The Harmonie of St Suzanne has a tradition of taking an annual group photograph. Everyone gathers together with their instruments at a chosen location around the town, and the resulting photographs, one per year, are displayed on the wall of the dedicated practice room. I enjoy looking at the younger versions of the current players, and sometimes, I have to guess as to who they might be. It was from such a photograph that I learned that Rémy played trumpet.
When I joined, he was the President of the Harmonie. He would come to rehearsals, listen to our progress, make the official announcements, organise and administer our exchange visits, concerts, and other events in the background. Being new to France, and to the Harmonie, I didn't think twice about the band having a non-playing president.
But on the return after the first Christmas break, I thought Rémy looked a bit odd. I asked an English-speaking player colleague what had happened, had he had a stroke, perhaps? Discreet enquires revealed that he had a muscle-wasting disease. Oh. Oh dear.
Rémy continued to come to rehearsals, and be active in the band. He came with his wife on our twinning visit to Sulzheim, where a magical performance where everything went right moved him, and most everyone else, to tears. But after a while, he was unable to shake hands, as is customary, on greeting: he would push forward his right shoulder so you could reach for his hand hanging from his now useless arms. He resigned as President in due course, at an emotional farewell meeting.
I last saw him at a concert we gave some months ago, in a comfortable wheelchair. It had a special headrest so that his head, which he could no longer support, could be held so that he could look ahead. Tended by his wife Carmen, he enjoyed the music.
He died on Friday evening, and his funeral was today. There must have been 500 people in the majestic basilica at Evron. He was popular, respected and well-loved. We played for him, a selection of pieces including one of the ones we played at Sulzheim that so moved him: Cassiopea; also, "Ein Bisschen Spass, meaning A bit of Fun" that he had specifically asked for; and Simple Gifts, otherwise known as Lord of the Dance. "Dance, dance, wherever you may be....." yeah, Rémy go for it, move that body.
Little Aurélie the piccolo is pregnant with his first grandchild. He was delighted. Life goes on.