, received. Following a selection of European sacred music, we reverted to our standard Summer Concert fare with plenty of Gershwin and a few soloists performing their party pieces. But we were totally bowled over by the audience reaction - never have we experienced a standing ovation like that. We sang our encore, George’s hot-off-the-press arrangement of “Non, je ne regrette rien”, and then had to do it again. Feeling distinctly elated, we adjourned to Chris’s splendid old farmhouse for a lovely buffet supper with plenty of wine, beer from the local brewery and of course Calvados and runny, pungent cheeses.
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The choir are much indebted to Chris for making it happen and to the villagers of Fontenai sur Orne for making us so welcome. We’ve already received an invitation to go back!