We have come to appreciate that the differences between our old lives in the United States and our new lives in France are defined by more than just the difference in language. The cultures are different on a fundamental level. Nothing illustrates that difference more than the pair of concerts that we attended this past weekend. They were more than concerts. They were community events. I'll start with the last one first.
Eight musicians comprise Oct'Opus. Get it? Eight arms = eight musicians. Except, of course, you can see ten musicians on the stage. Picky, picky. Dec'Opus? Doesn't work.
The concert took place in Quarante's Salle Polyvalente - community room. We'd been to various events there but never a concert. And this was more than a concert. It began with a mixed group of local musicians, teachers and students, playing three tunes for us on a variety of instruments - brass, woodwind, strings, and percussion...unexpected as I had looked up Oct'Opus on the internet and was expecting adults and saxophones. But we were treated to a recital of sorts that included a tune very familiar to us...the jazzy St. James Infirmary from New Orleans. And of course, with parents in the audience, the reception was enthusiastic.
After a wait that seemed longer than necessary, Oct'Opus took the stage. These are accomplished professional musicians from conservatories around the country and their professionalism was on display. From classical to jazz to avant-garde, whether the music covered your favorite genre or caused a bit of a stretch, they played with cohesion and confidence. And they even threw in a bit of choreography. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Equally enjoyable was the fact that the evening included kids. Not just the kids performing but the kids in the families. While I have no doubt that the local sitters had their hands full, the fact remains that even when the evening may promise to be a long one, the French expect their children to attend and behave. And they do. For proof, consider the previous evening's festivities - Ocho Punto G at the Salle Nelson Mandela in Capestang.
This picture was taken by friend Eva rather late in the evening. Note the kids dancing in the front. A group of young people, mostly pre-teens by my guess, hung out with the adults the entire evening for what amounted to a community zumba class. You see, Ochy Calderon not only leads a fun salsa, meringue, and bachata band but he brings along a young lady to teach the dance moves at a session prior to the concert and lead the dancers during the show. It's a hoot and a half. And even if the band is not as tight as some that I've heard, they certainly led the enthusiastic efforts of a crowd sufficiently large that the venue had to be changed to accommodate the interest. Incorporating local brass players was a nice touch as well. YouTube suggests that's a common practice for the band.
And as always, both evenings were well worth the price...there wasn't even a registration table taking donations in Quarante and we donated 5 euros apiece at the door in Capestang and paid 17 more euros total for two plates of aperos, two carafes of wine, and a chocolaty brownie for dessert.
Our friends sometimes wonder what drew us to France. The food and the wine, the geography and the weather aside, these surprising two nights are reason enough by themselves.