Medina High Community Choir Brittany Tour Day 5

August 9, 2010

We’re all back home now, and I’m playing catchup on blogging the tour. Hopefully I can remember the hectic end to last week.

This day didn’t start brilliantly for Hannah because as we were queuing up for the breakfast buffet, the proprietor called out to Hannah ‘you’re too late!’, by which he meant that the choir were coming for breakfast too late and distrupting breakfast for the other hotel guests. An unfortunate situation, but basically he had too many people in his hotel for the small breakfast room to cope. Okay, we did get a good discount rate, but we had brought many thousands of Euros of business to his establishment. Other than that, he was very helpful throughout our stay, and anyone I spoke to in the choir was very compliemtary of the B&B.

The fifth day of the tour brought visits to Concarneau and Ploerdut. Concarneau is a very well-known fishing port and ancient medieval walled town; Ploerdut is not so well-known, and, so it appeared from the coach journey there, is somewhat in the middle of nowhere, but does have an historic church, the oldest Romanesque church in Brittany, which we had the priviledge to perform in.

Concarneau was not an official performance. Hannah and I had visited it last year while on holiday, and Hannah had mailed the Cultural Office of the town many times over the last year to get permission to have a concert in an amphitheatre in the Ville Close, which is set against the town walls. It is a wonderful setting, with seating (bleachers style) and power (a boon for an outside performance). All of those mails went unanswered, much to Hannah’s disappointment. Therefore she decided we’d do a smash-and-grab gig there, and just turn up, sing a few songs and then move on; and this is what we did. We sang ‘Over the Rainbow’ and, I think ‘Mamma Mia’, although my memory is already beginning to fade of what we sang where. As the amphitheatre is at the end of the main thoroughfare, we gathered quite a few people in the audience during the short time we sang, and the weather was lovely and sunny, so it was great.

After that quick performance, the choir had free time to explore the ancient city and have lunch. Again, it was another place that all were very impressed with. Tara Dean, one of the lady ‘middles’, was treated by her children, Cyrus and Hanna, to lunch, and had asked Hannah and I for advice on a good place to go to make the most of this. We had advised a restaurant we visited last year, which Hannah believed had the best mussles of our trips to France. Unfortunately, that establishment had changed its name, but pretty much seems to be the same as it was. It’s now called Lobelys. I believe they had an excellent lunch, and somehow Cyrus and his friend and fellow bass singer, Finlay, consumed a five scoop ice cream cone bought in the Ville Close.

For Hannah and I it was a particular highlight as we had Ella with us for that part of the day, after we’d picked her up and borrowed her from her Granny and Grandpa earlier on. She got to enjoy the performance, and the adoration of the choir, with Dr Chris (Christine French, one of the lady ‘bottoms’) being that day’s favourite of Ella’s. Ella wasn’t so pleased with her lunch, describing the mules a la creme, as ‘too creamy’.

Once everyone was back on board the bus, it was a long journey on some back roads to Ploerdut. I think it took longer than expected but as I was asleep I lost track of times. When we arrived at Ploerdut, we were straight into performance as we’d agreed to do some singing at the evening market in the town. It was certainly the smallest market I’ve ever seen in France, having about five stalls. This meant we had a rather limited audience. This was a notable outside gig as it was the only one we did with the keyboards, as it was the only one where we had access to electricity. We rattled through a number of Abba and Beatles songs before breaking to either have dinner or set up the equipment for the concert in the church.

As the church was a simple Romanesque one, it meant that the acoustics were also similarly simple, so that the sound wasn’t as dispersed by various statues and chapels as they might have been in the previous two churches, and also it had a lovely vaulted ceiling.

A couple of non-singing standouts for this concert were Sarah Whitehead, one of the lady ‘middles’ falling down a step of the podium we were singing on when we returned after the break (no damage taken) and Avril Osbourn (another middle), who had twisted her ankle the day before and couldn’t stand through the concert and as she didn’t want to sit the concert out, had a chair on the podium behind the choir so that she could join in.

