Over the first weekend in September 2007 the Sine Nomine Singers embarked upon their first foreign tour for a few years, in France. Members travelled in small groups in separate cars, via the Channel Tunnel or various ferries, convening around teatime on Friday 31 August in the small village of Sigy-en-Bray, near the North coast of France, between Dieppe and Rouen. Our ‘contact’ was one of our altos, Sue Thackray, who has a house in the village and who, with the help of certain village ‘elders’, including the local mayor, organised our trip. She also put the kettle on as we arrived in our droves! Altogether there were 14 of us and 9 supporters and it was lovely to meet at the end of the summer holidays in unfamiliar territory!

The schedule offered more entertainment for us than from us which was a great end to the summer! And the whole weekend was characterised by a wealth of hospitality both from the village community and from Sue herself. 7pm saw us all sitting at trestle tables in the village hall being treated to a proper French supper of several courses, including an aperitif, and wine, and paté for starters, and a main course, and cheese as well as pudding. This was very generously provided by the village, who had cooked it and served it to us.

Our concert was part of the annual Fête Patronale which is a weekend of celebrations that this and other French villages make the most of every year. Our first evening finished with a revue put on by a selection of villagers, from the youngest to the oldest, with sketches, songs and dances. Then we dispersed to our various ‘digs’ in local guesthouses and hotels or in gîtes (which the village paid for on our behalf) or staying with villagers, and, in the case of one intrepid couple, a tent!

On Saturday morning we rehearsed in the village church for a couple of hours – it’s a wonderful and very old building – lack of light to see the music by was more than compensated for by the lovely acoustic. The early afternoon was free to allow choir members to eat lunch and explore the local area – people went to Rouen, or to local gardens and restaurants. We arrived back in order to have a quick warm-up, change into concert gear and have supper, which rivalled our meal the night before in its sumptuousness, before our concert at 9pm.

This lasted for about an hour and a half – the programme is below – and was received very warmly. It was a lovely experience to sing to such a large audience (the church was packed). The mayor thanked us at the end and presented Sue with a bouquet of flowers to thank her for all her efforts in making it possible for us to come and sing there.

This was followed by some lovely fireworks – the French make a big thing of their village festivities and we certainly appreciated it!

Some of us went to the local church service the next morning which featured a local brass band and was followed by a type of annual general meeting where the year’s fortunes were summed up in several speeches. We were thanked again during this (a little difficult to follow as my French isn’t up to much).

All that remained was for us to eat for lunch which was put on by Sue for us all and was absolutely delicious (plenty of wine too!) before we bade our farewells and started to wend our way back to London. Just before most of us left there was the opportunity to witness a strange local custom, where a noisy procession (an ad hoc brass band with hangers on) wends its way through the main street of the village, making as much noise as possible!

Overall it was a great success, definitely to be repeated sometime soon.

Helen Vickery


Our programme:

Sumer is icumin in
Cantate Domino
Laudate Dominum
Exsultate Jubilate
Ave Verum
Agnus Dei
Bernard Hughes
Locus Iste
Il est bel et bon
From Huit Chansons Françaises
Francis Poulenc
- 1. Margoton va t’a l’iau
- 2. La Belle se sied au pied de la Tour
- 3. Pilons L’orge
- 5. C’est la petit’ fill’ du Prince
3 Songs from settings of Robert Bridges poems
Gerald Finzi
- I Praise the Tender Flower
- Clear and Gentle Stream
- My Spirit Sang All Day
Calme des Nuits
Les Fleurs et les Arbres