About ten years ago, when we first started spending part of the summer in rural France, we attended a series of concerts of varying standards and types (mainly classical music) given by visiting musicians in the ancient churches of the region. Some of these were outstanding, and I remember with particular fondness a performance of Allegri’s Miserere given by a choir from an English university. The acoustics of the church enhanced the power and beauty of the voices, and it was a truly inspiring performance. Another concert was given by a group of male singers from Sardinia, whose unique music and style of singing was an interesting but not entirely enjoyable experience.

But suddenly all that came to an end, and was replaced by a series of concerts entitled ‘The Noise of Music’ (Le Bruit de la Musique), and noise it certainly was. I attended one of the concerts, which was given in our local church. The place was filled to the rafters with an audience of people eager to hear this kind of experimental music. To my ears it was a mixture between a cacophony and some form of Chinese torture, but it was enthusiastically received by the audience.

All concerts stopped for a year or two during the epidemic, but now the experimental music performances have resumed with a vengeance. A few days ago the church near our house turned out to be too small to accommodate all those who wanted to attend the concert, so the doors were left open and the ‘overflow audience’ stood outside to listen. We could hear all manner of thumps, bumps and bangs emanating from there, but at least we could close our doors and windows and so avoid hearing more.

The following concert was moved to the larger venue of the open field next to the Mairie in the centre of the village. Tents were erected, food and drink was served, and before we knew what had happened our sleepy, remote, semi-deserted little village had become the focus of a major happening, attracting devotees from all over France (and even beyond it possibly).

Some consolation for those of us who are lovers of classical music (‘melomanes’ in French) is provided by the annual visit of a group of musicians from the Paris Symphony Orchestra who come to this part of France, where they have family connections. Each year these first-rate musicians prepare several programmes which include, inter alia, adaptations and arrangements of orchestral pieces introduced in a relaxed and conversational way by their leader, who is a cellist.

This year, for example, they gave some ten concerts in different venues in the region. We attended three of them, and were treated to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Mozart’s clarinet concerto at two of them. The third concert was devoted to music from films, but this consisted primarily of music by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, concluding with a moving rendition of the theme from Schindler’s List.

So our time in France continues to pass pleasantly and in an interesting fashion.