It was universally agreed that this was the best gospel concert we did during the tour. Vicki Brewer’s (soprano and treasurer) solo in Hannah’s mash-up of ‘A Moment Like This’ and ‘Ave Maria’ was absolutely spot on, and she was particularly pleased with it. In general all the songs went very well and again the audience was very appreciatively with a small standing ovation at the end.

As ever, once the concert was done, we quickly took down the equipment and loaded up the bus. Indeed, at some stage during the tour this swiftness of taking down needed reigning in because things were either being put back in the wrong place, or being taken off to the bus before they were ready to go, etc, and so Hannah had to restrict the people helping Simon Woods (tenor and given the charge of the set-up of the equipment) to try and keep it more orderly. Fortunately this was extended to the lifting and carrying, because there was always plenty of that to do.

This day had another late return back to the hotel, and everyone returned to their rooms to either sleep off the day or party into the small hours.



August 6, 2010

Yesterday we had a gig in Josselin, which is about an hour and a half from Quimper. We had our earliest departure yet, at 10, slightly later than Hannah wanted because of the time needed for Dave, the bus driver, to have between trips. The journey was broken-up with a stop in Quimperle for coffee.
Josselin is a lovely medieval town, but does suffer from the problem that it wasn’t designed for big vehicles. We followed the instructions from the tourist office, but still had to squeeze through some narrow roads. We were dropped close to the basilica, where we performing, and the equipment was stowed there. Then Hannah negotiated with the castle ticket office to get a reduced rate tour of the castle. She succeeded in getting half off and we got a tour from a guide who hadn’t done one in English before. She started well, but got confused as Hannah tended to repeat words in clearer English and the choir kept behaving like a panto audience booing baddies and awhing at love stories. One of the latter got the guide into a fit of giggles and she had to stop doing the tour in English Ans switched to French and Hannah did the translation. It was all very interesting and everyone really enjoyed it and were much impressed with the castle. Likewise, the guide was impressed with us,saying we were her best group every, and she came to the concert in the evening.
After the castle tour was done, Hannah had arranged for us to sing some songs in a little square at the entrance to the castle, bounded by it’s walls, ticket office, tourist office (in ancient, pretty buildings) and a small chapel. An excellent setting. We did the stock ‘Over the Rainbow’, followed by some Abba and Beatles, for the first time on the tour. This generated a small audience and Rachel shook an offering box for choir funds.
Then there was time for lunch and for folks to admire the town. The climb up the basilica tower was very hard work, but worth the views, apparently.
At 5, Hannah had us singing again, this time in front of the basilica, surrounded by bars and cafes, so an audience was provided. They seemed to enjoy it. After that came the wait to set up the kit, as there was a service and mass in the basilica until 7. We got that all set up with no problem.
An unusual aspect of this concert was that the toilets were at the back of the alter, and so some nodding and bowing was needed on the way.
The performance of the concert went well. Again, the acoustics were excellent. The sustain pedal on the piano developed a squeak, which could be heard during quiet music. The audience was more than Tuesday’s, with probably more than a hundred people in total (there was a lot of coming and going).
The main incident was in the second half, when two arrivals did some heckling. The particularly drunk one did a drum impersonation during a fanatic rest during a song, followed by other random noises. At the end of that song, Hannah turned and quietly asked him to leave, which thankfully he did. His friend remained (on whom Hannah noticed fresh needle marks). Then during Chris’s introduction to the next song, he heckled saying this was all hypocritical, he didn’t like us singing in English, it wasn’t right in a church and he didn’t believe in God anyway (this is Hannah’s translation, as he was speaking French). Hannah asked him to leave, and he said no, to which Hannah replied “we’ll wait for you then”, so he got up and left. A very brave and well handled situation by Hannah.
As Josselin is quite a journey from Quimper, we were late back and all quite ready for a good night’s sleep.

