Café Plum in Lautrec was buzzing on Thursday evening.
It is a bar with a bohemian air, set up a few years ago in the old village school house–spacious and welcoming. It doubles as a bookshop–bookshelves floor to ceiling–browsing between courses encouraged.
The arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau and the prospect of a rousing gig from favorite sons, The Narvalos–nine local musicians with a reputation for playing long and hard–a perfect match for the atmosphere of unspoken defiance and determination that life must proceed as normal.
Nothing said, but clearly–no surrender.
Autumn is in and the trees are almost bare–though not the oaks, always the last to shed.
No stopping that either–winter is coming.
The Narvelos–not sure why the name–were on song Thursday from the start, playing a brilliant set of high energy French popular music, most their own–sort of chansons that rock.
There was a feeling of comradeship–long term–that spread out from the bandstand to encompass us all.
We were all Narvelos Thursday night!
We left at 11pm– but the party went on ’til 4am we heard!
The next night Café Plum were the promoters of a different sort of gig–in the village church–a imposing building with an elaborate baroque interior. The bells strike the hour twice and still summon the faithful, but the church struggles these days to fill the pews.
Friday night though there is a fair turn-out for the concert of songs from the Basque country that borders the Atlantic–four hours to the west of us.
Unaccompanied singing in close harmony–acapella or polyphonie.
The five men in the group–their black outfits encouraging a feeling of monkish brotherhood–start singing at the back of the church and make their way up the nave, glancing at one another, as though in conversation as they proceed–confirmation of their experience and fraternity.
Their formation–who stands next to whom–changes, the harmonies enhanced by the appropriate proximity.
For one song four of them form a close circle–arms held loosely round their waists.
The leader–Pascal Caumont–introduces each song as though he’s talking to you in your living room–then taps his small tuning fork, puts it to his ear, emitting an almost imperceptible oumm–which the others appear to pick up in their heads.
Then that quiet glance to each other again before the inward breath and the perfect synchronized start.
Their harmonies are daring and mesmerizing and like the Narvalos they communicate a sense of mutual trust for each other, earned over a long period of practice and performance; not too much to call it–love.
Before gifting us an encore they modestly promote their CDs and hint that they might wind down at Café Plum with more.
We head over there and are rewarded.
Vive la France! Vive la Musique– mais surtout, vive L’Harmonie!
*I apologize for misspelling the name of Vox Bigerri under the first photo in my original post.