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Sea Green Singers contact telephone Mike Cox: (+44 (0)7815 914776
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Outline of what to expect at a Choir Meeting -
Ce qu'on peut attendre aux Rencontre de Chorales
St Amant Roche Savine, fin Juillet

Scope: The articles below do not attempt to evoke the wonderful atmosphere, warm, funny, creative, lively, welcoming people, and enormous fun to be had - that would take too long. It is a recital of things that you may need to know if you consider coming. There is a short bullet-point summary and then a longer more detailed description. If I left anything out let me know.

Summary of the main points provided by Cheryl Coyne (ST):
* the nature of the village: smallish, with tolerant residents, a bar/restaurant, a hotel (ever open?) and a single grocers (runs out of toothpaste)
* Camping arrangements - its free of charge but you'll need to bring your own tent etc. There are good loos and showers.
* Jolie Mome theatre group have had a long term base in the village; they perform there the week before, and their musicians and performers take a full part in the choirs' festival.
* 10 songs are chosen (from the 2 performed by each choir on Monday afternoon), these are then taught to everyone in workshops throughout the week.
* All workshops, meetings and eating take place in and around the college
* The organising choir changes each year. You'll be expected to take part in tasks such as cooking or cleaning, but its not onerous.
* Transport from Ambert is either by the organising choir's (or is it Jolie Mome's) mini-bus, or car hire/taxi, or hitching a lift from a choir member with a car. Its 8 miles from Ambert to St Amant..
* Communal eating of 3 meals per day is what your money goes on (can't remember the words you used about quality but I do remember they gave exactly the right impression)
* Singing in the evening, (in the bar and an outdoors spot placed so as not to disturb the villagers) just happens!
* Lots of individual French choir members speak English - ranging from pidgin to complete fluency, but you'll have an even better time if you learn, or brush up your French as much as possible.
* You will definitely enjoy yourself!

Details

Numbers invited to come to the Rencontre Chorales are limited to 150 mainly because of kitchen facilities such as plates, seating capacity if it rains etc. so it is important to subscribe quickly. This year 180 came from 17 choirs (see list below) from all over France. The weather is entirely predictable if you listen to the weather forecast but changes totally unpredictably from one hour to the next if you dont. It can rain, be cold (bring warm sleeping bags) and be brilliantly hot. A bit like the UK only more so. The event takes place in the village College and the cook stays on after term has ended to cook for us

La Belle Rouge: A theatre/film festival, La Belle Rouge, organised by Jolie Mome, takes place the weekend preceding the Rencontres des Chorales (RC): don’t confuse the two (see note below). The Belle Rouge is widely publicized; the RC by contrast gets almost no mention anywhere. The RC is organised under the auspices of Jolie Mome who act as coordinators between the choirs (Jolie Mome is mainly a theatre company which also uses singing).

Arrival: Choirs start to arrive on Monday morning 28th for the first meeting to sort out the organization. Each person brings a picnic to share communally in the evening, as the cooking facilities will not have been set up. Each choir brings two songs they can teach to the group with 180 copies to distribute to everyone. Also they should bring a sheet to put up on the wall to describe themselves. The style varies from sketches of people to seriously professional graphics. They are usually A2 size and the most useful ones had photos stuck on of individuals with their names and other useful stuff like websites, repertoire, who did what.. Some were also quite funny.

During the week the choirs prepare for a street theatre show directed by Jolie Mome which is presented at the end of the week in St Amant and which is publicized in villages around.

Presentation of Songs: At 2pm on Monday each choir in turn presents their two songs to the group. This takes all afternoon. The songs are listed and individuals sign up for the songs they would like to learn during the week. The ten most popular songs of the 34 presented are taught in workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the mornings two songs are learnt by the whole group together (no choice); in the afternoons at 15.00h and 17.00h there is a choice between 2 songs at each time so each person can learn 6 songs plus songs suggested by Jolie Mome for the weekend show.

Note that Monday afternoon is the only time you get to hear all 34 songs; ~20 songs are never repeated unless its in the bar so it’s a good idea to arrive for Monday midday.

