Saturday, 22 October 2016

The inventor of photography – part 2 and last

Because they are accessible free of charge we decided, on a day more suitable for a museum visit than for a day lazing in the sun, to visit the two museums in Chalon-sur-Saône.

Statue of Nicéphore Niépce - Chalon-sur-Saône
We planned to see the Musée Vivant Denon first, and to do the Musée Nicéphore Niépce, like the one in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes (see the previous blog) dedicated to the inventor of photography, afterwards.

Musée Niépce : the permant collection
We had seen both museums before; Denon for the first time in 2013, Niépce in 2011. Both had undergone some changes, and for the better.
Denon, a local museum with an archaeology and a fine arts department, had a small but interesting temporary exhibition of treasures from the Near- and Middle-East, and had extended its permanent collection with antique furniture from Senncey-le-Grand.

Musée Niépce : space for temporary exhibitions
Niépce had also been renovated or re-organised in the past years. It boasts a far more interesting collection about Niépce (and Daguerre) than Saint-Loup, including a display of antique cameras and objectives, and has ample space for temporary photo exhibitions. When we visited, there were two exhibitions running simultaneously: one with black-and-white pictures of Léon Herschtritt (La fin d'une monde) and one slightly less interesting (to my taste) of contemporary photographs in colour (L'oeil de l'expert).

Musée Niépce : space for temporary exhibitions
Two museums with the same theme: that cries out for a comparison.

The Maison de Nicéphore Niépce in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes has, as the place where the first photograph was taken, mainly historical value. It pays some attention to other inventions of Niépce, but the collection (mainly replica of inventions and re-arranged rooms) is not very impressive. The 6 € entrance fee could be better used drinking something on a sunny terrace elsewhere, to my humble opinion. I will leave the welcome and the opening times out of the equation to give the museum at least some credit. On a scale of 1 to 10: a meagre 4.

The most interesting display in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes

The Musée Nicéphore Niépce in Chalon-sur-Saône has a reasonable collection, and on top of that often interesting temporary exhibitions. Besides there is no entrance fee, and once one has seen the museum there are plenty of other things to see within walking distance (cathedral Saint-Vincent, Musée Vivant Denon, mediaeval houses, markets), and the old town boasts a number of terraces which invite one to sit down and watch the world go by. On a scale of 1 to 10: a good 8.

Musée Niépce : part of the permanent collection
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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Citizenship course

We have cracked many a joke about what one has to do to obtain a foreign passport. Each country has different demands in order to accept foreigners as one of their own.

It's a gas, gas, gas!
For example, to be able to pass as a Frenchman one has to adhere to a number of house rules; below is just a very small random choice.
Never walk anywhere, take your car, even between two shops which are bordering each other. Avoid leaving your car; chatting to another motorized friend can be done through the car windows, hence blocking the road for at least 20 minutes. However, if for an emergency one has to leave the car, make sure not to switch off the motor. That is the only accepted way to maintain the greenhouse effect.

Ah, what is 15 muntes among friends....
Never be on time. It is frowned upon when one arrives on time, let alone when one arrives a trifle early. Even when concerts are supposed to start at 20h00, do not appear before 20h15. That is the best way to annoy those who came "only" 5 minutes late.
As I said, this is a very small selection.
For a Dutch passport there are of course different rules.

It can be done this way...
I remember very clearly an English lady who had major problems jumping on the luggage carrier of a bicycle in motion. Most of the time the cyclist was thrown off the bike because of the sideways impact the passenger exerted. After weeks of practice and a partner with bruised ribs the lady was ready to apply for a Dutch passport.
Mounting a bike where the passenger already had taken place on the luggage carrier requires yet another skill, as attached picture shows…

Or this way!
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Saturday, 8 October 2016

The inventor of photography - part 1 of 2

Chalon-sur-Saône, the place where he was born and lived and Sint-Loup-de-Varennes, where he lived, worked and died are both proud of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a man with an exotic name, inventor of among others "photography".

