In response to my post for the first day of Spring I received a message from my friend Yvette over at A Singer for All Seasons. Lucky Yvette lives Provence, my favourite region in all of France; I visited frequently there back in the late 1970s, long before Peter Mayle made it popular in his series of books. I have the fondest memories of drives to Les Baux, evenings on the Cours Mirabeau, Mont Victoire, the Arena in Arles, and some glorious opera in Arles, Orange and Aix. And of course the food, the wine (the first time I really tasted a true rosé was at a magical restaurant near Pont du Gard), the warmth of the sunshine, and of the people. Even writing this short paragraph about my too brief days in Provence make me want to go back – and as I keep promising Yvette, maybe, just maybe one of these days I will.
But back to her comment earlier this week. I hope she doesn’t mind but I’m going to quote it here:
It is moving to find the story of Charles d’Orléans so well illustrated. This Rondeau is always sung in A Coeur Joie choirs, and I still know the poem and choral song written by César Geoffray by heart… sung in my teens under César Geoffray, because he started ‘chant choral’ after WW2 with ‘A Coeur Joie’ choirs and I benefited this formation during my years at Training College in Aix! I looked for his scores I learnt, on youtube and found the Rondeau sung like I learnt it so many years ago….
And she include a link to a concert given by Les Chanteclers de Guénange et Zornička de Bratislava – a children’s choral group in the manner of the A Coeur Joie choir that César Geoffray founded in France. I edited the full concert to highlight their version of Charles d’Orléans’ little Rondeau as set by Geoffray and sung by my friend Yvette.
Geoffray was a remarkable man who believed that choral singing was both educational and social, that it taught people how to work, and play, together. He created a method and a syllabus to teach choral music in schools as well as composing pieces – both simple and complex – to be sung by the choirs. His methods and this ideal was to spread across Europe – as witness the recording by this Czech choir. And from what I could discover there were very few schools or communities in France that did not have A Choeur Joie. It is difficult to adequately translate the name: a happy heart, with good will, both would be literal translations but to the young people who learned to sing together I’m sure, as Yvette’s words testify, it means so much more than that.