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On January 24th, we had our Annual Fest-Noz. With capital letters. It's a huge and terrifyingly-organized evening centred around Breton music and dancing, it needs so much work put into it that there is only one per year (compared to several per week in every region of mainland France) and it attracts a disproportionate number of people of which about a fifth come from Brittany.

This year, it was held in a room which is half covered by roof, half exposed to the elements. In the heart of the rainy season. Rain had indeed fallen on the plain the week before, which had left the uncovered half of the space about a foot underwater, as the drainage system wasn't working. The organizers called the Mairie, saying look, we've rented the room at full price, we expect you to remove the water. Yes, yes, madam, we'll do it. On the day of the concert, the water was still there, so the main organizer, a beautiful and rather pushy lady called Sylvie, went round to the fire station and dragged a couple of firemen back with her to look at and pump out the water. The water was gone that afternoon.

The evening attracted about three hundred people, which is pretty good going on an island that doesn't have very many people on it to begin with. They served crêpes and galettes, none of which were left by the time the musicians stopped playing and came to have something to eat, which has happened every year so far. Except the very first year, when they had cooked too many and gave us a pile each to take home. We had fun, I got some of my colleagues to come and actually got them up and dancing, and we finished about half past midnight.

         

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The next day, the owner and manager of the second music school in Mayotte had organized a day of "Music for Charlie" in commemoration of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Three groups played - we were in the middle, and the photos show the changeover with 15 of us on a rather flimsy stage - and people listened and clapped, no dancing there. They had also set up food and drinks, so we had a nice day sitting around, eating and playing music in the sun.

      

02Classique 2015

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Meanwhile, rehearsals had been going strong for the year's first classical concert. The theme was the Court of Versailles under Louis XIV, a rather interesting theme to try and enforce on the other side of the world in a country which is officially a French department but is also met with much resentment about white people not making the effort to adapt to local culture. The concert was also accompanied by a short conference about the period and related musical style: the dotted rhythms, for example, are a reflection of the king's heavy and important footsteps as he paraded around his court.

We played Lully's Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Rameau's Indes Galantes and Mouret's Fanfares. And for once, we had actually started rehearsing a month before, instead of sight-reading a few hours before the concert, so it actually came out as something listenable. (Still could have done with another couple of weeks' work, though.) To the point that just before the concert, the main pianist called the music school director, saying that there must be a problem. Everything was ready, that couldn't possibly be right, so we must have forgotten something.

          

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