Sur le Pont d’Avignon…
12 January, 2015
Our first concert of 2015 was in beautiful Avignon. Andrew writes:
“Had we been asked to pick a location for our first concert of the year, in the depths of a drearily wet British winter, Avignon would have been pretty high on our list. And for a mediaeval-buildings-geek like me, the chance to see this amazingly well-preserved city had me donning some sturdy sight-seeing shoes and reaching for my camera.
“The advance party flew out to France early on the day before the concert, and spent a pleasant afternoon exploring the town. I wasn’t able to join them, but am glad to report that they paid the obligatory visit to a certain bridge, on which I am assured that no dancing took place. Kate, Becky and I spent the morning in London with our families and arrived late in the evening, but I was up bright and early the next day to explore.
“My favourite way to get a feel for a new city is to go running, and sunrise found me beside the Rhône, stopping far more often than is strictly conducive to fitness to take photographs as the light changed over the river.
“After breakfast we visited the stunning Palais des Papes – legacy of the century or so during which Christendom was ruled not from Rome but from Avignon. Despite being used as a barracks in the nineteenth century, this sprawling Gothic palace has retained sumptuously-painted chapels and apartments, an enormous church and huge chambers for feasts and court ceremonies. My colleagues went off afterwards for lunch, while I hurried around some of the prettier corners of the town before our rehearsal.
“In contrast to all this Gothic magnificence, our concert was in the Oratory Chapel – a beautiful Baroque domed building with one of the more resonant acoustics we’ve come across.
“Unfortunately the chapel heating seemed also to date from the Baroque era – during the performance a suspicious amount of clothing was worn underneath our standard concert dress – but we really enjoyed singing our Hapsburg programme in such sumptuous surroundings. We hope too that our singing may have played a small part in lifting spirits after a very difficult week in France; the afternoon had seen a unity march through the city in response to the ghastly events in Paris, and no doubt many of the audience had been out on the streets before our concert.
“Our performance had started 5pm, and so was over in time for dinner: always a popular state of affairs where singers are concerned! We were able to enjoy some hearty French cuisine and sample a local wine or two during the evening.
“This morning I got up early once again and explored the gardens above the Palais, with views towards Mont Ventoux, legendary amongst cyclists. Then we took advantage of our hire cars, breaking our homeward journey with a stop at Les Angles, a pretty hilltop village overlooking the river, where we were much taken with this little fellow.
“We had time for a flying visit to the breathtaking Pont du Gard, an enormous Roman aqueduct spanning a river gorge, where we enjoyed a quick picnic overlooking the bridge before driving on to Montpellier Airport and home.”
Our next concert is more than a month away, in North Carolina, but we’ll be spending the time in between rehearsing and recording. More on that in due course!