Sad but unavoidable news. It was all ready and organised. But…
we much regret that the Covid-19 pandemic means that we must cancel Musique Cordiale 2020
Pour le version en français veuillez cliquez ici
We are very sad that, after 15 uninterrupted years of our annual summer festivals in the Var in southern France, Musique Cordiale has to announce the cancellation of the 16th INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL.
The 16th International Musique Cordiale Festival & Academy was due to take place in Seillans and the Pays de Fayence, in South-East France, 1-16 August 2020. We have been so conscious of the impact of any such decision that, through the Spring, we tried not to give up on the idea of retaining all or part of it in some form. You have perhaps been following our updates on the website, including the most recent still-hopeful message on 18 April. But we have since had to concede to the inevitable, at least in our familiar festival locations and for this summer. In this spirit, we wrote to our choir and orchestra on 5 May. We are now making the public announcement we tried to avoid.
We have all learned about the trajectory and risks of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. We have come to realize how the complex health constraints linked to it do not viably allow us to combine creativity with responsibility in ways we have enjoyed in the past. We honestly cannot contrive any scenario that adequately combines the safety of artists and the public, while retaining the unique cordiale and convivial spirit, so vital to the way we have made music together up till now. Our pan-European and multi-generational emphasis, with musicians, singers, students and audiences coming to stay and participate together from all over the continent (and beyond), puts a particular limit on us. For all these happy years, the festival has been built around the quality and diversity of its musical programming as well as a charming communion between vocal and instrumental music and the peaceful natural, historic and climatic ambience of Provence in summer. In light of what we have learned about the virus, we have particularly to bear in mind, for example, the needs of those of our loyal adherents who have enjoyed our concerts year after year but who include many in their 70s and 80s as well as whole families, perhaps discovering the delights of concerts in the lovely medieval buildings of the villages perchés of the Pays de Fayence – and in the open air – for the first time. For most of our singers and players though, Musique Cordiale involves travel from all over Europe and the possibilities for relying on this – and especially for air travel by older people – remains tightly constrained. It is also a challenge to sing, play or sit in audiences in confined spaces while wearing masks!
Conductor Graham Ross, director of Music at Clare College Cambridge writes: “I’m so very sorry that you’ve had to make this decision, but of course it’s completely the right decision at this time. Musique Cordiale has remained a firm fixture in my summer season for more than a decade (with one exception in order to perform in Sydney Opera House!). Year on year, the two-week Festival manages to strike that rare balance between serious music-making and serious fun, with friends and colleagues from around the world congregating under the Provençal sun ready to give their all to a whole host of musical concerts (and copious amounts of rosé). So many of the people I have met in Seillans over the years have become close friends, and the fact that so many of us return year on year speaks volumes. I will sorely miss working with all the wonderful musicians, all the planned concerts, the heat, the friendship, that impossibly steep hills, the car park dinners for the performers … everything. And so whilst we will all have to cope with a huge Musique-Cordiale-shaped hole in our 2020 summers, I have no doubt that – like all the projects that have vanished from our diaries this year – the Festival will return again whenever it can with even more zest and enthusiasm for the music. And for the rosé! “
From this, those who have yet to discover the festival soon come to realize that central to the enjoyment of the festival are the moments of conviviality that we share in restaurants, the scent of the Amphitheatre as the sun goes down after a sun-baked day, the warmth and echoes of historic squares and lanes in medieval villages perchés and the magic of music in acoustic churches and chapels or local vineyards. These provide the life and the relaxed stimulus that are the core of the intense 2-week programme.These include lunchtime and evening concerts and rehearsals, meals and travels associated with them, which also bring important economic benefits to the region. But, as our valued 16-year hosts and collaborators in Seillans, including Serge Liebovitz, adjoint pour culture, Jacques Leforestier, Festival vice-president, and, indeed René Ugo, Maire de Seillans and President du Communauté des communes du Pays de Fayence will remind us, It is most unfortunate in this difficult year, when the Covid-19 crisis had already done so much damage to our health and economy, that we cannot now look forward to the series of concerts that both appeal to local and holiday-making people in and around Seillans each August but also attract oft-returning audiences and performers from all over the world and who contribute so much to the local cultural scene and to the seasonal economy. We know only too well how cancellation will have troubling impacts on restaurants, transport providers, shops, hotels, chambres d’hôtes and on the many people in the canton who rely on renting their homes to us to accommodate our musicians and singers. Screens and technology are a pale substitute. Like others who want music, theatre and culture to survive this crisis and thrive, we will experiment and improvise as we have done in recent years with other out-reach projects like the annual String Academy, run in tandem with the festival for talented 15-20 year-old string players from all over the world and the Jeunes Choristes initiative, led for Musique Cordiale by pianist and conductor Rebecca Taylor for children of the Var.
