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24 Jan 2010

Jazz in Granville

A recent jazz concert in Granville was another illustration of the way the arts are flourishing in Normandy. The musicians were the Indigo Trio, from Chicago: Nicola Mitchell on flute and voice, Hamilton Bankhead on bass and Hamid Drake on drums. The venue was the tiny 64 seat Théatre de Presqu'Ile in Granville. I have been to this theatre before, and this time it was also completely full. In fact there was not just standing room only, but the eight or nine children in the audience were moved onto the sides of the stage to make more room. Brilliant performance by a terrific group, who were clearly not used to playing such a small place, nor to the different ways of a provincial French audience. 

After a 45 minute starting piece, and a couple of shorter numbers, they took a bow, and then looked at each other in bemusement, because the audience applauded enthusiastically, but nothing else. French audiences are very respectful towards the artists, and assume that the artist decides what he or she will do, and that decision is the right one on artistic grounds. Not up to the audience to question that, so there was no expectation that there would be encores. However, after a minute or so, an English voice in the audience (not me) called out 'Could we have another please?'. The musicians were greatly relieved, and started another 45 minutes.

The group's other concerts in their tour were in much bigger places, like the theatres at Caen and Rouen, but I think the intimacy of the Presqu'Ile made for a better concert than many in the bigger places. The performers were closer to the audience, and the audience could see exactly how the musicians played. This was for me particularly interesting watching the drummer, who had a number of personal techniques. It was fascinating watching some of the more intricate pattern making, and the use of a variety of sticks and brushes. By coincidence, I saw him again on television a week ago, playing with the 77 year old jazz musician Arche Shepp. This was on a programme on the wonderul France-German channel Arte. Shepp was interviewed, and spoke in English and fluent French at random, sometimes switching in mid sentence. The CD with that music is available here, and is a fascinating mix of jazz and - as unlikely as it might seem - rap music.

The Théatre de la Presq'Isle has now been renamed the Théatre de l'Haut Ville, and has become associated with the othert theatre in Granville, the modern Archipel, which has 443 places. Compare Granville, population 14,000, with a similar size of British town, and see if you can think of one with even one functioning theatre, never mind two.

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