Thursday, November 1
With very little access to the Internet, we’ve not been able to get much information from New York about Hurricane Sandy. While we here are all safe and enjoying new experiences in a different part of the world, all of us are very worried and concerned about our families back home. At our concerts we have expressed our concern to the audiences, and they all with us in our apprehension about what we will find when we return home on Monday. We are working very hard on our tour, but our friends and families are still foremost on our minds.
November 1 was a holiday in France, but not for the YPC choristers. Wednesday night’s gala at Beaufils Hall in Saint Lô, featured YPC and the Leios Kantika Korala children’s choir from Spain and was a huge success. This gala concert was for all the professionals at Polyfollia—the Polyfollia artistic committee, the artists, managers, and those from festivals and concert series worldwide seeking out the best of the best to bring to their own audiences. There was an incredible buzz about YPC. Unfortunately, Beaufils Hall was not big enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. However, anyone who missed YPC’s performance on Wednesday, will have another chance on Sunday for YPC’s final Polyfollia concert at the Chapelle de I’Institut d’ Agneaux back in Saint Lô.
On the day following the gala, rehearsals preceded a long bus trip through the beautiful French countryside, under the watchful eye of our Polyfollia chaperone Dilette, as we headed for the charming little village of Athis de l’Orne, one of 16 villages in the area. As we neared the town, a spectacular rainbow was YPC’s first welcome. When the YPC travelers arrived, they received a second welcome from their hosts, who included the mayors of two of the 16 villages—Alain Lange, the mayor of Athis de l’Orne, and Yanic Soubien, the mayor of Taillebois. Our hosts were so happy to have us there. They provided us with a wonderful dinner, including fresh soup made from ingredients from the region and luscious homemade cakes and pastries.
Back row center Francisco, Mayor Soubien, Young Men chorister Ta’Sean, and Mayor Lange
The concert for the whole community was held that evening in the church of Saint Vigor, which was built of granite from the area with an interior of limestone, and the acoustics were gorgeous. YPC put on an extraordinary show, and the audience responded with standing ovations and incessant clapping that wouldn’t stop, even after three encores.
Friday, November 2
The day began in a very poignant way for all of us from New York, with a visit to the Caen-Normandie Cité de l’Histoire Pour La Paix Memorial, a museum with displays, artifacts, and films recounting the events leading to the horrendous destruction and deaths during the worldwide conflicts during World War II, and its aftermath, including the event that began the collapse of the Nazi occupation: the American participation in the June 6, 1944, invasion on the beaches of Normandy, where over 10 million soldiers died.
From Caen that afternoon, the bus carried the YPC choristers to Louvigny and the Salle des fetes, where Friday’s concert took place. YPC’s 90-minute program with spoken interludes in French by YPC choristers charmed the SRO Louvigny audience. And when YPC ended this program with “Oye,” there was pandemonium with the whole audience—moms, dads, grandparents, and children—on their feet dancing, clapping, singing, and matching the energy and enthusiasm of the choristers.
It was a bittersweet moment, as reminder once again of how we hoped our loved ones could be with us here, rather than dealing with the recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Saturday, November 3
Everyone was up early this morning for a 10 a.m. Polyfollia workshop for choral conductor/teachers given by Francisco Núñez with musical demonstrations by the chorus at the Institut Universitaire de Technologie in Saint Lô. The classroom was packed with teachers filling every seat and standing two deep against the walls. The subject of the workshop was Rhythm in America and how music is being transformed in America and all over the world. Francisco put those teachers through their paces by having them sight-read with help from the choristers “Gloria” from Leonard Bernstein’s 1960 work “Mass” and Michael Gordon’s “Exalted,” written in 2010.
After a little nap and lunch, it was back on the bus to the quaint little village of Les Pieux on the coast of France, five miles from the English Channel, for the chorus’s fourth of five Polyfollia concerts, this time in the intimate, but beautiful 140-seat concert hall in the Ecole de musique. We had some time before the tech rehearsal to walk through the cobble-stoned streets of the town filled with lovely shops and bakeries with the most exquisite pastries, tarts, and huge meringues on display.
Word of mouth once again resulted in a concert that was filled to capacity and some of the attendees were music conductors who had attended the morning’s workshop. The choristers put on a show no one in this town will soon forget. Following the concert, the choristers still in their costumes and euphoric from the incredible concert they just gave, lined the exit hallway chatting in their beginners French with the audience members, giving autographs, and accepting thanks from all of the men, women and many children who, it seemed, did not want the evening to end.
Sunday. November 4
Hard to believe this is our last day in France. It’s been such an incredible learning experience. We’re not ready to leave, yet we’re anxious to return to our families still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
We’re giving a concert this afternoon in the Chapelle de I’Institut d’Agneaux with 400 seats and extraordinary acoustics. We understand that this concert is the first sold-out concert of the Polyfollia Festival in this particular venue. The choristers are excited, proud, and ready to give the performance of their lives.