Our first concert in the basilica at Saint- Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume

21–25 September 2022


A warm Provençal welcome for TRBC

. . . and we’re not just talking about the weather, although the sun shone until the very last evening. Once Vanessa at Specialised Travel had managed to rebook rooms from a hotel which proved not to be finished a fortnight before the trip, we had a trouble-free time and wonderful co-operation from our hosts.

Non-musical highlights were the excursions to the Luberon and St Rémy, while our habitual ‘feast’ in the elegant surroundings of Bastide de Venelles featured local Provençal cuisine and entertainment from students of the ancient ‘galoubet-tambourin’ folksong and dance tradition at Aix Conservatoire.

Our 60-strong choir, including singers from Australia, Denmark, France and New Zealand as well as the UK, had clearly done their homework on Paul Carr’s Requiem for an Angel. Conductor Gavin Carr was able to use our two rehearsal sessions to polish and refine the performance, and turn a random bunch of singers into a real choir. The first performance (Friday) in the basilica at Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte Baume (reported to contain the remains of Mary Magdalen) played to a packed church, the delighted audience giving us a standing ovation at the end. Even the second performance in the cathedral in Aix the following night attracted an audience of over 300 and we were delighted to be joined by the composer.

The Orchestre de l’Opéra de Toulon, faced with a totally unfamiliar piece of English choral music, showed itself to be a willing and responsive partner. Our home-grown soloists were Eleanor Pennell-Briggs (soprano) and Jake Muffett (baritone), and our repetiteur was Caroline Jaya-Ratnam.

Gavin Carr wrote: ‘A huge cry of “Bravi, tutti!” to everyone for the splendid performances of Requiem for an Angel. I think the standing ovations and the many, many heartfelt expressions of gratitude and emotion from our audiences, said it all, with many people deeply moved. My brother, Paul, was thrilled with the performance, and must have signed almost every vocal score! I would like to thank TRBC for such splendid singing, and for the friendliness and open-heartedness shown during this wonderful journey.’

Paul Carr posted this on his own Facebook page: ‘I was able to attend the performance in Aix-en-Provence, and what a performance it was; the audience visibly moved and giving it a standing ovation. Eleanor Pennell-Briggs and Jake Muffett were wonderful as soloists, with Jake giving among the most beautiful rendition of “Do I Love You” as I have heard. The concert was magnificently conducted by my brother Gavin and performed with the l’Orchestre de l’Opéra de Toulon who were simply outstanding: exquisite playing from the woodwinds in particular, and perfectly balanced in this acoustic. It was heart warming to see such a good audience too, and to see so many younger people among them.’

Feedback from our singers:
‘An amazing evening. Chapeau, TRBC!’ Nick W

‘Fabulous few day’s rehearsing and performing. Thanks to all involved in organising.’  Lynn M

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