Like a family?
‘Your choir is like ours’, smiled Aline, my host for the weekend, having met Cilla, Jo, a particularly exuberant Johnathon and I at Gare du Nord. ‘Everyone seems really friendly and welcoming’. ‘Like a family?’ I suggested. We both laughed. What a wonderful weekend followed! Equivox were the most charming of hosts, everyone enjoyed themselves and, I must say, it was one of my favourite foreign trips with the Pink Singers so far.
The dismal weather, which continued all weekend, precluded any proper sightseeing, so we headed back to Aline’s cosy flat, where she made tea and my gift of all-butter highland shortbread biscuits went down a treat – ‘now we can have tea and biscuits, just like in England!’ she laughed. Aline’s English was rather more polished than my rusty degree-level French but, with her encouragement – and Johnathon’s – we took it in turns throughout the weekend to talk in both languages.
Tea was soon followed by a memorably delicious dinner with fellow Pinkies at ‘Le Coude Fou’, a traditional French wine bar/restaurant in the Marais. By the time we got to the Open Café to meet the others I was starting to wilt a little and only managed one drink before calling it a night.
I awoke the next morning to noises from the kitchen and the smell of something delicious and savoury wafting under the bedroom door…Aline was preparing a savoury ‘cake’ for the pre-concert brunch and this was the first of several home-cooked treats over the course of the weekend – I can still taste the quiche she prepared for the brunch on Sunday, which was rapidly devoured as soon as it arrived.
‘C’est le troisième, c’est chic!’, I was told as we entered the very grand and ornate town hall in the 3rd arrondissement, where the two concerts were to be held. We warmed up in a side room, then squeezed onto the tiny stage for the rehearsal. The few hours before the first concert flew by, as they usually do when you’re so focussed on the music, Mladen’s conducting, remembering words in Latin, French and English (and trying to talk in all three), devouring savoury ‘cake’ and swigging Normandy cider!
Equivox were highly entertaining and gave a quite compelling performance. Babette, their vivacious and theatrical ‘chef de choeur’ is not so much a conductor as an artistic inspiration. She really engages each and every singer with infectious enthusiasm, demanding passion in every song. Very French! The outfits are quite a hoot too, this year’s theme being ‘beach party’.
Our own performances went down very well with the audience, who particularly loved the French pieces. It was really heartening to see people in the front few rows fondly singing the words to ‘Hymne à l’amour’ – the French still have a great affection for Edith Piaf. Aline congratulated us backstage after the first concert, saying she’d been very moved – ‘Now I can really understand the great English choral tradition!’, she enthused.
For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was our joint performance, with Equivox, of ‘Let the sunshine in’, complete with extended chorus and grinning, arm-swaying audience participation, presided over by Babette in her absolute element. It’s one of those great moments when the song leaves the stage with you and echoes through the corridors and in your head for days afterwards. What a fabulous end to the show!