Longford County Choir hosted a choir from Noyal 10 years ago in Longford and were invited back this year to perform there.
Twenty one members of the choir took part in the visit which commenced on Friday July 7 and lasted until Monday 10. The delegation was led by Councillor Seamus Butler and Mary Carleton- Reynolds, Longford County Librarian.
The delegation was met at Nantes airport by the leader of the Noyal Twinning Committee, Andre Guyomard, his wife Marie-Claire and members of the Committee.
From then until our departure they gave us marvellous hospitality and made us welcome in every way. Noyal is a pretty, well planned, town with 10,000 population a few miles north of Rennes which is the capital of Brittany. The choir stayed in a hotel in Rennes.
Early on Saturday morning they departed for Mont San Michel. This is a famous landmark located about 1 km off shore and connected to the mainland by a bridge. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is only second to the Eiffel Tower as a visitor attraction in France. The Choir performed at Mass in the magical setting of the Abbey on the summit of the Mont.
The original site on the Mont was founded by an Irish hermit who gathered a following from the local community. The first monastic buildings were built there in the 8th Century. Since 2001 a community of monks and nuns of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem have been living as a community on Mont San Michel.
They perform liturgical services four times a day in the Abbey and their chanting during Mass with the marvellous acoustic properties of the abbey church was sublime. The choir were very privileged to be invited to perform in this special church where some of the greatest musicians in the world have previously performed.
The Abbey Church commands extraordinary views of the vast sands of the surrounding bay and after mass we were treated to a special tour of the abbey, its extensive buildings and the town below it.
The next visit was to St Malo. This town, enclosed inside medieval town walls, was completely flattened by allied bombing prior to the Normandy landings during World War 11. It was faithfully reconstructed by the French and is now a major tourist attraction. We then returned to Noyal for a civic reception and dinner hosted by the Mayor of Noyal.
This was held in a multi-purpose civic centre and the food was prepared by local caterers and served by the members of the Twinning Committee who are local volunteers. The choir performed again at this function and the audience were treated to virtuoso performances from soprano Marie Matthews, a native of Dromard, and tenor Breen McGee.
They sang at Mass in the local parish church of St Ebron on Sunday morning. The community singing in the church was exceptional and Seamus Butler did the first and second readings in French.
We had time after Mass to tour the town of Noyal and visit the excellent local market before a sumptuous barbecue prepared by the twinning committee. The weather during our entire visit was exceptionally warm and there has been very good weather in this part of France so far this year. It is mainly tillage in this area and the harvest was well advanced.
The next event was a concert with a local choir called Vocalise in another church, St Leonard's. The church was packed and the concert began with the locals who gave a lively and stirring performance of French and particularly local Breton songs.
During our performance Maria brought the audience to their feet with her renditions of Padraic Colum’s “She Moves Through The Fair” and “Danny Boy”. Breen also hit the high notes with the “Holy City” and a touching and moving performance of “Macushla". The concert finished with a joint performance by both choirs.
The extraordinary Musical Director, Fintan Farrelly beautifully accompanied and directed all performances and we are so very privileged to have such a talented artist leading us.
The Choir will re-commence rehearsals in September and will welcome any new members who may wish to join.
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