D-Day 70: The Armed Man Project, Normandy (Part II)

Day 2

The hospitality from our amazing French hosts continues – we were contacted during the afternoon by l’Orchestre Regional de Basse-Normandie (ORBN) to say that the town we were rehearsing in (Mondeville) wanted to give us all a meal before the rehearsal tonight. On arriving we found a feast fit for a king – I am continually bowled over by the warmth of greeting and welcome to us all.

A machine gun unit strolls through the streets of Caen

There’s a distinct atmosphere of anticipation in the air in Caen – veterans, service personnel from today’s armed forces in British and American uniforms can be seen in the cafés, restaurants and around the city. Some of the few surviving vessels from the landing are in the marina.

This afternoon Christine Dipple, Deputy Chair of the BSO Board of Directors and her husband Jim arrived on the afternoon ferry from Portsmouth, recounting their sea crossing on Brittany Ferries which was packed with veterans who were invited onto the bridge as the ship docked at Ouisterham. Christine (a fluent French speaker) helped us enormously during the Titanic project in 2012, and is very used to the French way of working, which is helpful to us. I’d like to say a big thank from all of us to Chris and Jim for taking the time to come over and share this incredible experience.

There’s lots of publicity material about the D-DAY 70 events around the town and it’s good to see the BSO’s name wherever The Armed Man concerts are mentioned.

Rehearsal begins in the gymnasium

The rehearsal went well – it’s interesting hearing a 250 strong French choir singing in English, and at times we were able to help with pronunciation which made us feel rather helpful! Once again Jean Deroyer, the conductor worked intensively with the choir. He exudes an air of efficiency combined with a pleasant, encouraging manner. Everything augers well for the first performance of the run at the Caen Memorial Museum tomorrow.

Lots of cameras have arrived in preparation for the big concert tomorrow (in the same place that our Queen and President Obama visit on 6th June).

Fabrice & Andy hard at work (notice Fabrice’s beautiful scroll!)

We all seem to be picking up our own personal D-Day stories. My wonderful and lovingly eccentric principal double bass Fabrice told me his – both his parents were taken by their respective parents to shelter from the bombardment of the city in the local Hotel de Ville. Children at the time, they were not particularly close

A huge cross made of rubble was constructed so that it was visible from the air, indicating the building was full of civilians. Amazingly, the building was not touched and everyone survived. Ever since, Fabrice’s parents have been inseparable! Powerful and also ironic, as the Hotel de Ville was the building we had the preparatory meetings for this project.

This is a wonderful experience indeed.

Andy Baker
BSO Community Musician

Posted in BSO

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