The last statement is open to interpretation, but fact is that he produced the very first photographic picture (exposure time over 8 hours) in 1822.
Chalon has its Niépce museum, as has Saint-Loup-de-Varennes (a stone throw from Chalon): the house "Le Gras" where he took the first photographic picture ever.

Point de vue du Gras
The museum in Saint-Loup is open all day (except Tuesdays) from 10h00 to 18h00, at least so the website says. Not closed for lunch? That is a novelty, and as such "Unique en France"!
We arrived there at approx. 13h45, found all doors locked and a sign "Next guided tour at 14h00". At 14h15 we decided to do some shopping nearby and give it another last try when we were passing by again after our shopping expedition.

Another invention of Niépce
But alas, all doors were still locked. However, the sign had been removed as well. This time we spotted a young woman nearby, whom we actually had seen earlier, but further away. She was the tour guide, and she must have thought that we were some local burglars, not worth addressing because they were only guilty of almost kicking in the locked doors.

THE window
The next tour was at 15h00, but when we told her that we had already waited half an hour for the previous tour, and that we would not really be amused if we had to wait another 30 minutes, she gave in and started the guided tour at 14h30. The shed, which we thought was "the house", turned out to be the reception area and museum shop, and the big house nearby, where we had seen the woman in red earlier turned out to be the scene of Niépce's crime.

The museum hosts some models of Niépce's other inventions, some pots with chemicals from his original lab in Chalon, a replica of his study and workshop and of course the window from which the first photographic picture was taken. The building has obviously historical value, but one can question whether the entrance fee of € 6.00 pp is not a bit steep for the things on show.

The shield at the door
The Niépce Museum in Chalon is at least free of charge!
For our own website click here.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Les Grandes Heures de Cluny

In 2014 and 2015 we attended for the first time a few concerts in the series "Les Grandes Heures de Cluny", and we were very content with what we saw and heard. That was the reason we decided to subscribe to all concerts this year.

2015 Farinier : Edgar Moreau
"Les Grandes Heures de Cluny" is a series of classical concerts that takes place in July/August, which in itself is part of an even bigger event, the "Festival Musical des Grands Crus de Bourgogne".
In short: The concerts are given at various locations in Cluny. Last year the Cloister of the abbey was used for the bigger events (like the Chamber Orchestra of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra), while the Farinier of the abbey was hosting the more intimate concerts. After each concert there is a wine tasting on offer (at a price though) offered by various prestigious caves from the area around Cluny, such as Viré, Igé, etc.

2016 Transept : Ensemble vocal Beatus
This year there were even more venues. The program started off with a (free) presentation of the series with musical accompaniment of pianist Thomas Enhco and marimba player Vassilena Serafimova in the Cloître.
The first concert: : "Lux Lucis – Chants Byzantins & Grégoriens", by the Ensemble vocal Beatus in the Transept. An excellent concert of religious music by five singers in a location that was built for the occasion.

2016  Cloître : Orchestre Lutetia
Concert no. 2: A Beethoven concert by the Orchestre Lutetia conducted by Alejandro Sandler with pianist Frank Braley in the Cloître. the ouverture Coriolan, the fourth piano concerto and the seventh symphony.
The third concert:Chamber music of Haydn, Schumann and Dvorak by the Quatuor Ludwig with pianist Dana Ciocarlie in the Farinier.
Concert no. 4: "La Trompette dans tous ses Eclats", a varied but mainly Baroque program featuring six excellent trumpet players (alone, with two, three and even six players) accompanied by the Orchestre Lutetia conducted by Alejandro Sandler in the Cloître.

2016 Cloître : Simon Fournier & Nicolas André
Concert no. 5: Mozart's Requiem by the Choeur & Orchestre de l'Ain conducted by Eric Reynaud in the Eglise Saint-Marcel (again an excellent choice for this type of music).
The sixth and last concert: Music of Grieg, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich by the Orchestre de Chambre de Minsk conducted by Evgeny Bushkov with pianist Kyril Keduk and trumpet player Guy Touvron in the Eglise Saint-Marcel.

