Every Wednesday evening I drive about 15 minutes from home and spend an enjoyable hour or so singing with a French choir. Being in an area popular with British ex-pats, about a quarter of us are English but essentially, French is the language we use.
As people arrive, one greets and is greeted by everyone either with a cheery “Bonjour. Ça va?” or a friendly “Salut!” and one or two bises (a light kiss on the cheek). This takes some time with an average of 25 or so people turning up to sing each week but it does make you feel part of the team and new arrivals are no exception.
An English visitor sat next to me earlier this year and commented on how friendly everyone was. “Of course”, I replied, “it’s a community choir so everyone knows each other very well, they care about each other…. and we socialise a lot.” Apart from weekly practices, we give concerts around the region and venture further afield to other regions of France and even to the UK. Food and drink always play their part, whether it’s a picnic, a summer party, or a fundraiser, there’s a generosity and natural sense of fun and sharing surrounding food that makes it such an important part of our choir community.
After every practice we gather together to have a drink and something to eat before leaving for home. Taking it in turns to bring the food and drink ensures that there’s something different every week. Some bring mainly sweet things – cakes (chocolate being the favourite), fruit tarts, biscuits, and so on. Others have a more savoury inclination and will bring home-made paté, cheeses, olives, quiche, pizza – all manner of things. One of our sopranos runs a business with her husband called ‘Fromacoeur‘ They manufacture tasty little Goat’s cheese bites which are sold across Europe, even in Marks & Spencers where you’ll find their delicious little stuffed peppers in the delicatessen range. Others might bring huge turines of paté maison (home-made paté), or the regional speciality known as chou farci (stuffed cabbage).
When the choir performs, one or two people always take it upon themselves to bring a large flask of coffee and some biscuits – always very gratefully received, especially when we’re singing in a cold, damp church. One of the tenor voices runs a drinks supply business and started a little tradition of bringing a bottle of pear liqueur to concerts. So if you attend one of our performances and wonder why we’re late arriving on stage – you know why!