Gabrielle Woodward writes:
As two first year choral scholars we were really excited to be embarking on our first Worcester College choir tour. After a smooth journey, we arrived at La Maison Verte in the beautiful village of Roujan for a week of rehearsals, table tennis, French food, pool-side fun and high-quality concerts.
Listen to a podcast recorded at La Maison Verte: choral scholars speak about their experiences…
After a busy end to Trinity term, with lots of choir commitments in Oxford, the change of setting encouraged the choir to find new sonorities to match the beautiful French landscape. We received a warm welcome from Francis, Anne and their daughter Eliza who continued to support us musically and pastorally throughout the week. In particular, the choir gained an immense wealth of feedback and interpretative skills from ex-Tallis scholar Francis; who encouraged us to explore new early music repertoire through a new perspective. Amid our busy rehearsal schedule Francis gave us workshops and arranged informal evening complines; including one outdoors by the swimming pool!
Over the course of the year we have found that one of the best things about being in the Worcester chapel choir has been the wide range of repertoire which we get through; and this tour was no exception. Our two concerts were packed with variety and being abroad encouraged us to improve our French repertoire including singing a beautiful setting of ‘Notre Père’ by Duruflé. The first concert was at the medieval church in Fontès and the second at L’église Saint-Laurent in Roujan. The choir filled these venues with programmes full of contrast from the intricate counterpoint of Byrd to the haunting harmonies of Tavener’s ‘The Lamb’. We even brought German texts to the French churches with the compelling textures of Rheinberger’s ‘Abendlied’.
Much of the success of the concerts came from the sense of community between the choir members. As new choral scholars this year, we felt the tour helped us get to know the rest of the choir even better, bringing the us together through ensemble singing and other various activities. The social side of the tour included an excursion to the historic town of Pezanas, where a group trip to the Museum of Doors ‘knocked’ us away, as our eyes were ‘opened’ to the important function of doors throughout the history of Pezanas. Another highlight of the week included a trip to ‘Valras-Plage’ beach, where the sunshine and warm Mediterranean sea was appreciated by everyone as a nice contrast to our morning of rehearsals.
Following a successful last concert in Roujan our audience members joined us in La Maison Verte for some drinks and asked all about our life as Worcester choral scholars; whilst in return they offered us insights into their lives in the South of France. We then had a meal together as a choir and the senior organ scholar, Dan Mathieson, presented various comical choir awards, including ones such as: ‘The Most Enthusiastic about Doors Award’ won by Dom Spencer-Jolly to ‘The Most Dedicated to the Swimming Pool’ won by our very own choir director Thomas Allery. The awards were all humorous, but highlighted the real sense of community among the choir members as we reflected on our jam-packed week of musical fun. We then all headed down to the centre of the village for Roujan’s Bastille Day celebrations. Here there were fireworks and music, which encouraged lots of dancing from the whole choir; it was the perfect end to a brilliant week!