Free day

August 5, 2010

Yesterday was a free day, or rather a day free of concerts. There were a couple of casualties of late night revelry but everyone signed up to go on the trip that Hannah had planned.
The first stop was Douarnenez, to go to the market there. On arrival at the town the problem was finding somewhere to park the coach. We drove through the town searching for a suitable place, eventually arriving at the fishing port without success. Dave, the driver, and I were quite frustrated at this point, so Hannah and I got off the coach to interview a couple of locals. The first thing we discovered was that the market was in neighbouring Treboul this week, and they couldn’t help with parking advice. So we set off out of town on a different route and into Treboul. Fortunately we found somewhere Dave could squeeze the bus into and the choir went off to explore the market and have lunch.
After Treboul we went to Pointe du Raz, the most westerly point in France. The weather didn’t look good as we arrived, as it was raining. We were allowed to take the bus right up to the lighthouse at the Pointe rather than parking a ways away in the car park, and as we got off the bus the rain stopped. The choir were most impressed with the views and surging seas, and Hannah couldn’t resist making us sing a rendition of ‘Over The Rainbow’.
The final stop of the day was Audierne, a pretty sailing and fishing town. There was a night market here, so a second chance to haggle. Hannah and I had a great meal with reasonably priced wine with Hannah’s friend Helen and her husband, Ben (a choir groupie) and Hannah’s sister Rachel, who is additional music backup on the tour.
Some latecomers back to the coach struggled to find it, as Dave hid it round a corner to provide a lesson in time keeping. 🙂
Then it was back to the hotel for those that wanted a early night, as advised by Hannah, or some partying in the rooms, depending.

First Day and First Concert

August 4, 2010

Yesterday was the first full day of the choir staying at HQ, B&B Quimper Sud. The planned departure for our day trip was just after 1pm, and so most of the choir took the opportunity to pop to the centre commercial next door to do some shopping or browsing. It’s quite a large shop, probably offering anything you can buy on the Isle of Wight under one roof, so there is plenty to browse. Once again Hannah and I stocked up on a supply of water for the choir, and, Hannah hoped, refreshments for the interval of the evening’s concert. A treat for Hannah and I was that we were having Ella for the day, so she could join us for a day on the beach. Unfortunately the beach day didn’t happen, because the weather wasn’t bright and sunny.

The trip for the day was to Loctudy and Ile-Tudy, before the opening concert in Pont L’Abbe. We got to Loctudy, via an only slightly nerve-wracking detour into Pont L’Abbe (which did mean we found the church for the concert well in advance), and parked up by the docks (sounds attractive). A shortish walk to the bac pieton (passenger ferry, just a small launch), which takes people (and lots of bikes it seems) between Loctudy and Ile-Tudy. The choir were too numerous to fit on the ferry, so half went in one trip and half in the second, after some arguement with the captain to prevent queue-jumpers meaning some choir folk having to wait for a second time. In Ile-Tudy we all split up, with some folks having lunch in one of the local restaurants, others walking around the town and generally relaxing. We didn’t see a great deal, as the restaurant we chose, while serving excellent food, was very slow, so by the time came to do a quick promotional sing, we had barely finished our lunch.

We did a quick rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’, which impressed the gathered locals and visitors (some of whom did come to the evening concert), just before it started to rain. This meant we queued for the return ferry under hoods and umbrellas. All-in-all, a rather quick but enjoyable trip.

Ella had fun with us, seeing the choir and during ‘Over the Rainbow’ stood with me at the back, and I think joined in a bit. She went on the first ferry back with Hannah, and was upset to find I wasn’t on it, asking if I was going to get the boat or swim. Awh.

So once off the ferry it was straight on the bus and back to Pont L’Abbe to get set-up for the concert. All hands got the equipment out of the bus, across the busy square and into the church. There was some confusion about how much setting up we could do, as we weren’t sure whether the church was still open for daily worship at that time, and also where to get changed into our concert garb, and indeed where we could go to the loo. Also, after setting out cups and nibbles and drinks for interval refreshments, we were told to take it all away, because the bishop would disapprove. Once all was set-up and everyone was changed, we had a quick rehearsal and I think we were all quite amazed by the acoustics, which were excellent.

