As you may have guessed, our group was not paid for singing. Instead, the director had to arrange for the schedule and depended on financing by the members of the group. In this post I continue the story of our tour (see Singing in Spain and Interlude in Collioure). Our next stop was Arles, where we stayed at the Hotel le Calendal. With a warren of corridors and byways, furnished in an eclectic manner and including a charming central courtyard, it was equipped with internet service – at that time something of a novelty. The students immediately set out communicating with their friends back home. Our tour guide Agnes took us first to the town hall square, where we observed a dog having a bath at the fountain. After all it was the south of France in late Spring – hot and dry! Agnes showed us around the inner city, including the famous Café la Nuit that Van Gogh painted, with the adjacent statue of Fréderic Mistral, who worked to revive the Occitan language of Provence.
Another notable site in Arles is the coliseum.
Built in 90 C.E., and a UNESCO world heritage site, it is used for bullfights, cultural events and concerts. The seats are numbered and railings have been erected for the safety of the audience. Bullfighting in Provence, by the way, is very different from the Spanish version – more on that in a later post. We will also see more examples of Roman influence in Provence in future posts.
Our concert did not take place in Arles, but a few kilometers away at the Domaine de l’Étang des Aulnes, a dedicated site for musical performances in the commune of St Martin-de-Crau. An old chateau and its outbuildings have been converted to the purposes of art, on the almost completely unsettled shore of a lake, famous for its alders (les aulnes).
The performances by several local groups as well as our own took place in this large open-air shed. After the concert there was a picnic for all. It was a lot of fun listening to, singing for, and getting to meet the members of the other groups.
The conductor of one of the groups, Philippe, later came for an extended stay in the USA and finished up at our house for a week.
A good way to make a success of a concert tour like this is to connect with other choral groups and schedule joint events. You automatically have an instant, and informed audience!