2016 Eglise Saint-Marcel: Orchestre & Choeur de l'Ain
And than there is still a seventh concert, even though it is outside the series: Jordi Savall with the Spanish percussionist Pedro Estevan and the Moroccan oud player Driss El Maloumi with a program called "Orient Occident". This very last concert will most likely be covered by a separate blog.
Summarizing I can say that, in hind sight, I regret that we did not take much notice of this particular series earlier. Each and every concert in the 2016 series was of excellent quality, the programming was varied and the venues for the concerts were chosen very carefully. Les Grandes Heures will certainly be on our program for the 2017 version!

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Guitares en Cormatinois 2016: the balance

Every year the same question crops up: was the programming this year good enough, did we manage to get sufficient spectators, were the receipts sufficient to cover the costs and is there still sufficient money in the kitty to pay for next year's edition?

Guitares en Cormatinois 2016
Those questions keep popping up before and after each festival, during every meeting, and in case of a negative answer the next question is undoubtedly "What can we do about it?".
Last year more attention was paid to anticipate the prevalent taste (folk music seems to be the magic word this year, a homage to popular artists long gone is always a crowd puller), to find catchy titles for the programs, to engage musicians who could be crowd pullers, but within our budget, etc.
And that has paid off.

Full house : Rossfelder
The church was more than half full during the first concert of Duo Duende, Bruel sings Brel gave, as expected, a full house, with Rossfelder there was no space left for the volunteers (they listened sitting outside the church), for the Corsican Polyphonies the volunteers found a space behind the altar while for Irish kind off we had to send people away after having sold the "places" next and behind the altar.

The volunteers
Financially it has been an excellent series, the reactions of the public concerning the quality of the concerts was positive, the blog I wrote before the festival, which I forwarded to some friends, resulted in at least 10 reservations (on a total of approx. 100 available seats!), in a word, after some festivals which could have done better financially, last series gives good hope for the future!

What one of the volunteers saw of the three Corsicans
Will be (fortunately), continued.
For our own website click here.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Horses and Brylcreem

When I was young, the youths of those days tried to distinguish themselves from the establishment by amongst others their hairstyle: Duck's ass for boys and Beehives for girls.

Brylcreem advert
Brylcreem was in those days something every boy used tons of. Personally I did not get excited by Rock & Roll music; Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & his Comets was simply not my cup of tea. As a result Duck's asses and Beehives also did not score very high on my list. However, recently I was confronted again with Brylcreem, or something similar.
During one of our trips in the vicinity we stumbled upon an announcement for a working horse show in Lalheue.

Working horses
Sue had heard about these shows, not unknown in England, where competitions were held in the country side, involving horses doing what working horses are meant to do (working…., ploughing, pulling carts, etc.). The horse that performed best won the prize.
On the day itself we went to Lalheue, and the dozens of parked cars showed us where the party was taking place. We saw a lot of working horses, but that was about it.

Trotting the day away
Not a plough or a farmer's cart in sight. The show was a sort of Miss or Mister Working Horse contest, where the horse was being judged on appearance, the "elegance" of its trot(?), how beautifully the animal could back up(?), etc. In a word, a Miss Burgundy contest, but this time with horses.

And back up!
After having watched two or three contestants we decided to give it a miss, but one horse caught our attention. It had a checkerboard pattern shaved on its behind, at least that was what it looked like. Looking closer we noticed that the pattern was applied using a brush, and it was kept in place by big quantities of pomade.

We were off quite quickly, but the horse? That has most likely been Rocking Around the Clock until the wee small hours of the morning…

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Fear of flying

Or should it be "Fear of not flying"?

Montgolfiade 2009
Each year, around Whitsuntide or Pentecost Chalon-sur-Saône celebrates its Montgolfiade, a festival where dozens of hot air balloons are supposed to be launched. And since this hot air balloon festival is always held on a Saturday and Sunday, there have been quite a few weekends where we set off to Chalon to see this from close-by. However, it has always been either rainy, or too windy, so either we ourselves cancelled the trip or the balloons refused to go up.