The concert itself was very good, from our point of view. The audience wasn’t big, which wasn’t surprising because although Hannah had expected the people she’s arranged it with to publicise it, they hadn’t. This was the reason why when we’d visited the Office de Tourisme in Quimper, they couldn’t find it in their event listings. The people who were there were excellent, though. They clapped when we did, copied the actions we did, enthusiastically applauded, and at the end gave a standing ovation. The contributed generously at the end (the concert was free, so we took donations), and many comments indicated that they wished more people had come and enjoyed the concert as they had. The performance was a little rough around the edges, but nevertheless, the sound was good and there were no blindingly obvious mistakes. The introductions to each song were read by various members of the choir, in French, and those went well too. As it was the first time we used all of our shiny new technical equipment, it was its first test too, and apart from couple of hitches that were fixed during setup, it went swimmingly too.

Afterwards, we packed up tout suite, some folks got a swift half in a local bar, and then it was straight back to the hotel and straight to bed for hard earned rest for most of the choir, I suspect.

Evening Revelry

August 3, 2010

Last night Hannah organised a meal for all the Choir which was paid for out of Choir funds, which was most generous. A good time was had by all at O’Keltia in Quimper, and they handled 47 hungry and thirsty people very well. A good time was had by all, with plenty of chatter.

The meal was preceded by free time, with most people heading into the middle of Quimper from our hotel, which is just on the outskirts. It’s a short bus ride, or 30 minute walk into town. For some folks, it was their first French bus experience. I’m not sure the other passengers on the bus were too impressed with the extra long wait at the bus stop as Hannah negotiated with the bus driver for the best way to pay for 20 people. Once in the centre, Hannah and I showed where the O’Keltia’s was and then everyone went their own ways. Hannah and I, with Hannah’s family had a wander, and had lunch in a creperie, and then the ladies went shopping while Brian (Hannah’s Mum’s fiance) and Simon Woods (tenor) had a couple of drinks while watching the world go by. Eventually everyone gathered up in the square where the restaurant is, and the meal began.

After the meal, Hannah instructed us to go to the cathedral square for an impromtu performance of ‘Over the Rainbow’. I’m not sure how good we sounded, handling an eight part harmony song after a few alcoholic drinks and a large meal, but it must have looked impressive anyway.

Afterwards we returned to the hotel, some in taxis and a number of us a pied, and we were very thankful for Chris French’s wind-up torch for getting us through the park that was the first part of the walk.

I’m sure everyone had a good night, and the carefully planned breakfast rota (to avoid queues and filling up the breakfast room) was rather destroyed this morning by people staggering down with the after-effects.


August 2, 2010

Just a quick post to say that the Medina High Community Choir has safely arrived at the Quimper B&B Sud and are settling in. Hannah and I came up from Benodet this morning, and unloaded our stuff, and sorted out everything with the managers, who have been very helpful. We bought some refreshments for the choir for when they arrived, and distributed everyone to their rooms. Soon we’re heading out to Quimper and tonight it’s a meal out for everyone in a restaurant in Quimper.

When I find out more about the ferry crossing (there are a few people the worse for wear), I might update the blog.

Choir Tour Day 0

August 1, 2010

Hannah, Ella and I have been in Brittany for a few days now. The weather has been very changeable, eg yesterday it was rainy in the morning but hot by evening. We had a big rush of packing up the house for Cowes Week renting before leaving home, as well as all the usual pre-holiday stuff, along with rehearsal, trips to buy extra cables for sound equipment, test viewing of the DVD of the choir’s summer concert, etc.
The journey didn’t start too well as we missed our ferry off the island, as we were booked on an earlier one than I’d thought, so we had an hour’s wait until there was space. It wasn’t a big problem because we were going to Rachel’s house (Hannah’s sister), rather than connecting with another ferry. Other than that, the journey to Benodet was okay.
So far as the tour goes, Hannah and I were in Quimper yesterday sorting a couple of things. Hannah negotiated with a restaurant that we’ve been to before to organise Monday dinner. It’s called O’Keltia, and is central and pleasant. She got a good deal, which is important as this one is out of choir funds. We also visited the Office de Tourisme, where Hannah confirmed our visit to an asinerie (more on that later) and tried to find out more about our concert in Pont L’Abbe, as it didn’t appear in any listings. Unfortunately we couldn’t get confirmation so back at the campsite emails were sent and we’re waiting to hear.
The rest of the choir bus out of Medina High this afternoon, with an overnight ferry over The Channel. We’ll meet them at the B&B Quimper Sud early tomorrow afternoon, and the festivities will begin!

