Melodies in the Vines

Melodies in the Vines

September 20-23, 2017
The Final Orpheus and Bacchus Festival
Gensac, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

Nestled in the prime vineyards of the Bordeaux region, Orpheus and Bacchus, a unique musical experience, presented its final festival this fall. We met the visionary founder, Ian Christians, in 2003, and have had the pleasure of joining him in the beautiful setting of La Musique for these matchless events several times since then. Once again the marvelous Wihan Quartet (whose artistry we enjoyed last year at the festival and also at Taunton Castle Hotel in England) delighted us and our Music and Markets guests in the intimate setting of La Musique each evening, but Ian did not join us for his much-loved festival. He let us know in the spring that he was suffering from cancer, and hoped to be here, but that was not to be. Shortly after we arrived we talked with his lovely wife Sharon and found that he had just passed on – a week ago. Sharon welcomed us all with an aperitif before the first concert, and shared that this last festival would be in honor of Ian, and would be filled with many of his favorite pieces, then returned to the UK. I pause as I write, thinking of all that she and Ian’s son, Alex, and their friends did to make this festival a magnificent success, truly worthy of Ian. Alex, a lawyer in London, was the chef for the many superb meals we enjoyed, in addition to organizing all of the details to enable the festival to proceed. Yes, a busy lawyer from London took time away from his practice and his family and created the best meals we’ve ever had at Orpheus and Bacchus – what a gift for his father!
Each morning our breakfast was followed with a concert featuring outstanding young musicians, such as pianist Ben Comeau and cellist William-Clark Maxwell. Where else can you sit on comfortable sofas, relaxing as you’re surrounded with marvelous music?!One of Ian’s passions was encouraging and supporting many of these talented young performers, often by including them in the programs of the festival.
Hilltop chateaus such as Monbazillac, and enticing villages, such as St. Emilion,  filled our afternoons. The closest hamlet to the Orpheus and Bacchus property is Gensac – we walked through the quiet lanes after picking up a delayed suitcase for one of our clients. The airline-arranged delivery person couldn’t find our hidden-in-the-vines estate, so left it at the sole pharmacy in town for us 😉
St. Emilion is our favorite village in the area. Crowned by a majestic church that rises out of the rock, It’s steep lanes (the steepest are called tertres, only in St. Emilion) are lined with enticing boutiques – many filled with wine, of course! To complete a delicious lunch at Les Bistrot des Vignobles we introduced our guests to my favorite dessert – Café Gourmand  – and they continued to order it, when available, throughout the trip – can you blame them?!
The town was as full as we’ve ever seen it – the closest parking spot was a mile away! But the walk to get there (Kirk and I walked to pick up the car) took us by some autumn charmers. For yet one more view, we drove uphill from our usual parking spot on the edge of town to an overlook near the renowned Ausone vineyards. Don’t miss St. Emilion if you’re in the area!
After another evening of fabulous music – Hummel, Janacek and Bruckner,  the performers joined us for dinner, as they did each night. What a pleasure to hear their thoughts on the music, and appreciate their chance to relax and listen themselves as we all enjoyed some more music in a more casual ambiance. Alessandro Commellato, who played the Hummel piano concerto, was eager to try out the Pleyel duo-clave, a rare double piano with a keyboard on both ends, so a few guys pulled it out and got it ready. Remember when I played a tune with another pianist on this intriguing instrument last year? When we finally went to bed, we fell asleep with more beautiful music drifting down from upstairs.
Saturday was the final day of the final festival (and happened to be my birthday as well!), and the young performer’s concert was scheduled for the afternoon so those who wanted to could go to the market town of St. Foy la Grande. Driving through the mist hovering over the vineyards,  we parked by the river, then walked to the market stalls – feeling more mysterious than usual in the fog. Oh if we only had more room in our suitcase – so many delicious specialties of the region. My favorite booth is the one with foie-gras stuffed dried figs – somehow they taste better than when I make them at home! The town itself is well worth a wander, with its arcaded central square and many half-timbered houses. Follow the Vanilla Vendor around as he calls out his wares and you’ll see a nice lane or two.
We had time for a quick stop at Monbazillac before returning to La Musique, and after posing in front of the vineyard surrounded chateau (above) we took in the glorious views and sampled the sweet wine (excellent with dessert or foie gras). A simple inn in the town served a nice lunch in the garden, and I was pleasantly surprised with a couple of thoughtful and beautiful birthday gifts from our guests – I’m putting on golden tassel earrings here.Back to the loft of La Musique for more music – where we’re absolutely blown away by young Ben’s artistry at the piano – spanning the centuries from Bach to Beethoven, Chopin to Irving Berlin. I’ve never heard anyone improvise as he does – from medieval tunes to jazz standards. Amazing! And then someone called out for Nigel, who emceed the festival in Ian’s absence, to sing – and Ben accompanied him as he serenaded us with “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”
Yet more delights awaited us on this final day – Alex invited us to Ian’s legendary cellar for a tasting! An uninvited guest caused a few gasps, until Monsieur Bat settled down and hung from the stone vaults above. From ’95 to ’05 we sampled Chateau du Moulin from St. Emilion – which year was the best? Schubert, Dvorak and Beethoven delighted our ears one last time, and then Alex pulled out all the stops for a grand feast – including decanting a massive Saint Emilion Grand Cru. The bottle was then passed from table to table for all to sign – voila! Alex was gifted with a basket full of Southwest France treats – just the thing for this lawyer-chef! And as dessert, créme brulée, came out, I was serenaded by the room and presented with a super-size birthday brulée – what a surprise! What a day it’s been – filled with a marvelous market, a chateau, presents in the garden, music galore, and a musical serenade. Can any birthday top this one?!?
The joy and delight of these four days were a constant tribute to Ian Christians, founder of Orpheus and Bacchus – we’ll always treasure the times we’ve spent here through the years, and be thankful for the opportunity we’ve had to know him and share such wonderful music with him.