The structure of the following two days is as follows:

8am – 9.30 breakfast (high disapproval rating for those who arrive at 9.25 even if they only got to bed 3 hours earlier). Breakfast is cereal (not muesli), bread and homemade jam (each person brings a pot of their own speciality: Gils was lemon curd, mine marmalade), plenty of coffee, hot water, teas, hot milk and cold milk.
9.00 – body warm-up, yoga
9.30 – voice warm-up (may be done while preparing beans)
10.0 to 11.30 – Song workshop with all the choirs together. The workshop involves not only learning to sing the songs but also learning the presentation of them in a theatrical manner. This involves a lot of moving around, strutting, preening and general over-the-top behaviour.
11.30 – Appero on steps. Here choirs will sing songs you may want to learn or ask you to sing songs for them. Or just generally sing.
12 ish – Lunch – this year meat was only served at mid-day, not in the evening; otherwise it’s a full meal with wine and very tasty. This is not ‘hospital’ food. Those preparing food sing their song.
14.00 – meetings of referents if needed, other meetings
15.00 – Song workshop, choice of two songs
17.00 – Song workshop, choice of two songs
18.00 – Prepare food if it’s your rota
19.00 – Appero
19.30 – Dinner; those preparing food sing their song.
21.00 – Workshops may meet in the evening but mostly everyone repairs to the café opposite. Singing goes on INSIDE the café until it closes (00h to 1.30h) and then continues at the ‘ginguette’, i.e. in the garden of a derelict house a short walk away. No noise is made outside or going between these two very noisy places to keep the locals happy since the RC depends on their tolerance and they go to work early. Drink is provided free at the Ginguette until the reserve left over from last year is finished; thereafter you should buy some to contribute. The rumours you may hear that singing can still be heard between 5 and 6am are well-founded. Noise from the ginguette does not impinge on most inhabitants of St Amant (see note below about St Amant and noise). Bring your song books; most people have their choir songbook with the words of their songs with them in the café. This is mainly so other choirs can join in, as they mostly know the words of their own songs by heart.

Early risers and Late risers: A camping site labelled ‘Couch tot’ (Early risers) near the town centre was provided for those who did not wish to carouse late into the night. Unfortunately it turned out to be much noisier than the site provided much further out for those who did – the ‘Couch tard’. Some meetings and dissension resulted but the issue was sorted out to general satisfaction e.g. by providing ear plugs, offering to move the real couch tot’s out to the couch tard site but generally by noting that it was not a nunnery.

Thursday and Friday: The agenda for the Thursday and Friday dependes on events in surrounding villages and the progress of the songs e.g. those who wished too went to Ambert market on Thursday morning to sing in support of local producers and to publicize the event on Saturday. On Thursday afternoon there was a run through of the final selection of songs singing each one once in the order in which they would probably be sung in front of Michel, director of Jolie Mome, to assess how the event would look and try out musical accompaniments and rhythms. A small orchestra of professional musicians provided the accompaniments and slipped easily between ska and musette. Obviously not everyone had learnt all the songs so you joined in what you had learnt. It was hoped to go to St Etienne on Saturday morning to support a sit-in of evicted Romanies in the city centre by performing the whole show. This did not turn out to be practicable.

Management: Decisions about how the week is run and what is done are decided at General Meetings at which everyone has equal votes (including Jolie Mome directors); mundane matters (noise in campsites, supplies) are decided by meetings of choir representatives (referents) which are called more often. Tuesday morning starts off with the first 'ag' (assemblee generale).

Food: Each person signs up for kitchen and/or cleaning duties on a rota: one meal preparation duty or 2 cleaning duties (note: meal duty includes writing and performing a song relevant to the occasion). Meal preparation usually starts 4 hours before the meal. It involves no expert knowledge, as there is a professional chef who plans and executes everything. The breakfast duty is carried out by the organising choir (this year Toulouse, next year St Etienne). Before each meal there is an hour’s appero on the steps where songs and wine are consumed.

Musical Scores: French choirs seem to rely on learning by ear more than we do so there are a lot less scores around than we are used to; a corollary is that songs can be developed quickly e.g. the song 'ils sont venu' was developed from a quite basic musical structure during one workshop. Some people are capable of singing all parts straight off in perfect pitch and almost perfect time with a seemingly endless repertoire and they are willing to do it off the cuff into a recorder e.g. hear Archer du Roi: so take a handy recorder or use your phone.

Camping: The camping facilities are rudimentary but clean and adequate i.e. you can get hot water at some time during the day for a shower, (not so likely at 9.15am) and I never saw a queue. There are three sites around the village. The site next to the main road and close to the ginguette suited me fine and I had no problem sleeping even though the singing mostly went on through the night. Don’t forget these are non-amplified human voices. Those who live around Oxford will remember what the May Balls used to be like in Oxford before sound control came in will wonder what all the fuss is about.

