The little hill towns of Provence, with their tile roves and stone streets and buildings can’t help but seem picturesque. The plumbing and electricity may have been frightfully hard to install, and they may be damp and cold in winter, but as you drive through the hills, their charm is irresistible.
Yesterday we visited several. The protocol seems to be that you leave your car somewhere at the bottom and start to climb up cobbled streets and stairs.
At the top is a chapel, often surrounded by fortress walls. After about a 20 minute hike up the streets and steps of Bonnieux, we came to the chapel there, and entered into the dim interior. We could hear some kind of lovely singing.
At first I thought it must be recorded, but as we came closer it was clearly live voices echoing from the stone archways, the intricate harmonies singing out from the entrance. We took a few steps in, a little shy as one is entering someone else’s place of worship. The pews were decorated with sheaves of wheat and dried lavender tied to the ends, along with some fresh flowers. Three women and two men were singing under one of the arches towards the front. The sound was amazing, as beautiful as any choral work I’d ever heard. After awhile it became clear that the group was rehearsing. The choral director had a little electric keyboard. He was going through difficult harmonic passages with the group. I could even recognize some of the instruction…”Not sliding up to that note, no! Right on it!!” We discovered that there would be. wedding in about an hour and they were practicing. Later, when we were trying to find our way out of town, we saw the wedding party heading up the hill. But for the time we spent listening, we had our own marvelous and unexpected concert.