Coming Soon

July 28, 2010

Over the next fortnight or so, lots of the postings will be about the Medina High Community Choir tour in Brittany. If you’re on Facebook, there are events for the actual concerts we’re doing, and we’ll also be busking in Quimper, Josselin and the general area.

The events are here:

The first three will be Gospel concerts, in various churches, and the final one is from our Abba and Beatles repitoire. All will be excellent, and we hope to see many people there. I’ll report on how it all goes here on my blog.


July 28, 2010

Since the last time I wrote about Ella, she’s come on very well. The two greatest areas of development are i) toilet training (now sorted completely); ii) behaving like a toddler (I don’t want to, no, I’m not tired, I don’t like you etc etc). I think she’s quite late to the latter, we really didn’t have a ‘terrible twos’, instead it’s the threes that are having their stroppy moments. Generally it’s short lived, but she can manage days when everything gets a ‘no’ or ‘I don’t want to’, which is most trying.

She had something of a wobble at school, at least at drop-off time. This was most distressing for me, leaving her behind when she was bawling her head off, after having a walk to school with lots of ‘I don’t like school’ and ‘I don’t want to go to school’. Her key-worker, Gemma, always said that she was great at school and played really well with the other kids, so overally we weren’t too worried. The last couple of times she’s been much better, so the conclusion was it was a lot to do with toddler behaviour of ‘I’d rather be at home watching television than going to school’. Once there, she enjoys is. We’ve planned next term’s schools days, when she starts in the Rising Fours class, in preparation for reception at primary school, and she’ll be doing two and a half days there, so quite a step up in time spent.

She is much more grown-up, and usually is very lovely with people, which is great. In the next couple of days we’re off to France, first to stay with my folks and then for the great Medina High Community Choir tour, and this’ll give us a good comparison to what Ella did while away last year in terms of what she plays at, how much she walks around herself, when she asks to go to the loo etc. Should be fun!

Pox and Birthdays

June 30, 2010

A couple of weeks ago Ella developed some spots, and we quickly worked out that she had chickenpox. Fortunately, she never really had it bad. She did have a good spread of spots, but she didn’t really get under the weather, and only once did the itching disturb her sleep. When she started itching we got some Piriton for kids, and that seemed to stem any itching. It did mean she was off school and away from her childminder, Caroline, for a week. I had to cover one day, working from home, while entertaining Ella with bad parenting, ie the television. She did very well that day, I have to admit.

She recovered in time from that to go to her friend, Tristan’s, birthday party, which was held at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. We all got a ride on the train, and it was a lovely, sunny day, so that was very good. Ella ran around the carriage with the other kids and seemed to enjoy it.

This weekend just gone was Ella’s third birthday, and we had our party. My Mum and stepdad (Clare and Chris), littlest brother and his wife (Hamish and Christine) all stayed the weekend, and I was most pleased that my other brother headed down from London for the party with his two eldest daughters, Aliya and Lucy. Ella’s birthday was on the same day as her school fair, and I went there with Hamish and Christine over lunchtime, and Ella had the opportunity to bounce on the bouncy castle, play in the sandpit and in the water table. This did mean she had an afternoon nap, which meant that she woke up just before her party, and had a barrage of relatives who all wanted to say hello at once. I think she dealt with that quite well, probably helped along by the presents she was receiving. I know she enjoyed getting to see her two cousins, and they did too. Apparently Aliya was very sad to have to leave.

The party was a BBQ, and it did clash with the England v Germany World Cup match. Of course it’s a game that will go down in history, so I won’t say anything about the result. I watched it over my shoulder while barbequing with it on the computer, with a slight lag behind the television in the living room where quite a few party attenders were watching. That meant I had their cheers and groans before seeing whatever the event was on my internet stream.

Ella got lots of presents. She got a lot of Duplo, a significant amount of that from us. The usual supply of books and clothes; a Trunki from her Gan-gan; and a Thomas the Tank Engine wooden train set from Granny and Grandpa. She got some dolls as well, just to keep up the girlie element.

All-in-all, a good day with splendid weather, and excellent catering from Hannah and helpers.