Montgolfiade 2016
However, during one of our vain trips we once found some cold air balloons attached to a gate on the venue of the Montgolfiade. My learned assistant knew that those things normally fly around sunrise or sunset, so one fine day, towards the evening we drove once again to Chalon. There was a slight breath of wind, but who cares?

Montgolfiade on a fine day (internet)
The balloons did not fly that night. The following day they did, however, as we learned from the newspaper. The burning question rests: are we content having seen the two or three balloons flying over Chazelle, or are we going to visit Chalon on day again to see dozens floating in the air?

Mini-Montgolfiade 2014 - Chazelle
For our own website click here.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Killing two birds with one stone

Given the enormous amount of artisans around here who occupy themselves with all sorts of handicrafts, the artists have to go through some length to be able to sell their products.

Exposition Belles de Mai - Berzé-la-Ville
They are united in a number of associations, some rigid, some a bit more flexible, which regularly organize exhibitions of their work. One of these associations is the "Belles de Mai" (in winter they operate as "Mères Noël"), that organizes at the beginning of summer and towards Christmas an exhibition in a spot that is also of interest on different grounds.

Gypum kilns - Berzé-la-Ville
This year they had chosen the old gypsum kilns in Berzé-la-Ville. We knew the kilns from a previous visit in August 2012, when we were invited there by a group (Amis de Vieux Berzé) who occupied themselves with the restauration of the kilns. Of course this was reason enough for a revisit.
This exposition gave us a chance to see what the restorers had achieved, and what the artisan hat makers, potters, jewellers, etc. had wrought.

Exposition - Berzé-la-Ville
The kilns had undergone a metamorphosis over the last three and a half years and formed a perfect setting for the exhibited jewellery, ceramics, clothing, etc. The weather, which is an important factor for the success of these events did not spoil the fun. When we arrived around lunchtime (a perfect time to avoid the crowds) all the ladies were enjoying the warmth and the sunshine chatting and sipping their glasses of wine. The whole scene gave me a strange déja vu feeling, seeing all these ladies dressed in white.

Not a Chinese funeral!
That is however something very personal. It very strongly reminded me of the gatherings around Chinese funerals, where a certain generation of mourners is dressed in white, and where after a wake of 3, 5 or 7 days the mourners are behaving as a group of family or friends during a happier occasion than a funeral. Anyway, the "Belles de Mai" had every reason to be really happy and gay!

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Slaves of the World, Unite!

Revealing the plaque
This year saw the 7th edition of the festival Ourtre-Mer en Bourgogne, and this year's theme for the festival was the abolition of slavery. The association "Amis des Antilles" from Montceau-les-Mines plays a prominent role in these festivities, and the Antillean chairwoman of this club, Mme Christiane Mathos, also owner of an Antillean restaurant there kept her end up during the preparations of the festival.

The plaque
Even though Montceau-les-Mines is not exactly an area of our special attention, the fact that Cormatin and Ameugny were part of the celebrations could not escape us. Both villages played a (modest) role in the abolition of slavery, like Saint-Point, Mâcon, Paray-le-Monial, Toulon-sur-Arroux and Cluny. Had our village not been heavily involved in this politically hot item we would have never paid any attention to Outre-Mer en Bourgogne. So what exactly was Cormatin's role?

The inevitable speeches
The General Étienne Maynaud de Bizefranc de Lavaux had been governor of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), he had had close ties with the black leader of a slave uprising in Haiti, General Toussaint Louverture, he was a friend of Alphonse de Lamartine, the later advocate of a.o. the abolition of slavery, and he was buried in the cemetery of Ameugny.

Lavaux's tomb
Hence reason enough for celebrating a mess in Cormatin's church, unveiling a plaque at the Château de Cormatin, laying a wreath on his grave in Ameugny, followed by a vin d'amitié and a lecture on the subject there and finally a play in Cormatin by pupils of a school in Montceau about… yes, the abolition of slavery.