Groceries: The village is very small with one grocery, which runs out of things like toothpaste.

Finance: Jolie Mome is not paid for its services and all of the fees are to defray the costs of setting up the cooking facilities and the other parts of the infrastructure, which have to be paid for. The fee you pay goes to pay for the food all of which is provided, there is plenty and no one should feel hungry. If any money is left over at the end it is shared out. The cost of subscription is 100 euros (60 deposit, 40 when you arrive) or 60 (40/20) for those on the dole.

Transport: Trains go to Vichy and Clermont Ferrand. From there SNCF run a linking coach service to Ambert which arrives at about 6 in the evening and leaves about 10. The UK contingent went by Eurostar to Paris then Paris- Lyon at 13.01 or 14.04 arriving at Ambert at 17.54 and 19.20 respectively.

You will need to have a contact number to ring at St Amant to arrange to pick you up. Mobile phones work fine in this area but there are dead spots in St Amant and reception can be lost seemingly for no reason.

Asides: The town of St Amant is not intolerant of noise: every fortnight a disco/fete with full sound and deck facilities is held for the inhabitants to let their hair down which goes on till 2am. The yearly fete de village goes on 4 days starting with (Thursday) concerts of classical music the first night; (Friday) rock concert with 'the flying tractors', (Saturday) bal disco starting at midnight, and winding down on Sunday with Bal Musette.

La Jolie Rouge Festival: It is worth thinking of arriving on Sunday for the last day of La Jolie Rouge festival: there are interesting street theatre type performances and interesting alternative bands: example, M.A.P. (Minister d'Affaires Publique) played on Sunday night (see video clip); 'Le temps des cerises' performed in mime was quite beautiful like hand ballet (clip). Unfortunately you will miss La Jolie Mome itself, which performs on Saturday. Or you could get there for Saturday.

Press Release, 31 July - Communiqué de presse .
chorales révolutionnaires / défense des services publics
samedi 2 aout à St-Amant Roche Savine (63)

Poste, Hôpital, Services Publics... et Chorales Révolutionnaires ce samedi 2 août 2008 à 17h30 à Saint Amant Roche Savine (63) devant le bureau de Poste.
Les 8èmes rencontres de Chorales Révolutionnaires se clôtureront par une représentation en soutien aux services publics.

Voilà 8 ans que des Chorales Révolutionnaires venues de toute la France (et cette année aussi de Grande Bretagne), se rencontrent à Saint-Amant-Roche-Savine accueillies par la Compagnie Jolie Môme .

La Poste à Saint Amant Roche Savine, le service chirurgical de l’hôpital d’Ambert, le tribunal des Prud’Hommes, la Trésorerie d’Ambert,... de nombreux services publics dans le Puy de Dôme et sur l’ensemble du territoire sont menacés de fermetures ou de privatisation !

L’exemple récent de l’hôpital de Carhaix montre que lorsque la population se mobilise avec fermeté, elle peut maintenir ou gagner des services publics.
Après avoir chanté contre la fermeture de la maternité en 2006, les Chorales réunies soutiennent le Bureau de Poste de Saint Amant Roche Savine

Concert devant la Poste, Samedi 2 août à 17h30.
180 chôraleurs et chôraleuses interprèteront des Chants de Lutte du monde entier.

Chorales présentes :
Sea Green Singers (Oxford), Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir (Londres), Les Oies sauvages (Montreuil-93), La Barricade (Saint-Etienne 42), Choralternative (Rouen-76), Atelier Chanson de La Belle Etoile (Saint-Denis-93), Les Gaperons Rouges (Riom-63), Les Barricades (Grenoble-38), Les Josettes Rouges (Le Havre-76), La Bande à Rosa (Amiens-80), Les Joyeux Mutins (Lille-59), La Lutte Enchantée (Marseille-13), L’Accord Râle (Charlieu-42), des chorales révolutionnaires de Perpignan (66), Tours (37) et Lyon (69), La Chorale des Sans-Noms (Nancy-54), La Canaille du Midi (Toulouse-31)

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Sea Green Singers contact telephone Mike Cox: (+44 (0)7815 914776
or e-mail mail@seagreensingers.com
[Home Page [Programme [Songs ] [Performances [Links]