🇫🇷 Day 8 – Chants de l’Extase

Whilst we were getting ice cream this morning we saw a billboard for a performance at the Abbey, this evening at 9pm. Spurred on by the holiday spirit, and a bit of spontaneity, we decided to go despite not knowing what it actually was.

We googled when we got home and discovered that it was actually:

CHANTS DE L’EXTASE DE HILDEGARD VON BINGEN, XIIE SIÈCLE, AVEC VICTORIA WALKER (CHANTS ET INSTRUMENTS)

The Convergences association organizes a concert on Saturday at the Basilica dedicated to the Benedictine abbess Hildegard von Bingen, who was an inspired consciousness of the XII th century.

Fans of this ecstatic music can enjoy an incomparable sound experience, in an ideal acoustics. Victoria Walker, who is regularly invited to sing in Vézelay by the association Convergences, accompanies her solos herself with instruments of the Middle Ages (monochord, old, faithful and psalter).

The setting of the concert will sublimate the sacredness of music composed so long ago by Hildegard Von Bingen, who continues to reach the heart as well as the spirit.

Why not!

So after getting Missy to bed and her actually falling asleep immediately (!) we got a quick lift up the hill from Bampa and set about walking up the long winding way around; it was still about 28°C and somewhat breeze-less.

We loitered a bit in the evening sunshine admiring the Basilica in the golden half-hour as we were early, but after a few minutes we decided to head in. Mrs asked for two tickets, €22 a pop, and we stepped into the Basilica at dusk; what a beautiful place to be. The dim lights gave a tremendous sense of occasion and after a bit of time, some French people falling over chairs and themselves, and a coughing man on the verge of a heart-attack, we got settled in, to what was to be an evening of bonafide magic.

A man introduced Victoria Walker in French so we didn’t really know what he was saying; we picked up that it would be a certain length and that the exits were to the back and sides. Afterwards we surmised that he said something along the lines of “don’t clap in between each song” because after her opening gambit, a beautiful sounding drone type string instrument and her beautiful instrumental voice, everyone was absolutely still and silent. Victoria then imperceptibly floated to another location way behind us and began an a capella song. This shift in sound source from there in front to way behind produced such a different acoustic to the first song; it was absolutely stunning. The sound inside the Basilica at night when it’s empty, was beyond words. Incredible sustain and decay in equal parts; her voice seeming to travel for miles before being swallowed by the cavernous Nave.

After about an hour and a half of beautiful sounds, she stood centre stage and bowed to us, to the Basilica and to us; we clapped for 3 of these before she announced, we assumed, that we could come forward and she’d show us all how the instruments worked, because everyone got up in a rush and flocked to her side. An absolutely brilliant thing to see up close; her instruments were all intricate, ornate wooden creations of which I’d never seen before. One was like a long square tube with filigree sides; one side flapped open to reveal an almost cryptex-like insides. All strings and keys and weirdness. But she explained exactly how it worked so that everyone understood and people were asking lots of questions. About half an hour of this passed as she showed us around all the instruments she’d used and explained how they all worked and why. Absolutely amazing to see.

A quick walk back down the road, admiring the milky way that seemed to terminate on the Abbey roof, rounded off what was a vastly more interesting and beautiful event than either of us had expected. Thanks Mrs!