It's not often that I am taken aback, but I have to say that today had its share of surprises. Market day in Sainte Foy la Grande is special, and by repute it is one of the best markets in the South West of France. So we ambled off this morning and had a look at what was on offer. Despite being a bit chilly outside, we survived and enjoyed the wide range of products on offer. We chatted about last nights experience in Monteton, and enjoyed the number of comments we'd already received from some of our followers. Little did we realise things were about to get a whole lot better.
The surprise came in the form of an e-mail from one of the choir members expressing appreciation for our comments. The e-mail read…
"It was great you discovered us last night! We really enjoy your blog.
I'm one of the choir members and I'm singing at the Monsegur Jazz Festival this summer. Hope you can come." It was signed by Alice McCarthy (pictured) who is, indeed, one of the choir. Her e-mail contained a link to a webpage where I learned a whole lot more. It was there that I heard recordings of what I found to be a beautiful voice which, quite honestly, blew me away. I also learned that Alice is just 14 years old. I wanted her and her parent's permission to share the music on this blog, so I wrote back and asked for a parent to call me. Half an hour later I was chatting to Louise McCarthy, Alice's mother.
The story, at this point, simply got better. Yes, Alice is a member of the choir. And so is Louise! It doesn't stop there: So too is Daniel McCarthy, aged 12, and Luke McCarthy aged 9! So precisely one quarter of the choir on view last night were McCarthys'! The longer we chatted the more admiration I developed for this fabulous group of ex pats and their talents.
By the way as an aside I got one little fact wrong in the story earlier. If you recall I said "… the age range was from 9 to 92!!" Wrong. It is from 9 to 93! One of the organisational brains of the choir is Ms. Paddy Atkinson, aged 93.
One of the great joys of being on the road whilst embracing the site slogan of "here, there, everywhere and some other places too…:is that you leave yourself open to just about anything. So on the face of it Friday 5th of April was just another day it turned out to be very memorable in the strangest way. Bear with me while I explain.
As you will recall if you have been following along, we went to the tiny village of Monteton a couple of nights ago to meet up with Catherine the erstwhile restraunteur in Sainte Foy la grande who had moved to a new location in Monteton. Well, as Ji Hye had a free weekend we persuaded her to come over to us for another few days. First item on the agenda was a trip back to Monteton as its beauty and simplicity was sure to catch her architectural eye. It did. We spent some time admiring the church, the little square, the viewing gallery, pictured in the earlier blog and the narrow streets. It truly is stunning. One thing different from the previous night was the fact that the car parking facilities in the square were pretty well filled up yet very few people were to be seen.
Suddenly the sound of choral music wafted through the air, clearly coming from the church…It sounded really good. My head reckoned evening mass, yet this was a Friday and it was about 7:30pm.
Nothing daunted I strolled across and into the church for a peep and what happened instantly became a highlight of the trip to date.
Truthfully I had expected some sort of service with a prerecorded choral background but NO! I had stumbled upon something quite amazing.
Standing at the back of the small church I had gate crashed the choir practice of Anglican Choir of Monteton Church. Nothing odd about that you may think but I counted 16 choir members and the conductor. So out came the I-Pad and I started to record the sounds and in no time at all I was chatting to the Choir Master/Conductor.
The story is wonderful. Marjorie Holdsworth-Etschmann is the 4th conductor in the choir's 30 year history and there are typically between 16 and 22 members. Now, the thing that struck me when I first saw the choir in action was the fact that there were older people and younger people mixing within it. To my astonishment Marjorie informed me that the age range was from 9 to 92!!
They live for their performances doing different services each month in different churches as well as sundry concerts.
They are all British with strong french connections and all live in the region, some travelling up to 45 minutes just to attend practice. One could not help to be moved by their collective enthusiasm and their undoubted ecumenism.
They kindly posed for a group picture and Marjorie joined us for a chat (see picture) at Catherine's restaurant and the evening soared in our "Memorable nights" list.
After all that why not listen for yourselves with apologies for the quality…Its the best my I-Pad could do.
monteton choir (Click on the name) When we got home and turned on the TV to catch up with the nights news there was Ant and Dec reminding us that Britain's Got Talent is coming soon…Sorry lads, its here already.
I have been coming to this part of France for over 50 years. I recall as a child my parents taking us here and it left a sustained impression. Subsequently I kept coming back and so it was inevitable when I started motorhoming some 5 years ago that I would return to the Dordogne. I find it to be a veritable treasure chest of new views, villages and experiences which, simply, live in the memory bank.
In this immediate area you have places like Duras which is such a pretty place and, of course, Ste Foy la Grande itself, an imposing town built on the banks of the Dordogne.
A few years ago we discovered a little restaurant in a side street in the town which was run by a jovial lady called Catherine. We loved the place with its open fire where the steaks were done to perfection. We went back again and again and looked forward to a few visits this time around. Add to this the fact that the restaurant was very dog friendly and Catherine used to welcome Dougal like a long lost son.
So imagine our disappointment when Bob told us that the restaurant was closed and Catherine had moved to another location about a half hours drive away.
The village of Monteton is a few miles from Duras and both Bob and Brenda spoke very enthusiastically about it so at about 7:00pm last night the four of us, and Dougal, of course, piled into Bob's car and off we sped past countless vineyards through Duras and got our first glimpse of Monteton atop a hill dominating the landscape. Such an incredibly beautiful location.
As we meandered through the narrow streets we pulled into a little town square with the local church and a viewing canopy to admire the incredible landscape.
The greeting was warm and Dougal remembered Catherine's hugs so treated himself to another one!
The company was fabulous, as always, and so was the food. No hesitation in saying you should go there, it is really worth the effort. By the way if you tell Catherine you are a friend of Dougal's the sky is the limit.