 

A Chateau and a Concert

A Chateau and a Concert

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Bordeaux region, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

Our final day at Orpheus and Bacchus begins with an after-breakfast walk to the nearest village, Gensac.

cam14588k That jaunty red car  in front of the town café

cam14589would be a fun way to tool around these winding vineyard wrapped lanes,

cam14591watching as the harvest begins.
After the last Hummel presentation by Nova Luce, we join other festival participants for a visit to Chateau Guadet in St. Emilion. Guy Petrus invites us into his garden

cam14604and begins our tour with the history of the family and vineyards, then takes us into the cellars

cam14612before we taste his excellent vintages.

cam14635
Tonight we have a special treat as musicians of Nova Luce join the Wihan quartet in a Mendelssohn Octet – breathtakingly beautiful music!

cam14638And after dinner the music continues on into the night as the younger musicians of Nova Luce persuade Leos, Wihan’s first violin, to join them in some playful music making. What a privilege it’s been to spend four days with these marvelous artists!

cam14650
Tomorrow we’re off to the lush green Dordogne valley…

St. Emilion & a Double Piano Treat!

St. Emilion & a Double Piano Treat!

Sunday, September 25, 2016
Bordeaux region, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

Fall is such a fabulous time to be in southwest France, with brilliant reds and golds garnishing the grapes heavy on the vines (harvest is a little late this year). cam14470We start our day with a morning walk in the vines, and every once in a while move aside when a bike or two whizzes by – cam14472there’s a rally going on in the neighborhood.
New this year at Orpheus and Bacchus, a group of younger musicians are presenting the works of Hummel, an under-rated composer of the late 18th and early 19th century. The “shade of Hummel” strides into the room and shares reflections of his life and interaction with Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, cam14475then the Nova Luce ensemble beautifully performs some of his arrangements and compositions. After lunch with the musicians we’re on our way to Saint Emilion, our favorite Bordeaux wine village. cam14487Set on a hill above miles of rolling vine-striped hills dotted with elegant world-renowned chateaus, it’s eagerly awaiting the harvest. Wine boutiques offer the prized elixir on every lane, and the amazing monolithic (rock-hewn) church soars from underneath the ground to the highest point of town. cam14488The steep streets ramble under arches cam14489and down beside vines growing right in the village, and on the steepest lane of all, cam14498we find our reward – delicious canelés, the chewy pastry of the region.
From the top of the town we look out over terracotta roofs clustered along medieval cobbled lanes, cam14510then wave goodbye to one of Bordeaux’s loveliest.cam14525The Wihan Quartet opens the evening of music with Schubert’s Death of the Maiden Quartet, then pianist Ben Frith wows us with Schubert’s last sonata. A concert on the unique duo-clave piano was on the schedule for tonight, but one of the pianists was unwell and could not come to the festival, so Ben stepped in with this astoundingly beautiful and challenging sonata – just happened to have it “up his sleeve”!
A special treat awaited me before the after-dinner concert, when, with another pianist I….    well, I’ll let Kirk tell you about it:
“Positively giddy with excitement, Anne played a Dvořák piano duet on a Pleyel two keyboard piano. Scroll down for the video!
First she had to roll it to center stage, cam14526athen find her keyboard under the heavy protective padding.

