The first beer of the evening tasted ten times better than it would have done had it not followed twelve hours or so sat on a coach! The meal we were provided with was also both very substantial and satisfying, (salty aubergine stew notwithstanding) After a night in the shoebox, the choir enjoyed a morning of sight-seeing and photography in Reims before travelling down to Troyes for the first concert of the tour.
The concert took place in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. Whilst the audience was not vast, the building was amazing and the acoustic huge, not dissimilar to an incredibly spacious bathroom. Zadok the Priest had to be taken more sedately than usual to allow time for the sound to cross the transepts.
Following the sat nav on the way home after the concert, we got to bed later than expected!
Another day spent on the coach with temperatures reaching 38 degrees took the choir to the cosmopolitan capital of the Midi-Pyrénées region in the south of France, Toulouse. The journey offered time out to enjoy a game or two over a glass of wine.
A trip to Albi the next day featured the second concert of the tour in the Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile which was nominated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2010. Another stunning and highly decorated interior with equally wonderful acoustics to match. The extreme heat however did make singing in a cassock slightly uncomfortable, though we could take Zadok slightly quicker.
Back in Toulouse that evening, the layclerks enjoyed a mojito while watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics in a cocktail bar near the hotel (in the presence of one of the torchbearers featured on screen!). On the way back however, we got a flavour of the local weather being caught out in a tremendous thunderstorm.
The final concert of the tour took place in the ancient Basilica of St Sernin in Toulouse, the largest surviving Romanesque church in the world. The basilica features a stunning Cavaillé-Coll grand organ built in 1888 considered to be one of the most important instruments of it’s type in France. It was extravagantly demonstrated during the concert by the Assistant Director of Music at Chester Cathedral, Benjamin Chewter.
Another late night in Toulouse offered the opportunity to experience a wonderful light show projected on to the Neoclassical Capitolium Building in the centre of the city which was a tremendous array of pyrotechnics and laser wizardry.
Next morning, it was back on the coach for another day returning to Northern France and the outskirts of Paris for a visit to EuroDisney or Paris itself for those so inclined. This return coach trip offered a chance to reflect on the music experienced on the tour. A day out in Paris provided an excellent opportunity to visit (and re-visit) some magnificent church buildings for a spot of photography and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the city while sampling some regional beer and watching the world go by.