- This is My Hadji Bey
- Eurovision in a Cowshed
- The Boll Weevil 3: On the Waterfront
- A Year in Brocante 11: An Easter Egg
- A Year in Brocante 10: Upscaling and Hacking
- Kevin Pearce
- The Bol Weavil and the Lightning Bug 2: On the Ground
- The Boll Weevil and the Lightning Bug 1: A Home in Ireland
- Love In The Air
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Tonight in Cork the 58th International Choral Festival begins with a Gala Opening Concert of Mozart’s Requiem by the Goethe-Institut Choir of Dublin and soloists. The Choral Festival began in 1954 as part of a three week Spring cultural event called “An Tóstal” with a week each of choral music and folk dance, film and ballet. The Ballet week died out, but the Film Festival and Choral Festivals are still going strong. Until May 6th, 4,500 singers will compete in the prestigious world class competitions in City Hall and entertain in concert halls, bars, galleries, churches and venues all over the city. There are now more people in Britain who participate in choral singing, than go to football matches, and this year’s Cork Festival is very democratic and though the competitions are serious and the seminars attract major composers, it is not at all stuffy - there is even a “Big Sing” next Saturday when anyone can come along and learn to sing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
In the old days however, the Cork festivals could be very grand affairs if one was a participant, guest or member. The Film Festival Club was dress only – more Mad Men than the Mad Men themselves – and often attracted people who hardly bothered to go to the movies, but loved to strut their stuff. My father, an academic and liguist, was always asked to be translator for the many foreign choirs who came to Cork, even from Eastern Europe during the Cold War. He would mind the Polish choirs, join in with the Germans and often brought the Spaniards home. When our parents went out at night to the gala performances and the Festival Club my father would not bother with a mere dinner jacket, he preferred white tie and tails with a top hat. It’s a wonder they ever got out at all, because we had to have several encores of his style performance….he would take a flat shiny disc from under his arm, snap it in the air and put it as a full top hat, on his head…..and then off again with a flourish, to be squeezed flat under his arm again with a bow.
The Choral Festival was always part of our Spring. When still too young to go to the concerts, we would be brought to FitzGerald’s Park after a sung Mass in one of the city churches, where various choirs and dancers would trill and twirl on the Banks of My Own Lovely Lee. The first time I went out without her after my daughter was born was to go with my mother to the Choral Festival. Said daughter later went on to manage the Festival for three very happy years, and if you look at the poster for to-night’s Mozart concert, in the crook of the conductor’s arm is a young blonde lass singing with the Gothe Institute and that would be niece Rachael. (www.corkchoral.ie/)
Yesterday was May Day, and at the Vide Grenier in Talloires on Lake Annecy, the air was full of the scent of Muget. Stall holders had vases of Lilies of the Valley decorating their stands, and women stood selling little bunches from big baskets at their feet and on their arms. It was there, in the square high above the lake in the sunshine, picking my way gingerly between the children squatting on the ground scrabbling through big baskets of coloured glass marbles that I came across a box labelled “Chapeaux Méchaniques” and was brought back to childhood. The hat and its box were 40euro and when the vendor asked if I was interested in buying and I said all I wanted was to take a ‘photo, he was as kind as he could be. Maybe that is the best way to go to Vide Greniers; take only ‘photos, leave only footprints (speak softly, always carry a big stick, sing like you’re on stage at the Choral Festival,dance like there’s nobody watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth) ……and for heaven on earth, it’s hard to beat a May Day in Talloires.