Sunday, August 10, 2014

Monday: Ver Sur Mer, or Gold Beach

We sang tonight in Ver Sur Mer, the small town that contains Gold Beach (from the Normandy Invasion). It's a tiny little town, population around 1,500... and pretty much everyone in town (at least 300, 350) were at the performance. It was a multipurpose room in the community center - karate class posters hanging on the wall. The town sponsors a small concert series, with around 4-5 acts per summer. We were one of the big features.

Side note: an interesting feature of the towns in the Normandy region is that the houses all seem to be painted / stained the same cream color. We walked around the town a little bit, and that impression was confirmed. Plus, again, the streets are all these narrow former horse trails, and I have no idea how the bus drivers manage to guide these huge busses through streets that are narrow for bicycles, much less automobiles.

A picture of the civic center (that's the town's school on the left):

Pictures of the quartets that sang:

Pictures of the chorus from the rear of the auditorium:

The interesting thing was that the concert wasn't supposed to start until 8:45pm local time, and the concert organizer said that "tradition" was to start ten minutes late. We probably started closer to five minutes late, just because we're Americans and therefore different.

I did the MCing, alternating between French and English. My French pronunciation is okay, although as the night went on and I got mentally tired, I slipped more towards Spanish than French translations. I'm pretty sure I was somewhat understandable - at least, the audience got the gist.

The audience - wow. I honestly think that might have been the best audience for which I've sung in my barbershop career. The room was entirely packed, standing room only, with a nice mixed audience. The hung on every thing we sang, and some of the audience members sung along! (It was a respectful type of thing, not the annoying thing it could be.) And again, the audience knew the words to songs that our American audiences don't: We'll Meet Again, etc.

Every single thing we sang got a great response - lots of applause and smiles. Everyone was nodding and moving in their seats, and they clapped along at appropriate times. At the end of the concert, the audience requested two encores. That's freaking astounding.

I've been in barbershop for ten years. I've sung with international qualifying choruses, and I've directed choruses. I have never had an encore request in my time in barbershop. They utterly refused to let us go until we sang more music.

Let me tell you: that's an amazing feeling, I will never, ever forget that. It's one of the very few times that I've been utterly speechless on stage.

Afterwards, the concert organizers gave us cookies and wine / apple cider. It was a great reward from a great audience. More than one of the ladies came to me and said, "We might as well go home now - it won't get better than that."


When we got back to the hotel, I face timed with the kids. They had just gotten home from camp, and it was very nice to see them. They seemed happy. We had face timed with The Baby earlier in the day, which was very cute. The Wife and I appeared on the screen together, and his response: "Hi, Dad. I miss you, Dad." When prompted by Grandma, he said, "Hi, Mommy."


We met a group of Austrians in the hotel bar. We had chatted with them earlier, and we were going to sing for them but ran out of time before our performance. So, since they were hanging out at the bar while we were coming in from the performance, we sang "We Are Family." They really appreciated it.

A few minutes later, I was singing as a bass with Joe, Gordon, and Bob. We're having a fun and silly show on Friday night, and the guys and I are going to sing something. The Austrian guys really liked our song, so we sang some more for them. They sang some songs for us, and we sang more for them. It wound up being a mini-performance, where we sang all of the polecats that we knew for them. They bought us drinks, which is an awesome thing. Beer in Europe is different.

Turns out that one of the guys has lived, off and on, in Illinois with his wife, who is American. So, he speaks fluent English. They really enjoyed the singing, even if the rest of the group didn't really speak English.


Interestingly enough, English is turning out to be a common tongue in the EU. Students in France learn other languages just like students in other countries; enough of them learn English, and enough students in Germany or Austria or Spain learn English, that they can speak with each other. A French student might not learn German or Spanish, but since they know English, and the German students learn English, they can communicate. It's an interesting sociological thing; much like how English is the common tongue in India, where many, many different languages and dialects are spoken. But, since enough of them learn English...

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