The choral, chamber, operatic and orchestral music and recitals, along with food, wine and laughter and a little jazz, will be sorely missed by many. Yet, we ask ourselves, how can we imagine a musical programme unless it features voices, wind instruments or ensembles closely assembled – or without the gatherings of old and young, speaking many languages or listening in rapt silence before bursting into enthusiastic applause in crowded spaces? Can we conceive of a Musique Cordiale Festival without the friendly gatherings in intervals and after concerts, sharing the vin rosé that we provide for our audiences or the food and drink that we serve for up to 150 hard-worked performers each night in a tent, car-park or garden after concerts. Without all this, we were wondering how the Musique Cordiale experience can be its intimate memorable and appealing self? Our decision therefore recognizes our need to be true to our soul but also to respect the health priorities of all we affect. But it leaves a big disappointment for singers and locals alike: Madou Hillenius, French/Dutch architect and a long-standing singer in the Festival choir (and adjoint pour culture in the nearby town of Bargemon) writes: “What a pity that this crisis has put a stop to so many cultural events this year, including Musique Cordiale, that had such a great programme in store for us. For at least 10 years, I have been hoping to sing the Brahms requiem, and this was going to be The Year ! Things will be better next year, and I hope we’ll all meet again in Seillans then”. Or, from Alain Deïssard of Toulon: 2020 would have seen my 13th participation in the Musique Cordiale choir. 13, a bad number which deprives us of friends from everywhere, music, “Lavenders” (those who have frequently stayed at the same B&B, Maison des Lavandes), dinners, and the biggest classical music festival of the Var! … Well, let’s not cry and let’s prepare for a great 2021 festival, where we will all be in great shape and happy to be! Have a good virus-free summer!
Paris-based Jordanian soprano, Dima Bawab, a soloist booked for a return to the festival, adds: “When I heard that Musique Cordiale was being cancelled for 2020 I felt extreme sadness. I had my hopes up for this one, I truly believed the we could find a way to keep the festival going, adapting it to meet today’s sanitary requirements. But sadly that was not possible. Many of my projects for 2020 have either been cancelled or postponed to a later date; yet Musique Cordiale for me means more than just a music festival: it’s family, it’s friends, it’s music-making at a completely different level. I know that, come August, wherever I may be, I shall sing (to myself and the few who happen to be with me) Brahms’s « Ihr hart nun Traurigkeit », the aria I was so looking forward to performing alongside friend and conductor Graham Ross. My heartfelt encouragements go to the people « behind the scenes » whom, I know, have worked tirelessly, hoping, just like me, that Musique Cordiale would be maintained. I share your disappointment but assure you of my full support and hope we meet again, in the beautiful village of Seillans”.
