Jump to content

The Mystery Of Lachenal #2

Recommended Posts

(I posted this in the "CONCERTINA HISTORY" thread and then realized that it probably was more appropriate to this thread, so I'm posting it here too and hope this is O.K. to do.) I really would love any comments or feedback from readers, especially if you've had a similar experience in your own life. Juliette !!





Sometimes things happen that can’t be explained away so easily with clichés like “it’s a small world’ or “its just a coincidence.


If you have never been to France or, at least this part, Correze, of France, it will help if I explain a little about the region. This is a mountainous place where most of the roads wind and twist their way down into deep gorges and up steep hills. Straight is only for a kilometer or two.


There are thousands of small back roads that stretch in every direction and that are really only meant for one car at a time so you have pass each other, you pass with half of your car off on the edge of a deep ditch or a precarious drop off, sometimes hundreds of feet down to the bottom.


French drivers seldom slow down when meeting on these roads and instead perform a jog type maneuver as they pass each other. It’s a bit like the game of “CHICKEN”. Amazingly few meet their demise while engaging in this recklessness habit. It’s a good thing that there are seldom many cars and I learned that a good trick is simply to pull over and stop, then they’ll go around you and nod or wave at you in amazed appreciation.


It’s really worth it, though, to take a drive on these roads because the scenery is so beautiful and you will discover all kinds of wonderful old villages and hamlets of stone houses with thick slate roofs, Chateaux, Abbeys, gigantic twisted and gnarled ancient trees of countless varieties and jillions of wild, as well as tended, flowers everywhere.


A great part of the French population can be found living along these countryside roads and they are often seen out for a promenade. They most always acknowledge your presence with a nod or wave of the hand. You have to be careful about stopping and talking with them, because the next thing you know, you’ll be invited to their house for coffee or a glass of wine and cookies.


On last Sunday, a year ago, I attended an Accordion Festival at St. Dezéry which is just 12 kilometers down the highway from where I live on the route to Bordeaux. The event is held around and old church that sits on top of a hill overlooking the village.


There was a stage set up and in front of it a wooden dance floor. This was surrounded by fruit and flower vendors, a wine and beer tent and all the trimmings of a country festival. There was a fascinating display of old, antique cars and motorbikes which are especially popular here in France these days.


Accordeon festivals and dances, like this, are found all over the countryside on weekends in France. Even throughout the winter in the festival halls which nearly every village has.


There was an accordion player there who had been advertised on posters put up along the highway and everywhere else in the area. Her name was Natalie, a nicely dressed woman in her thirties. I watched and listened to her play, she was marvelous, and I really wanted to play like her. She was astounding. I learned that she was the head an Accordeon school in St. Sauves which is about a half hour drive from where I live.


I visited the school, C.N.I.M.A., the next week and asked if I could study there. They first listened to me play and then welcomed me and agreed that I could study at the school with my concertina, though no one there actually played a concertina and most had never seen one before. So in September I wound up as a lone concertina player surrounded by Accordeonistas . Most of the students were French, but there were also students from Italy, Portugal, Spain, Japan, and Poland, so it was an interesting and fun mixture of students.


I had studied music before, but it was different here, the accordeon playing and teaching were really intense as well as the other subjects such as composition, music history and the important things that help you to be a musician. And all the teachers were very first rate, accomplished musicians themselves!


They teach “Ball” which is the French style of dance music, Classical or Bayan (taught by a Russian player), Variety, Modern and Jazz. Most of the students are fairly young but there are some older students as well, even up in their sixties, especially for the short one week terms that they hold while the regular students are on break.


I learned a lot about bellowing techniques, improvising, but the most important thing that really changed my concertina playing was the suggestion by one of my teachers, Sebastian Farge, that I could work out full arrangements of the music I like to play. Sebastian is also a composer. He took the piece I was working on and wrote out a full accompaniment to it.. Ï said I didn’t think it was possible for me to play, but he answered “of course you can!”


I thought it was an impossible task when I first started to try to practice it. But when I came to my next lesson and haltingly, struggled through the piece, he said “good, you’ve got it! This was the most important lesson I’ve ever had. It has helped me to become a self accompanying solo concertina player. My dream is to be able to travel around the world and to play for people with just my concertina.


Sadly, finances caused me to have to leave the school, but I continue to work very hard every day at my music, practicing and writing, about 4 to 6 hours each day including weekends.


Last Sunday I went again to St. Dezéry for this year’s Accordeon Festival. As l walked up to the church I met my teacher Sebastian, who I hadn’t seen since last December. I told him about my progress and thanked him for the help gave me as it had really changed my concertina life which has now become so much more exiting to me. I told him how happy it had made me.


