After a break of a couple of years I was again able to take part in one of the Advanced Performance courses run by the inspirational Lynne Wayman LRAM ARCM which take place in Normandy each July. A group of singers come together to take part in workshops over 4 days, culminating in two concerts, Friday night is the Soirée, hosted by a local family, and on the Saturday morning a ‘Concert Sacré’ is held in the local church. The setting is the small commune of Aubry le Panthou in the beautiful Pays D’Auge region, near the town of Vimoutiers and close to Camembert.
It is a land of rolling green countryside, traditional half-timbered buildings and orchards for the calvados and cider for which the region is famous. Unfortunately both alcohol and cheese are not recommended for singers, and we had to wait until after the last performance to indulge properly!
There were 8 of us on the course, from the UK, France, Holland and Italy, singing a wide variety of musical styles. The repertoire ranged from Bach and Pergolesi to Mahler and Duparc, as well as Cindi Lauper and a selection of Disney princess songs! it was an intensive week, so much to learn and take in, as each singer received mini master classes on their selected pieces, with all of us being able to benefit from the tips and advice as well as gaining a greater understanding of the mechanics of singing and the psychology of performance. Our skilled accompanist also happened to be a musical director working in the West End, so we benefited from her additional insights.
I chose a contrasting set for the Friday night, the haunting ‘Chanson Triste’ by Duparc, and then a complete change of mood with two Cole Porter songs. For the church concert I offered ‘Domine Deus’ from Vivaldi’s Gloria and ‘Ah Belinda’ from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
The beautiful 18th Century church is now sadly in need of some restoration, and proceeds from our Saturday morning concert went to the church fund. It is a delightful place to sing in, with good acoustics, well suited to the Vivaldi.
The Saturday concert was followed by a ‘Vin D’Honneur’, a chance to share a drink and nibbles with the audience, and in the afternoon we converged on a local award winning ‘cidrerie’ to taste and buy cider, calvados and delicious home produced honey. The day was rounded off with a celebratory meal at a restaurant offering regional dishes, and we enjoyed good food, good company and, of course, plenty of cheese!