~ Charlie Par Choeur in Concert ~

Imagine a concert with songs from around the world: French, English, Spanish, American Indian, African, Russian, Czech and even Latin… and including styles from classical to jazz, from popular to folk. You don’t have to just imagine it, come out tonight, Saturday, June 10, at 8:00, and be a part of the celebration in song.

The music is the star of the show, and the singers are from our own community: businessmen and women, doctors, writers and teachers from both sides of the island. The setting is the Catholic Church in Marigot; but this is not a church service. It’s the end of season concert for the singers of Charlie Par Choeur, also known as the Pianissimo Choir. The Church provides a wonderful venue, airy and bright, with grand acoustics, yet still cosy.

The choir assembles, the sopranos, altos, tenors and basses. All are dressed in white, each with a coloured scarf cast jauntily about the shoulders. Smiles and kisses for all, a little nervous energy, electric excitement. They’ll sing the songs they’ve learned this season. It’s sure to be a celebration of diversity, as is the choir itself. Some of the songs have been introduced to the singers only in the last two months. Here we see the challenging pace of the director.

Charles Vangeenderhuysen conducts with intensity and pleasure. He has high standards for the choir, expecting serious dedication to the art form, and the members of the choir appreciate his approach. They come together every Wednesday evening for a two-hour session, men and women of many backgrounds, but with some things in common, primarily a love of music and a desire to sing. And they are fortunate to be accompanied on the piano by Magali Le Gouais, owner of the Pianissimo Music School which is the home base for the choir.

They will sing songs as diverse as the cultures of the island. In English, some popular tunes and standards, like “Fly Me to the Moon” (with a snazzy solo by Pascal Fonrose), “Skyfall” (directed by apprentice conductor Annabelle Ducrot), “Mack the Knife” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

In French, romantic ballads, such as “Sous le Ciel Paris” and “Belle Ile En Mer.” Also in French is the hymn “La Nuit,” made famous from the 2004 film Les Choristes. This song features a solo by soprano Marie-Line Saint-Louis Gabriel.

“Evening Rise,” a delicately harmonized song, has its heritage in the American Indian traditions. The tune harkens back to a mystic journey, as a feather floating, drifting, suspended in the air, finally settles as night falls.

And there will be some songs in languages from around the world. “Nine Sili Nesbesniya” is a liturgical piece written early in the last century by Russian composer Alexander Sheremetiev. It’s solemn prayer which blends the notes with exquisite exactness, each held in steady, bell-like tones – a tribute to another era.

“Durme, Durme” is a Sephardic Lullaby in an archaic dialect of Judeo-Spanish. The rise and fall of the melody allows for hauntingly beautiful harmonies, expressive of a mother’s love as she tells her child to sleep in peace without pain or worries.

Laudate Dominum is a vesper written by Mozart in the 18th century. The Latin text is derived from Psalms 117. This song features soprano soloist Helen Hart with the choir joining in counterpoint.

Interspersed among these rather slow-ish songs are more up-beat numbers, including three African songs. “Pata Pata” was made famous by Miriam Makeba back in 1957. The joyful words are sung in the Xhosa language, with choir member Sharon Toulen taking on the role of the lead voice.

They’ll sing out the Zulu song “Thula Klizeo” by Joseph Shambala, which he wrote to comfort himself when he was away from his family and home in South Africa. This is a rhythmic chant of a song inflected with expressive cascades of vocalizations.

The third song from Africa is the lovely and inspiring “Ongea,” which is sung in a call-and-response style utilizing both English and Swahili. This song is also known by its English title, “Speak the Truth in Love.” The simple message of this song could in fact be the theme of the Choir Charlie Par Choeur, where people of all nations come together in peace to find beauty and meaning in life.

Other lively songs include “The Rhythm of Life,” from the Broadway musical Sweet Charity, the Latin jazz classic “Brazil,” a Czech folk song called “Stodola Pumpa,” a soulful spiritual “Roll Jordon Roll,” the festive frolic of “Bidi Bom,” and the happy Spanish invective to sing: “Cantar!”

In addition to all this, a select jazz ensemble composed of choir members will perform “Lullaby of Birdland,” “I Got Rhythm,” and “Les Feuilles Mortes.” These songs will showcase the sophisticated syncopation typical of the jazz vocal group Manhattan Transfer, a delight for the ears and the spirit!

Do come out to Marigot’s Catholic Church this evening to enjoy a music-filled evening with the singers and musicians of Charlie Par Choeur. Tickets cost Є10 and are available at the door.

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