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

Day 4

Abbaye aux Hommes, where the Queen is having lunch today with President Obama
Abbaye aux Hommes, where the Queen is having lunch today with President Obama

A gloriously sunny day in Caen today. Some of the musicians decided some sight-seeing was in order before the rehearsal and concert so we set off for Abbaye-aux- Hommes where William the Conquerer was buried – actually, just his thigh bone was buried.

In the hope such a piece of history be left alone, the Abbaye became a place of retreat for the inhabitants of Caen when the Allies started bombing the Germans. Slightly harrowing, you can still see gun shot marks on walls where civilians had been shot when the city was held by the Germans.

We walked the beautiful streets of Caen to find some food as there wasn’t to be time between rehearsal and concert. Food is always foremost on a touring musician’s mind, and we certainly haven’t been lacking in fantastic grub.

The ORBN 'Lighthouse' in Mondeville, Caen
The ORBN ‘Lighthouse’ in Mondeville, Caen

After une petite snoozette we set off for Lisieux Cathedral for concert number two. We met the l’Orchestre Regional de Basse-Normandie (ORBN) bus at their beautiful rehearsal rooms and all instinctively migrated to our normal BSO seats, where Judith (BSO Viola) managed to get some knitting done.

Whilst rehearsing Christine Dipple (vice-chairperson of the BSO Board) and husband Jim represented the orchestra at the ‘La Memorial’, Caen D-Day Remembrance Service where our extraordinary concert took place yesterday, and witnessed the unveiling of the bust of Tommy Harris who led the British Invasion force to liberate Caen.

Service of Remembrance at the British Garden, Caen Memorial

Today’s concert in Lisieux Cathedral included beautiful dancing by Jeune Ballet du Payes d’Auge and music from l’Orchestre Regional de Basse-Normandie, the BSO players and choirs. The performance aroused multiple moments of heart-breaking emotion with many of the 1000-plus audience standing throughout. Seeing so many war veterans in the cathedral as well as in Caen yesterday makes performing ‘The Armed Man’ by Karl Jenkins even more poignant.

Being part of the D Day commemorations is certainly very humbling and a real honour.

Vicky Berry
Second Violinist

Posted in BSO

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