The last week at CLA France is hectic yet exhilarating. In the first two weeks, we work on specifying our vowels, cleaning our French diction, and finessing musical details. Once the concerts begin, our hard work is put to the test. Personally, I can fall into a bit of a practice obsession when I take part it in intensive studies. With all my necessary improvements in mind, I find myself preferring to practice in solitude then to present my new skills in public.
This is how I felt when the concerts approached: hesitant to perform. However, the concerts proved to be the perfect opportunity to test out, and, in fact, practice our recently acquired lessons. Moreover, the sheer quantity of concerts allowed me to feel comfortable taking risks and experiment with my voice and musicality.
For an idea, here is the schedule of public events during the last week of the program. (This does not include the first two concerts that occurred slightly earlier, as well as continued classes during the final week)
Wednesday, June 19 - Concert at Abbaye de Saint-Avit-Sénieur
Friday, June 21 - Public Masterclass at L’église Saint-Dominique de Monpazier
Friday, June 21 - Concert at L’église Saint-Dominique de Monpazier
Saturday, June 22 - Concert at L’église de Naresse
Sunday, June 23 - Concert at L’église de Cadouin
Tuesday, June 25 - Concert at Les Jouandis (our house!)
For the final concert, we performed at our own house as the ideal farewell. We were immediately shocked that the audience filled our satellite building - since Les Jouandis is isolated in the countryside, it is hard to believe that a full audience of opera-appreciators would find themselves there. We really shouldn’t have been surprised. An enthusiastic audience filled each of our concert venues, with numerous repeat attendees. There is clearly a special community that looks forward to the CLA concerts each year - I like to call them our CLAudience. ;)
The staff successfully transformed the room which we affectionately call PPP (after the Ping-Pong and Pool tables that are inside) into a beautiful and intimate concert venue. It was hard to believe that long days of rehearsals and late nights of games and wine took place in the same room that was then our elegant concert venue.
The room featured a long walkway for the singers to enter and exit, which felt like a grand celebration as we passed our teachers and mentors after performing each piece. There was a special energy in our green room as each of us cherished the opportunity to collaborate one final time. The concert concluded with a resounding standing ovation, but the night was not over yet!
After the last concert, we always invite the audience to remain at the property and enjoy a grand garden party. Champagne, hors d’oeuvres, and revelry filled every inch of the house’s exterior. We enjoyed a wonderful meal with the audience, which happened to include my parents. I was so grateful to be able to share my experience with them and also hear about their experience as audience members. I think it is wonderful that the CLA staff is so accommodating and encourages the audience to feel like part of our musical family.
Naturally, there was more music to be had. I turned around for one moment, and the next, there was an electric keyboard outside ready to accompany singers for an impromptu garden concert. Somewhere Over the Rainbow kicked off the light entertainment, followed by favorites from Carmen, Don Giovanni, Porgy and Bess, and even some popular Mexican music. Requests were being made and one person noted that it felt like an “on-demand karaoke event”. I found the spontaneous singing to be extremely heartwarming, as an indicator that this group of singers truly loves to sing. It reminds me of Gaspard’s encouragement to “take pleasure in the music”, and I will certainly remember these moments of levity as I move forward in my career.