And then there’s music…

Music is as much part of the summer in Southern France as is the sound of the cicadas and the click of the petanque balls.  There are music festivals everywhere, ranging from the very large, such as the Festival de Radio France et Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillonto the more intimate, such as the Festival Pablo Casals in Prades, and to the modest, such as the classical music festival which was organised in Saint-Chinian this past July.


The festival in Saint-Chinian took place for the first time this year – a week of concerts, nine in total, and all of them free to enter.  The programme was varied, and the music ranged from Baroque to modern classical music.  The concerts took place in two locations:  the Abbatiale, the former church of the former abbey, a beautiful room with plenty of space for concerts, and in the parish church of Saint-Chinian.  The concerts were all well attended and the next year’s edition of the festival is already being planned!

Hot on the heels of the music festival came the 5th Academie Musicale de St-Chinian, a week-long programme of lessons and workshops for students of the flute.  The academie  was based at the Maison du Parc, not all that far from my potager .  It was lovely to hear them all practising and rehearsing whilst I was working in the garden! 🙂  Having heard all those snippets of music, I was looking forward to the concert of the students at the end of the week.  Ahead of the student concert, there was a masterclass with Philippe Boucly, the solo flutist from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.  Following the masterclass he gave a mini recital, which was spectacular!

Here is a brief video clip of Philippe Boucly playing with Herve Hotier (flute) and Pierre Courthiade (piano).  The piece is the Concert Paraphrase of La Sonnambula Op. 42 by Franz Doppler.  E-mail subscribers, please visit the blog website to watch the video.

The concert given by the students and teachers that evening was wonderful too, and I am already looking forward to hearing them all again next year.

Walking past the open door to the parish church one day, I heard the sounds of the church organ.  I walked in and filmed a little video for you – only a little taster but you’ll get the idea.

The organ in Saint-Chinian is one of only three authentic 18th century organs in Herault, and it has been listed as an historic monument since 1976.  There is an extensive article on  Wikipedia (in French) about the instrument, with lots of technical detail, and here is another article in both French and English.  The organ is not a flamboyant or extravagant instrument to look at, but it has a beautiful sound, and it fills the church perfectly.  Bruno Fraisse and Henri Barthes, the former and present organists, produced a CD of the organ a few years ago.  You can also listen to the instrument during Sunday service, or at one of the concerts which are given occasionally.  The next concert is on September 6, 2015 at 4pm.

Another concert I recently visited took place in Serignan, where I went to see the exhibition of Pierre Regis Dides – see last week’s post.  The Regional Museum of Contemporary Art (MRAC) had the privilege of hosting this concert as part of the Festival Pablo Casals.  A Steinway concert piano had been set up in one of the galleries on the first floor of the museum, and the space was filled with chairs.  Those chairs were of course filled with listeners by the time the concert started.

The musicians were Bruno Pasquier (viola), Michel Lethiec (clarinet) and Yves Henry (piano).  Together they interpreted a programme of music by Mozart (Trio in E-flat major, K. 498), Schumann (Märchenbilder, Op. 113), Poulenc (Sonata for clarinet and piano, FP 184), Bruch (Pieces for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 83) and Maratka (Sylinx).

The musicians’ love and passion for what they were playing was infectious!  Michel Lethiec played a solo piece called Sylinx, which was written for him in 2000.  In his introduction to the piece, he reminded the listeners that contemporary music is as important now as it was in Mozart’s time.  Audiences then were as little used to “new” music as we are now.  Mozart is “easy” to listen to for most of us nowadays, but it was probably fairly radical to the ears of people at the time.  Whilst I found the piece by Maratka to be challenging, it was also very rewarding to listen to.  Here is part of it – I hope you enjoy it too!

At the end of the concert, Michel Lethiec explained that he had to rush off to his next concert, as he is the musical director of the Pablo Casals festival.  He left Yves Henry to play another piece for us, a beautiful Chopin nocturne!!  What a lovely end to a great afternoon!


Art everywhere!

In the summer there is so much happening in and around Saint-Chinian that it is often difficult to keep track of it all!  I’ve been visiting quite a few exhibitions of late and want to share a few of them with you.  Perhaps you’ll be able to visit some of them yourselves?

First is an exhibition by an artist who is a resident of Saint-Chinian:  Pierre-Regis Dides.  His paintings are shown at Chateau Vargoz in the town of Serignan, just across the street from La Cigaliere theatre.  The building belongs to the town and is a typical example of a 19th century mansion, having been built by a wealthy wine growing family.

The pictures are the star attraction though – ranging from the large, almost monumental to very small tile-sized paintings.  P1160689


Pierre-Regis draws his inspiration from the landscape around Saint-Chinian.  His works are highly textured and multi-layered.  The photographs give you an idea of the colours, but you really need to see them in real life to be able to fully appreciate them!

The exhibition at Chateau Vargoz is on until August 22, 2015, and is open Thursday to Saturday from 3pm to 7pm, or by appointment (+33 676 656 772 or +33 675 237 795).  There are several pictures which I could quite happily live with!! 🙂  More information (in French) about Pierre Regis can be found here.

The next two exhibitions I want to share with you, are currently running in Saint-Chinian.  In the cloisters of the former abbey (now the town hall) is an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Denis Carriere.


The theme of the exhibition on show is Saint-Chinian and surrounding areas, and Denis Carriere has beautifully captured everyday scenes in the village, such as the market and the river.

This exhibition is open every day until August 30, 2015 during the opening hours of the town hall.

The second exhibition in Saint-Chinian is presented in the gallery adjacent to the library, on the first floor of the town hall building.  The exhibition is named Florence or the cult of beauty and looks at the drawings of the Renaissance under the Medici dynasty from 1389 to 1574.  There is an amazing range of artwork on show by such illustrious artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Botticelli and others.

This exhibition is open until the end of August, during the opening hours of the municipal library.

Entrance to all exhibitions is free of charge!

Next up, not an exhibition but a live art event, which took place in Saint-Chinian on July 26, 2015.  La Nocturn’Art promised seven hours of live art: creations, installations, improvisation, music, dance…

It all took place in the market square and the gardens of the town hall.  The road in between had been closed to traffic, creating one vast space.  The evening was balmy and many people abandoned their televisions for a look at what was going on!!



I wasn’t familiar with most of the artists, except for one:  Pablo Quedad, whose work I have previously seen at the Lezard Bleu in Vieussan, and at Mons la Trivalle where Pablo lives and works.  During the evening Pablo created a figure out of empty drinks cans – highly inventive!!  I didn’t stay quite long enough to see the figure entirely finished; I wonder whether he would have added a head?

The lights/wooden sculptures took on a whole new dimension in the dark!

An improvised bronze foundry had been set up, with a kiln melting the bronze.  The casting took place around midnight, when I was already tucked up in bed 🙂



Benoit Simon of Maison Simon, the upholsterer in Saint-Chinian, was also giving a demonstration:

Another artist was working on carving a gigantic block of polystyrene!  Much harder work than one would think, especially since it was such a warm summer’s evening!!

All in all a great event, and one which will be repeated next year.