I had arrived in St. Dezéry about 2 p.m. and Sebastian said he was going to be playing at 5:30. So the thought occurred to me, that I had time drive down to Lachenal and get my picture taken by the village sign. Just so someone in the C.net forum didn’t beat me to it. It took about an hour to get there from St. Dezéry


On Sunday afternoons in France the roads in the country are nearly deserted and it was a very pleasant drive. On my first visit to Lachenal, for some reason, I hadn’t gone on into the village. The sign was just at a fork in the road, it had been raining hard at the time and I only stopped long enough for the quick photo, backed up and went a kilometer up to the village of Darnet where the old church was that I played in on my first visit.



So when I arrived again at Lachenal, what was beyond the sign was to be seen for the first time. Not far after the sign was a sturdy concrete fence and a drive that lead down to a beautiful large house with barns, a pond and several other buildings. These can be seen in the background of the first photo that I posted about Lachenal. On each side of the stone gate is a “LACHENAL” sign. I posed for some photos leaning against the wall and playing my concertina. I was quite surprised to discover that this was all there was to LACHENAL. Just this one ancient farm with two signs on each side. The farming had ended long ago and it was now just a well kept residence.


Down the lane behind me, I saw an old woman with a cane and cloud of white hair, who I later learned was in her nineties. I went to greet her, upon getting closer I noted that while she was quite old, she looked very pleasant dressed in her Sunday cloths. As is the custom here in France, after talking to her a little, I was invited to come down to the terrace by the house and have some refreshment. I thought she might make someone a wonderful “Fairy Godmother”.


We sat and talked and I played my concertina for her. She said that she had lived in this house for nearly 70 years and that her children were all musicians. Her son and grandson were playing in St. Dezéry that very day. Her son was playing keyboard and her grandson played the accordion. When I heard that her grandson played accordion, I asked if she might know of Sebastian Farge who was my teacher. She laughed and said that Sebastian was like another grandson to her.



If you go to the "Concertina History" thread there is a photo on this post of me playing at the Gates of Lachenal.

Edited by squeezora
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a wonderful story, Juliette! And I did go look at your picture- it's great! From reading about all the work you've done to progress on the instrument, I now understand the quality of the recording you shared with us. Squeeze on!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Juliette,


Well, I had one strange experience, on my first trip to Ireland. It was 1991, and I was living in Scotland at the time. My friend, Ian Munro, suggested a trip to the Willie Clancy Summer School, as he had just started playing Irish style on the Anglo. Anyway, after a nightmare trip (I was in Croydon, on business), I met up with Ian and we duly arrived in SW Ireland (miracle, as we both fell asleep while Ian was driving, and were only woken up by a car passing in the opposite direction!).


I had always wanted to go to Ireland, to see Irish music played by the traditional musicians, on "home turf". We had a great week, but back to the story.


We both finished up in the bottom class, after Noel Hill had heard our playing, and asked whether we played jigs/reels. This is what I expected, since the tutors were teaching the "Irish Style", not how to play the concertina. There were a couple of Europeans in the class (who both turned out to be German). On the second day, the girl said to me "I've seen you before". This was no great surprise, since, at the time I was travelling to many UK festivals (and you can't remember every face, let alone name). Anyway, I made a response along these lines. "I've never been to England", came the reply. Puzzled look on my face :unsure: . "But I've definitely seen you before", she continued; "maybe in Ireland?". "I've never been to Ireland, before", I replied. Puzzled looks on both faces, now :unsure: :unsure: .


This rather bizarre conversation continued in the same fashion for a couple of minutes. I then asked her where she was from. It was France, but close to the German border. "But originally, I come from Germany", she added. At this point, a metaphorical light came on "I've been to Germany; where are you from?". She told me that she was from Paderborn. "I've been there, I exclaimed!". Finally we were making progress.


I was still a bit puzzled. I had been to Paderborn for a week over the New Year 1980/1, with an old school friend (Ray), who had spent 18 months in Paderborn whilst in the army. Unlike most army lads, Ray had mixed with the local community, formed a guitar duo with one of the local lads, and generally got on well with all the girls (when we arrived there, one girl threw herself at Ray, found him a guitar, and requested that he played "Stairway to Heaven", which was his party-piece). Anyway, I had met all of Ray's friends, and this girl was not one of them.


Anyway, the conversation continued. I then asked her where she drank in Paderborn (clutching at straws by this time). "The Red House", she replied. "I went there, once!" I said. Finally, we had the location.


So, having seen me once, ten years previously, she remembered me. I can only conclude that as Ray spoke fluent German, with the Paderborn accent (and with cropped hair/glasses, he looked German), this girl would have seen him in the small bar, speaking German with his friends. I can manage English, and am useless at other languages, so on the occasion when I was in the bar, much of the conversation was in English.


So ends a bizarre tale. As they say, once seen, never forgotten.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...