The original purpose of this blog was to note some of the aspects of settling in France, and the differences between here and England. We've been in France for getting on twelve years now, and as France becomes more familiar, and England more distant, this job gets more difficult.
This weekend I spent doing something that, although infrequent, is now familiar, but is different from anything I experienced in England. It concerns playing in a concert.
There is a small wind band in Ste Suzanne, (French: une Harmonie). We practice on Friday evenings, and put on concerts a few times per year. One of our former players moved to work near Nantes and plays with the Harmonie there, and she proposed the idea of playing concerts with the two bands together. So we have been practicing up some tunes for the end-of-year presentations, and the Nantes musicians (actually from St Herblain, a suburb of Nantes) have been practicing the same ones with a view to joining forces in joint concerts. The common subject of the pieces was dragons.
We gave the first joint concert in December last year at Ste Suzanne. The Herblainais musicians came up by coach and played with us in two concerts on a Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. We put up some of them in our gîte over the Saurday night; others were housed by the other musicians' families in the area.
Last weekend it was our turn to visit them, and we bundled into a coach, travelled down and gave our concert. We were greeted by the Herblainais musicians who laid on snacks before the general rehearsal, and a buffet meal after it. We played together to an 800 seat hall, full to capacity, and the concert was a grand success. The evening finished with dessert, again provided the the hosts.
We stayed overnight. The coach driver and I were put up by Laure, a clarinetist, at her house with her husband and two young girls. On the Sunday morning she led us on a pleasant walk through the countryside around her house, and we ended the event at a communal lunch for all the musicians, in a room off the concert hall.
It was clear that everyone had made an effort to be as welcoming as possible. Most of the food was home-made - meat pies, tapinade on fresh bread, and so on. People proudly delivered their specialities - there was a spectacularly good cheescake, for example, chocolate pie, brownies, cookies, savoury cakes, etc. Someone decorated special iced gateau to celebrate the Ste Suzanne and Herblainais joint venture.
I suppose the point is that everyone made that special effort. They didn't have to decorate the cakes like that, Laure didn't have to take us on a walk, but they all really wanted us to have a good time. It's always a pleasure to meet welcoming people.
Sorry about the blurry dragon cake. OHH by the way is for Orchestre Harmonie Herblainais.