|Bridgwater choristers establish a beach-head|
The result was another well earned credit for Yvette Staellens and her globetrotting 'Voice of the People' team based at the Bridgwater Arts Centre. Each year they come with us to a different country, imprint Bridgwater culture with a dainty slipper mark on the hearts of all they meet , make a few friends and leave with a song on their lips. Even at 5am in the morning. And in this case, even when they were circling Bristol airport unable to land due to bad weather and having to be diverted to Cardiff.
|The French choir Citharista take the etage|
Flying from early morning rainy Bristol to early morning Nice - slightly skimming feet above the waterline as we landed-and driving through sunny Provence past St Tropez, Cannes and the rest of the Cote D'Azur it actually felt like you were somewhere in the region of Highbridge but with slightly more sun, sand, seafood and baguettes.
|Councillors trying to convince the French to come to Bridgwater|
In French they take their Jumelage seriously. (That's twinning by the way). And when they heard that a Bridgwater choir was coming to visit them they booked the Spectacular 17th century Notre Dame church which overlooked the harbour for them to perform in. The perfect acoustics were caught on video and the youtube clips included below.
|Claire and Yvette square up|
Top of the hit parade this evening was a spontaneous blues soul duet performed by Yvette and Claire , delivered with such feeling that you almost imagined they were going to punch each others lights out.
The packed audience cried out for an encore. Fortunately Yvette had forgotten to include one song in the set list and so they did that one.
|La Ciotat- a bit like Bridgwater|
La Ciotat council had made a big effort . Deputy Mayor Patzlaff had constantly worn his Bridgwater tie for the entire year past , refusing to remove it in case he met anyone from the twin town. Tonight he was in luck!! Sadly he didn't speak any English. Madame Leonardelli, the president of the Jumelage committee had a bit more, and Virginie Giaccone, the International links officer a bit more still. But still they thought they better roll out their friend Thomas-who did his best. On the other hand the Choirs brought with them numerous members whose schoolgirl French led to an evening of uncompleted sentences , cheerfully resolved by another glug of wine , hand gestures, or in the case of the Dutch chorister, entire re-enactments of classic scenes from history in order to make her understood. But that's the joy of twinning-trying to communicate rather than give up and build walls.
|Plumetting the depths|
Once the singing was over (if that's ever likely) the travellers sampled the merry joys of La Ciotat. Having 'done' most of the harbourside restaurants, bought up the waterfront market and witnessed the startling site of elderly women dressed in that Medieval way tying each other up with ribbons and then trying to dance, the only direction was seawards. Almost everyone chose to visit the nearby Calanques (interesting Jurassic headlands) by boat. And got incredibly wet. Even the experienced seafaring Cllr Tucker hadn't experienced anything like it , even on the mountainous waves of Cape Horn. Singing while drowning I mean.
On the final night the group had a party at Croix De Malte hotel where 3 of the singers formed an impromptu version of the Beverly Sisters to sing their thanks to Yvette - who responded in song - which caught on - until half the room were ad-libbing lines thanking each other.
|Singing it like it is|
The only way such a pleasant weekend could finish was something going wrong. An unexpected visit to yet another country. The perfectly timed flight from Nice reached Bristol, hit English weather and the plane had to land in Wales. The group -amongst 4 other plane loads of travellers - had to be bussed back to Bristol in 12 specially hired coaches. The Bridgwater group chose the driver that reversed into an airport lamp-post.
VOICE OF THE PEOPLE'S LA CIOTAT VIDEO JUKEBOX