Ensemble Laude has just arrived back from its first international tour – to France! We sang at the Eglise St Pierre d’Arene in Nice, St Sauveur Cathedral in Aix-en-Provence, and then on to the international Choralies festival in Vaison-la-Romaine, as the only choir from Canada!
When we arrived in Nice, it was to a city reeling from a recent terrorist attack. A truck driver had gone on a deadly rampage leaving 84 people dead. People were in shock; angry, grieving, and afraid. Gendarmes and military police were a regular sight on the streets. We knew we would be walking into this situation but we did it with our eyes wide open. Never have I been so proud of our sister singers as we walked into a city reeling with pain, prepared to bring healing and light through our music. One of our singers, Laurie Bayly, had brought many small rocks to give out at the concert with the word “peace” written in many languages. At the end of our concert, when we had sung Media Vita in Morte Sumus for the victims of the recent attacks, we went out into the audience to give our the stones as gifts. I made eye contact with one women sitting several rows behind everyone else. I went straight up to her and as I pressed the rock into her hand, she whispered “thank you” with her eyes swimming with tears. This is only one of the many moving experiences we had with the people of Nice. We fell in love with this beautiful city and its friendly people.
From Nice, we made our way to Aix-en-Provence and stopped at the ancient Abbaye du Thoronet on the way.
This abbey was founded in the late 1100s and construction was finished in the early 1200s. It is located in an isolated area – the whirring of the cicadas and resinous smell of the dry leaves is perhaps as it would have been all those centuries ago.
As we paid to enter, we asked permission to sing and at first were refused, then they relented, “Just one song!” So we sang three songs melded together as one, and when we were done they asked for more! We sang our sacred and medieval pieces, starting with Hildegard and other Gregorian chant, all the way through to a modern Sanctus:
As we sang, we had the remarkable experience of the walls waking up and listening – it happened gradually as they slowly came alive, but then the sense of being alive and listening was almost palpable. Every note rippled outwards like a stone tossed into a pond, and I think all of us were profoundly moved that our music has become another layer in the many memories that coat those ancient walls.