Up to now, we have enjoyed having our days free with the major concerts happening at night. That has left us time to do some exploring of some of the cities around Saintes. I’ve already written about our day trips to Cognac, La Rochelle and Bordeaux. I’ve been very drawn to the beautiful countryside here, especially all the acres and acres of sunflowers. I wish I could take a picture, but Carl is driving too fast for me to focus the camera.
Today we had a concert at 12:30 pm, and we came early to take advantage of the free parking by the Abbaye. In the courtyard near the restaurant, we saw Kristian Bezuldenhout, the outstanding young pianist who had played so brilliantly the night before. We had a very nice conversation with him and told him about our owning the only fortepiano in Honolulu. He spent 10 years at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY but is now based in London.
The concert was a superb performance of Graupner and Bach Cantatas with a choir of 12, including some of the biggest names in early music: Dorothee Mields, Damien Guillon and Peter Kooij (bass). We waited by the backstage door to see if we could talk to Peter Kooij as Carl wanted to thank him for being such an inspiration to singers in Honolulu. It is his many recordings of the Bach cantatas that Carl uses to share with our Bach soloists. After perhaps 15-20 minutes, he finally emerged and Carl asked him where he spoke English. “Of course!” He and Carl had a very nice conversation, and when he mentioned that we were from Hawaii, Peter said that his teacher, Max van Egmond, sang there! (Max came to Honolulu for our performance of Bach’s St. John Passion.) We ended our brief visit with Peter Kooij by giving him some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.
We made a brief visit to St Eutrope, one of four churches here in Saintes, and were very impressed by the ancient crypt beneath the church.
At 5:30 pm we went to a children’s choir concert at St Vivien which was amazing for the choice of repertoire the children sang. It started with the half-hour long medieval mystery, “The Play of Daniel” which was 30 minutes of plainsong accompanied by recorder and viele. Then they sang an Ave Maria and Mass by the contemporary composer, Jehan Alain, ending with a very avant-garde piece based on Jabberwocky, “Through the looking glass” by Lewis Carroll which combined dance, narration, and many dissonant tone clusters. I’m thinking that American children would not have tolerated such a program — first of all, all the monodic chants of the Play of Daniel, and then all the extreme dissonances of Jabberwocky. Bear in mind some of these children were as young as 6 years old, and perhaps 13 at the oldest. Truly remarkable.