cam14526bThis takes a little coordination, deciding who’s playing which part (Sight-reading! First time I’d seen this music)
Gaining speed on the runway,cam14526e and we have lift-off (click here to listen to the music)!cam14526cvideotooThese 4 hand, 2 keyboard, 1 instrument pianos are a novelty. Only fewer than 50 on the planet. But better playing eye to eye than shoulder to shoulder – and you have the use of the entire keyboard without overlap or collision. I suppose you could play it with 8 hands. I didn’t count them but I think there are 176 strings in there.”
This was certainly the most fun I’ve EVER had at a music festival!

 

 

Sunday in St. Emilion

Sunday in St. Emilion

Sunday, April 3, 2016
St. Emilion, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer –  why not join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast , in Provence, or Amsterdam?

Goodbye to Cognac – it was a pleasure!, we’re on our way back to Bordeaux country! St. Emilion is not just the name of a prestigious Bordeaux appellation, but is also a delightful medieval town (our favorite in the area)04021604 emilion st walls built on a hill surrounded by famed chateaux and vineyards. 04021604 grapes pampered vistaMarion, our guide, points out well-known names in the distance, and brings ancient history  alive with her tales of the 8th century monk, Emilion, for whom the town was named. 04021604 guide excellent learnRising straight out of solid rock, Saint-Emilion Monolithic (rock-hewn, made from a single block of stone) Church, constructed in the early twelfth century, is partly subterranean,04021604 monolithic church and for the first time, we’re taken through a secret door and into the ancient underground  – no photos allowed, but what an evocative step back into Emilion-the-hermit’s beginning!
Rather spooky – and what stays in memory the most is the massive iron supports around the huge weakened limestone columns supporting the roof high above – a vast space!
Delighted to step out onto the sunny market square, we continue exploring the town – be sure to hold on on the steepest lane of all!04021605 dangerous most And don’t miss some of St. Emilion’s best canelés – a chewy caramelized pastry – at the shop on the right.
Scores of religious orders followed the original hermit…there’s the Couvent de Jacobins, and a beautiful old Franciscan (Cordeliers in France, we learn) cloister04021605 emilion full of cloisters and monasteries this is cordeliers or francisicans that’s now a perfect place to stop for a wine tasting.04021605 linger longer catch upChai Pascal is a local favorite, and their dish of the day, served with a bottle from just over the hill, is always delicious – today’s Parmentier (shepherd’s pie) is no exception!04021605 plat du jourA short post-lunch stroll, 04021605 see you in septand we’re back on the bus, heading for Bordeaux, where a VERY special dinner will complete this wonderful fam trip….

St.Emilion – a Bordeaux Beauty

St.Emilion – a Bordeaux Beauty

Thursday, June 5, 2014
St.  Emilion, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our newest tour, a Fall Musical Houseparty in France! 

Our newest tour is designed around the Orpheus and Bacchus Experience, a classical music and wine themed house party. The estate on which the events take place is occupied this week by a chamber music master class group, and we’ve been invited to tonight’s concert. So we’re on the road again, one two-lane after another, as all the roads in this deep countryside seem to be – every trip takes longer than you’d think for the distance covered! We begin to wonder what our GPS is thinking – is this farm track REALLY the best way to get where we’re going??!
By the time we arrive at beautiful St. Emilion, our choice to explore during the day, it’s lunch time,

and we choose a courtyard table at this pretty spot.

We’ve got time for a wander, and enjoy visiting old favorites in this charmer of a village, as well as discovering new finds, such as this courtyard full of intriguing boutiques.

As befits this Bordeaux haven, there’s a wine shop on every corner,

and down the steepest cobbles in town are the best Cannélés, a local molded pastry that’s caramelized on the outside, chewy on the inside.

Street names are carved into the bisque stone,

and the view from the top, by the church, takes in the pampered vineyards surrounding the village.

Surrounded by low stone walls, those manicured vineyards roll for miles, with a picturesque ruin here,

and renowned chateaus punctuating the landscape.
The London Bridge Quartet has been working with eager string musicians through the week,

and we join invited neighbors (several chateau owners among them, one of whom provides the wine for the intermission tasting), friends, and students for a lovely concert before winding our way back home.