We are so sad for talented players, many of whom have also lost much of their year-round livelihood or career or educational prospects, and to our choir, our artistic and admin teams, our local partners, our volunteers, the local inhabitants and arriving visitors and all those who were passionately involved in this edition of the Festival and its predecessors. No major orchestra has yet found a solution. Fortunately some of our musicians, like our orchestra leader, violinist Colette Overdijk, are members of well established orchestras like the the City of Birmingham Symphony which continue to pay salaries for now. But many others, especially the future talent that Musique-Cordiale has always nurtured successfully, are self-employed freelancers getting by with a bit of on-screen teaching. Some of our choral singers, including those in renowned choruses like the Bach Choir, which had to cancel on arrival for their US tour, are almost unable to operate. However, courtesy of a lot of work and resourcefulness from members of the London Symphony Chorus, many of whom also sing our Festival Choir, Owen Hanmer, who, as well as singing with us for 10 years is its chairman, has managed to organise successful remote recordings and online performances in recent months: quite a feat! Of Musique Cordiale he writes: “Magical Seillans and the Villes Perchés, melodious singing, memorable rehearsals, mouthwatering food and drink, momentous performances, much mirth and merrymaking with old and new friends. We will miss them all!”
The festival already planned a year of careful budgeting. So, neither its popular staged operas, originally directed by international tenor Andrew Staples, nor resounding full-orchestral symphony concerts such as those recently conducted by James Lowe, now music director of the Spokane Symphony in the USA, were envisaged in the carefully-designed yet inviting 2020 Festival Programme. Yet it was hardly unambitious! It featured the Brahms Requiem, Mahler’s 4th Symphony (with 10 players), an exciting collection of baroque and classical concerts and Jazz in the romantic setting against the backdrop of the castle walls and the Deux Rocs of Seillans’ Sarazine Gate from the remarkable Isla van Hout and Jetse de Jong. So, as Jonathan Barker explains (see notes below), “This is a catastrophe for Musique Cordiale finances (that we are only just managing with support from a few attentive and generous supporters), as it is for the Arts more widely. Much thought will have to go into how to revive both”. But, as Artistic Director and festival founder, violinist Pippa Pawlik, says, expressing feelings that will be shared by many: “Musique Cordiale has been my life and passion for the last 15 years, and I will miss it terribly. It’s particularly sad as Graham and I had devised a fabulous programme for this year, with a somewhat smaller but no less elite group of players and singers, who were all very eager to meet up in Seillans this August. We will miss you, our friends, supporters and audience, and hope to see you somewhere in the not too distance future”. For, in some form(s) and in due time, we will arise again. We are still here and will be back! Meanwhile, we will try to produce a compilation of music, video and images to remind you this autumn, and perhaps even in time for intended start of the festival this year, of the memorable features of Musique Cordiale that we we are all having to miss this time.
Cordialement et Amicalement… et à bientôt….
Jonathan & Pippa & l’équipe Musique-Cordiale!
For Musique Cordiale in the Var, the essential HEALTH REQUIREMENTS (e.g. distancing in medieval churches, masks for singers and performers as well as audiences + the need for our players and choir to eat meals and rehearse together AND the need for them – and half the audiences too – to travel long distances across Europe) make it nonviable this summer. Also, the age/health profiles of our audiences and choir make it unlikely that many of them will still even wish to participate… sadly. So many people in these groups have been self-isolating carefully. So, we realize that you and they will hardly wish to expose themselves to risk by joining us as early as August. And other countries (Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium and possibly the UK too) are prohibiting festival and non-essential travel until September and beyond. The same factors have resulted in the cancellation of other cultural events. We hope to devise a new future in which culture and conviviality can thrive. But will will take imagination, effort, scientific development. – and the passage of time.
We made an early decision to delay opening our BOX OFFICE (usually before Easter). So we do not need to reimburse any tickets purchased and the Billetterie will remain closed this summer. We have offered full refunds to our choir subscribers (though some generously intend instead to donate some or all of what they previously paid to participate – a hugely appreciated at this time as we have no cash-flow this year as a consequence). But, as for so many this year, the virus has dealt us a big financial blow.
