Chansons de France
This is a collection of wonderful little French folksongs strung together in a single movement. Actually each individual folksong was arranged for piano duet several years ago, but in the creation of this work there is much new composition. Weymouth is twinned with Louviers [just as Dorchester is with Bayeux] and back in the mid 1980s I took the first group of Weymouth College students -- all music students -- in a battered Ford transit van for the first of many cultural exchanges with the students of the Lycée in Louviers. We had quite an adventure, including breaking down on the outskirts of Paris, and many lifelong friendships were formed from this time. I was given hospitality by the English teacher, Ghislaine Lecavelier, who lived in Rouen which was a good 40 minutes away even at the speed she drove each evening after school. She still lives in this magnificent city and we still visit her. It was in 1990 that I bought for my daughter a little hardback book of French folksongs. Ghislaine, the English teacher, was learning the piano as was one of her friends from school, which prompted me to set these folksongs for piano duet to give to her.
Although cast in one movement, these are the folksongs I have set:
1. V’là l’bon vent
2. Il était un petit navire
3. La Yoyette
4. La légende de St Nicholas
5. La rose au boué
7. Gentil coqu’licot
8. Sur la route de Louviers
I have often asked people I meet in France if they know the songs and nearly everybody knows all of them! They are as iconic as our well-known folksongs and nursery rhymes are for us. And I still haven’t given back the little book I bought my daughter Sam….
Now, this work was prepared especially for the violinist Matthew Ward to premiere on October 18th as part of the "durnoVibe" festival. The ensemble met from 8.30 in the early morning and rehearsed solidly through to well after 1.00pm - and the first concert was at 2.00pm. So we ran out of time and, to my shame, I had to cut this work from the concert, knowing full well that Matthew had prepared the considerable solo violin part. It was a hugely disappointing decision that I much regret, and at the first opportunity I want to perform this work, with Matthew as the soloist, with ample rehearsal time to do the piece justice!