Thursday, October 11, 2007


The church organs of the Balagne

We went to an unusual and interesting concert in the village of Monticello last night*. The programme was not one for the faint-hearted, consisting of works by little known baroque composers such as Pasquini, Cesare, Asola, Sances and Schutz. Perhaps the best known of these was Girolamo Frescobaldi.

The concert, arranged by the societies Voce di u Commune and Voce e Organu in association with the Confrerie San Carlo, was performed by students and former students of the Elizabeth Joyé School of Music in Paris. They used the organ in l’Église Saint-Charles, the sackbut of Franck Poitrineau and the voice of Alice Habellion, of whom more later.

The short programme of just 13 pieces was beautifully performed before an audience of just 24 souls. The chairs in the church had been turned backwards for the performance so we all faced the organ loft rather than the altar, and all the performers sang and played from there. This arrangement made the organ the focus of the evening. It reminded me that there is currently an initiative in the Balagne region to promote and renovate its church organs. There are regular “organ tours” of the Balagne’s church organs – and if the churches of Belgodere, Lavatoggio and the others have organs of this character and quality, such a tour should make a fascinating day.

Back to the performance. For the record, the other performers – all organists – were Anna Devaux, Béatrice Piertot and Pierre Gallon. But the beautiful voice of Alice Habellion, organist and soprano, with her astonishing vocal range and depth was the jewel in the crown. Keep an eye open for her name – I have a feeling we will be hearing more of this young lady on bigger stages than this one.

*written in September I'm afraid - Telecom problems still affecting these entries!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


France’s Prime Minister visits Clos Landry

As I write this (20th September 07), the charming seaside resort of Calvi in northwest Corsica is preparing to welcome an important visitor – France’s Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

After a bit of pressing the flesh in the city’s streets and a visit to the town hall, he will take what our local newspaper Corse Matin describes as a “rustic lunch” at one of my favourite vineyards, Clos Landry. Here, he will discuss – with the great and good of Corsica’s agriculture industry – the twin problems of debt and drought. No doubt the island’s olive farmers will be pressing their case for special treatment; it seems that the weather has been so dry that many olive trees have gone to sleep for three summers running instead of fruiting alternate years.

I hope the vineyard’s owner has stashed away a few bottles of their delicious rosé gris for the occasion. I’d like to think that M. Fillon had sampled a glass or two. When we went there to purchase a few bottles earlier in the week, we were told that stocks had run out.

Apologies, once again, that this entry is a day or two late. Our telephone line and therefore our internet access has still not been fixed, but I live in hope – France Telecom have said they will visit us to try and sort out the problem tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Surf’s up, Monsieur

Algajola is a quiet little place even for a Mediaeval walled town – but it wasn’t on 20th September 2007 when the surfers came to town.

After a day and night of strong westerly winds, the sea was monstrous and bathers were surprised to see huge breakers crashing into the shore both around the city itself and along the entire stretch of beach at nearby Aregno Plage. A guy on the beach was doing a roaring trade hiring out surfboards, and to this untrained eye, I reckon the biggest breakers were around 3m high from trough to crest.

Unusual for the Mediterranean. A lady serving in a beach café confirmed that although Algajola gets its fair share of big waves, this sea was unusually big. One or two surfers were doing their stuff with proficiency, but my guess is that most of the experts were from places other than Corsica. The locals can’t get much practice!

Monday, October 08, 2007


Corsican skies

After a very frustrating day wrestling with France Telecom and the non-availability of the Internet in our little flat here (yes, I'm posting this late again, I'm afraid), tonight my wife and I decided to take a little walk to look at the sky.

We love the sea here. It’s an almost childish shade of blue in most places, most of the year. We saw it at its best on a short walk along Ostriconi beach yesterday. We also love Corsica’s mountains – especially the ones that glower at us over the Balagne (we can see them from our kitchen window every day). They are more than twice as high as anything in the UK, so to us they are - as the folk from the USA say - awesome.

But it’s Corsica’s sky I can’t get over. Move away from the big roads and the towns, the campsites and the résidences, and on a cloudless night you’ll experience Corsica’s skies. Use a bright torch to guide your steps on the way to a dark place, and then turn it off. Look up and enjoy.

The phrase “jewel-studded” springs to mind, but you must experience this for yourself.

PS. I think our little gobemouches hatched OK. When we came back last week after the summer, the nest on our porch was still there, but deserted. However, the nest lining was covered in tiny downy feathers and I have a feeling that some of the hatchlings will be revisiting us soon.

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