We are happy to retain a loyal core of PASSIONATE SUPPORTERS. So, we hope to reward them and our talented performers with exciting musical offerings in another year, venue or season. Over half a year ago our Artistic director, Pippa Pawlik, in collaboration with Graham Ross and our artists, had devised SUCH an exciting repertoire ready for 2020. We hope to replicate this in some form in due time. Meanwhile Pippa, Graham and so many of them are just devastated not to be able to do what they so look forward to each years, both in summer in France and in Kent, GB in the late autumn.
We also send our THANKS to our friends in the Pays de Fayence and to its communes and office of tourism, as well as the Département du Var, which have supported us as well as to some of the key local business on whom we have relied and we wish them good luck and better propspects. These include: L’Escourtin / Le Moulin de la Camandoule and Super-U in Fayence, La Maison des Lavandes, La Magnanerie, La Gloire de Mon Père, Chez Hugo, Tilleul-citron, Peperoni, Le Maquis , Le Huit à Huit < Le Comptoir and Les galeries et les ateliers d’arts in Seillans, La Taverne in Bargemon and the vineyards of Domaine Val d’Iris (Seillans) and Grande Bastide (Tourrettes) and the suppliers of food and accommodation, transport and printing services, the churches of the Paroisse de Fayence – and to the équipe from the Service Techniques de Seillans for their reliable help over many years (as well as to our friends, supporters and suppliers in Kent,GB, where we also hold an autumn series of concerts to which our musicians and singers also come FROM France and all over Europe – still to be confirmed this year).
A few key donors are already proving to be wonderfully supportive. In the circumstances, we have no choice but to invite others PLEASE TO JOIN IN SUPPORTING MUSIQUE CORDIALE even – especially – this year (when, in the absence of income, WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT MORE THAN EVER). Please do contact us or contribute via our donor-box on our web-pages if you are in a position to assist us now. Imaginative contributors have even invited their friends to join them in sponsored events. Perhaps you could try one even on ZOOM! Why not celebrate your birthday with or for us in style?! Our whole enterprise needs help to sustain itself until we can perform viably again. We are also not clear if we might receive even some small proportion of the public funds which are sometimes awarded to us. As of now, we cannot rely on any such source of vital funds for which we devoted time to applications and negotiations many months ago. (Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of receiving – or even knowing in advance about – any grants or subventions more than a few months ahead of events that we stage). We have also lost the opportunity to hold any of our intended musical fund-raisers in Britain or the popular pre-festival Soirée musicale / diner de gala / collecte de fonds in the Pays de Fayence. We usually rely on this for some essential financing of our year-round costs. These are not the forms of expenditure which readily attract sponsorship at the best of times. They don’t sound sexy or fun. But they are the essential costs of running even a minimal “skinny” organisation year-on-year and of accounting for it as its engages with the public, students and artists, maintaining a website and a part-time payroll, recruiting musicians, maintaining lighting and sound systems, booking accommodation, food and venues, keeping in touch and maintaining links… and planning for the future. Your support will be much appreciated! As Festival treasurer, Jonathan Barker, highlights: Managing and financing classical music and a high-calibre summer festival is a challenge at the best of time, especially when it involves bringing talented players and singers across a continent and accommodating and feeding them – and providing enough rosé for them and for our audiences in the concert intervals and after events!. This year the virus has added a whole new source of anxiety and unpredictability. So your contributions will be as welcome now as your future ticket-buying will be whenever and wherever (and in whatever new forms) “normal service” resumes!
what you’re missing:
concerts 1 -15 August 2020 (annulé)
in the hills behind the Mediterranean.
The 2020 Festival Programme was to be announced in late March, including Brahms choral works with soloists, choir & ensemble, Mahler Symphony, Baroque Concert, Recitals & Chamber Music, soirées Jazz, evening and lunch-time concerts, opera arias
The 2019 festival featured 18 varied events – symphony concerts conducted by James Lowe and other orchestral works, chamber music, recitals, opera, choral, jazz, vocal, folk & a little nostalgic rock in beautiful warm surroundings in Provence, France 2019 festival programme here.