Vin d'amitié
Unfortunately Mme Mathos' influence did not reach as far as providing Antillean titbits during the vin d'amitié. We got stuck with the classic omnipresent brioche, a dense type of bread with the consistency of not yet completely cured concrete and some biscuits which could have come from a Sainsbury tin. However, the wine was ok!
For our own website click here.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Fear of terrorism

In January 2015 France was once more confronted with the cruel truth of reality: a small but determined group fanatic militants appeared to be able to paralyse a whole country.

Place de la République - Paris: after 7 January 2015
The French were confronted with the state of emergency, armed soldiers appeared in the streets and near possible "vulnerable" targets, scanners appeared at the entrance to museums and other public buildings, in a word, France was started out of its lethargy and a number of sometimes rather draconic measures were taken to prevent a repetition of the Charlie Hebdo murders.

Place de la République - Paris: after 7 January 2015
That one cannot prevent these things happening, no matter how hard one tries, was proven again by the bloodbath caused in November 2015, again in Paris. Anyway, doing something is better than doing nothing at all, and that fear is not restrained to Paris alone but has spread throughout France can be deduced from the following anecdote.
On a Wednesday night, to go to our weekly taichi-lessons in a gymnasium, we always park in a parking area opposite another school. One evening however all parking spaces, except for one disabled parking space, were cordoned off with a few barriers connected with red and white tape.

Rue du 19 Mars 1962 - Cluny: after 13 November 2015
Assuming that the parking spaces were cordoned off for works in the day time, we shoved a barrier aside and parked our car where we normally park. That went o.k. for a couple of weeks, until the tape disappeared one day to make place for more metal barriers. We had no other choice but to park half on the street, parallel to the barriers.
The "works" however seemed to be a never ending story. And finally we decided to read what the decree of the city council, pinned to one of the barriers, said.

Rue du 19 Mars 1962 - Cluny: na 13 november 2015
It appeared that the headmaster of the school opposite wanted to create a safe zone around his school, inspired by the terrorist attacks of November 2015. Hopefully potential terrorists will not be clever enough to use a vehicle with a disabled sticker….

For our own website click here.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Guitares en Cormatinois 2016

Like every year, there will be a new episode of our own guitar festival with all concerts in the Romanesque church of Chazelle.

The church of Chazelle
Apart from some new artist (at least for us until now), this year will also see the (welcome) return of some repeated offenders.
In chronological order:
Saturday July 9 (20h00): Duo Duende, 2 classical guitarists with a program entitled "Carmen, etc…". No doubt some transcriptions of Bizet's music will be brought into the limelight.
Sunday July 10 (17h30): Bernard Bruel chante Brel, a singer / guitarist bringing a program with mostly songs written and sung by Jacques Brel. Knowing the great liking many French have for artists interpreting or even imitating a great artist from the past, I would not be surprised if this concert will draw a full house.

Emmanuel Rossfelder
Sunday July 17 (17h30): Emmanuel Rossfelder, a very classical guitarist, renowned nationally as well as internationally, who has performed regularly in Cormatin throughout the years. We are certainly expecting a full house tonight. Good wine need no bush.
Saturday July 23 (20h00): Meridianu, a Corisican group bringing Corsican polyphonic music. Corsican music is totally unknown to me; I am anxious to find out!

Full house: sorry!
Sunday July 24 (17h30): Irish kind of, a French group from Grenoble bringing Irish folk music. This group performed last year for the first time in Chazelle, whereby we actually sold more tickets than available. The volunteers had to stay outside and quite a number of people had to be turned down.

The program for 2016
The above run-down does not imply that the concerts with a concise description are not worth going to! It only implies that those who would like to get tickets for the other three concerts at any price are wise to make a reservation.
Reservations can be made by phone: 03 85 50 19 06 or 06 88 40 91 73. One can also send us an email, and we will take care of the rest.

For our own website click here.