Roll over Beethoven.
A diversity of music in Montpellier.
FILMS , MUSIC, DRAMA AND ART
Montpellier is a vibrant city. One of the things for which I value it the most is the quality of its music. We have enjoyed some wonderful concerts both at the beautiful opera house in Place de la Comédie, and at the imposing granite built concert hall, The Corum nearby. From Monteverdi to Mahler, and Puccini to Philip Glass, the repertoire is vast, and the resident orchestra, choir and guest performers are always tip top. And so it was with some excitement that we set off for Montpellier last evening in order to hear Beethoven's Ninth Symphony which was to be performed by our Montpellier National Orchestra, conducted by everyone's favourite conductor Michael Schonwandt, now semi retired. The choral pieces were to be sung by three united choirs, together with four guest soloists. Little did we know that our evening's entertainment would begin a little earlier than anticipated.
We were treated to our first musical rendition as we took our seats on the line One tram. Someone was singing behind us. The tune sounded familiar. "Ah yes," I said "it's Swan Lake." It was a gentle voice but it sang the long opening phrase perfectly, over and over again. A few stops down the line a mother ushered a small girl towards the exit. The singer had been no more than seven or eight years of age. As we headed for the Corum I reflected that this talented child might well be occupying centre stage of this very concert hall in twenty years time. Maybe as a concert pianist, or maybe a diva. There is an excellent conservatoire where her musical talents could be nurtured, and Montpellier's children's choirs are a joy.
We left the tram at Place de la Comédie. It was 'Happy Hour' at our favourite pizza restaurant, and we planned to eat at a bargain rate before the concert. But what was that music that filled the air? This huge pedestrian precinct forms the very heart of Montpellier. It is always abuzz with people crossing purposefully from one side to the other, chatting in groups or just gawping, while some dine at outdoor restaurant tables. One often sees small groups gathered around an entertainer: a singer perhaps; an accordionist; or a group of break dancers. It is never boring here, but usually we don't linger. However, last evening I was stopped in my tracks. There was only one performer that night, but his voice resonated around the darkening sky. It was stunning. He had attracted a large crowd as he sang in French , while accompanying himself on an electrically amplified guitar and drums which he operated with foot pedals. But it was his voice that grabbed me. I suspect that he originated from Mali, because his voice had that haunting quality of Youssou Ndour. If he is not already a widely celebrated musician and singer , he certainly should be. Later, as we ate our pizzas, I asked the waitress if she knew his name. Sadly she didn't. Apparently he was new to the square, but judging by the way her eyes shone, I reckon he has already made many fans.