What They Do For Love
In France, everyone can sing. Everyone can write, everyone can be an artist. Everyone can do what they love to do, because fundamentally the French believe that when it comes to art “we all have it in us.” You can see it on their faces, Nathalie, Françoise, and Georges have it in them.
Americans tend to think of the arts in terms of in star power, giftedness, and expertise, but paradoxically, we also believe that “anyone can be President.” The French definitely don’t believe that, not for a second. Our two cultures are so deep down different that sometimes it’s breathtaking.
We spent Easter Monday with Eric and Benoîte and eight of their friends, all of whom love to sing or drum. In this group, we all believed in Eric for President, because he knows all the music, plays all the parts, gathers everyone together, sings his heart out, and has a true genius for musical generosity. By which I mean that during lunch he serenaded us with Yankee Doodle followed by Ave Maria,
but also that he creates an ambience that’s so relaxed that a teenager like Romain can be content to spend an entire day with eleven adults, including his parents, alternating between drumming and adjusting the endlessly difficult microphones, without once resorting to an iPod or a cell phone.
This group of friends gets together once a week, just to sing. Just for the pure love of singing, because of them all I think Eric is the only one who ever sings on stage. The rest of them just want to be together making music. Sometimes they know the words, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes everyone’s on pitch, and sometimes not. It never matters, because they’ll try again, start over, be endlessly patient.
It’s a group so patient that when I told Annie that I couldn’t sing with them because I didn’t know the song, she resolutely held her book of lyrics in front of me and said “it doesn’t matter, it’s fun to sing together and you’ll learn it right away.”
It’s a group so accepting that when Georges donned a paper napkin pirate hat against the hot sun, no one so much as snickered. Well, perhaps I snickered once or twice, but very discreetly, since he was totally adorable as a pink paper pirate.
It’s a group that’s so supportive that when Céline and I sang part of an aria from Carmen together, they made us sing it again, as an encore. I think it was Guillaume that started the calls for an encore, so happy was he to hear Céline finally dare to sing Carmen in public.
The fact that there was a strong rhythm section didn’t hurt at all, and Shel even felt comfortable enough to sing a solo that I wish I could have recorded for the edification and enjoyment of his various throat surgeons past and present.
With David as a dedicated percussion section
and Benoîte’s Mom as an appreciative audience all was rosy,
even when the harmonies were hard to find and Benoîte had a sore throat.
What counted was being together, trying, trying again, encouraging each other, singing hour after hour until the sun went down and we all went home, sunburned and happy as one can only be after a day spent outdoors doing the things we love to do. How did we ever get so lucky?
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