By Veronica

From the sublime to the ridiculous

The sublime: Jacky Terrasson. We've now seen him live four times, and listened to his CDs over and over again, so I don't know why he keeps surprising me, but he does. From the first notes, I am captivated, and within five minutes I am once more thinking, "He's a bloody genius!" He takes tunes you know, picks them up, inspects them from every angle, turns them upside down and inside out, mixes them with other tunes, and then returns them to you brand new. His technique is impressive, his musical culture outstanding and reaching far beyond jazz and chanson française: Poulenc, Satie, Ravel, Debussy ... there are echoes of all of them. He's also one of the most improvisational musicians I've ever heard. Sometimes you're sure he only decides what note to play at the last second, his hand hovering over the keyboard before it plunges. Then there are streams of consciousness, one idea merging into another. In the middle of an intense version of Caravan, we suddenly got a casual phrase from Serge Gainsbourg's La Javanaise, elaborated on and then discarded in order to return to the main theme. Part of the fun is recognising these distorted snatches of familiar tunes.

So accompanying him must be a considerable challenge. Playing with a double bass player and a drummer, it was as if an electric current was sparking between them; each grabbing a cue and playing with it before passing it on. The kind of musicians who have no need of an audience; the sheer pleasure was evident. We were astonished when at the end of the concert Jacky told us his usual drummer had had to drop out with only two days' notice, so he and the replacement drummer had played together for the first time for 45 minutes on the day of the performance. Here he is playing about with Besame Mucho. He's also a wonderfully subtle and sensitive accompanist to singers: see the first video on this page.

The ridiculous: today the new choir I've joined took part in the Festival Régional de Chorales de la Montagne Noire. There were a number of things wrong with this event. It involved a total of four hours on a coach getting there and back in pouring rain, lunch for 200 people, zero time for preparation, and then six choirs each singing a few songs. Result, a concert that started at 2 and finished after 6. I think the (surprisingly large) audience should have got a round of applause for their endurance, although admittedly there probably isn't anything else to do in Mazamet on a wet Sunday afternoon.

The first five choirs stuck soberly to the brief and performed creditably apart from the odd wrong note and drifting tune. I prefer to draw a veil over the performance of the final choir, shown here, who sang no fewer than 16 extracts from various light operas while dressed in silly costumes. Most people had had more than enough after the first three. After leaving home at 8 am, I eventually got back over 12 hours later. I must remember to find a prior engagement for next year's edition.

I only took two photos all day, and this is the better of the two. It's pretty awful but I find it an apt souvenir of the day :)

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