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On Song - Chorale Chantvalon

On Song - Chorale Chantvalon

With so many talented individuals performing around the region it’s easy to forget just how impressive a tight, well-rehearsed choir can sound. Roger Moss looks at the anglo-French phenomenon that is la Chorale Chantvallon...


music-choir-chantvallon-poitou-charentesYou never know where something which sounds like a fun idea might one day lead you. Certainly that’s how it now feels to the small circle of parents whose children attended the village schools of Les Adjots and Taizé-Aizie, near the northern Charente market town of Ruffec. In 1994, along with the music teacher Daniel Aguilard, they came up with the idea of trying to put together a community choir, with the simple aim of strengthening links between the two communes. Needing a name, they chose something which seemed logical, combining ‘chant’ (singing, obviously) with ‘vallon’, a reference to the vallonné (or hilly) nature of the local landscapes. Such were the modest aspirations on which la Chorale Chantvallon began to take shape.

But as anyone who has witnessed a choir flexing its vocal chords will know, something magical can happen as energy levels rise, and with them the spirits and commitment of all involved. Not surprisingly, word gradually spread of the group’s regular rehearsals, encouraging others to join alongside the founding members. But where was it all going? Rehearsals are enjoyable, of course, but as with any performance-based activity, sooner or later you have to get out and perform in front of people, and show the world (and yourselves) what you can do. Reactions to the first performances were encouraging, to say the least, and a determination to do more carried the choir through the next few years.

Eventually, though, despite the group’s sustained enthusiasm, in the summer of 2000 their conductor had to leave, whereupon the then-President and Bureau decided to enlist the services of a Musical Director capable of broadening the repertoire and allowing the choir to evolve and discover its full potential. They found what they were looking for in Kathy Smith, a bi-lingual Graduate of Trinity College of Music, London who was not only an accomplished soprano, but also a teacher of cello and recorder at the Ecole Départementale de Musique. It was a fortuitous meeting for all concerned, for at the time Kathy and her tenor partner Chris Pell were also busy establishing DeuxPlus et Compagnie, an ensemble of Franco-British singers and instrumentalists with a decidedly eclectic repertoire stretching right back to medieval music. Not surprisingly, under Kathy’s stewardship as Chef de Chœur the choir soon widened its sights, adding spirituals, gospel songs and Eastern Orthodox sacred music to its traditional French repertoire, and set about generally raising its game.

Fast-forward to 2013 and we find Kathy, Chris and new President Bernard Audonnet still very much at the heart of things, while the choir has added an intriguing Franco-British dimension to the mix. Kathy’s default language when directing weekly rehearsals remains French, but around one-third of the line-up – currently 8 sopranos, 9 altos, 5 tenors and 6 basses – is now British. It’s certainly not by design, but reflects the demographic of the local communities This has inspired several concert trips to the UK, the choir having performed to audiences in Hampshire and Kent, with a forthcoming exchange visit to Cornwall planned for later this year. In recent years the members have also welcomed choirs and other visiting musicians from as far away as Québec, to perform alongside them around the Poitou-Charentes region.

 

Find our more about la Chorale Chantvallon’s past and future concerts at: http://chantvallon.blogspot.com or contact them via email:
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