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Hall Royd Band goes to Clapiers

Early Monday morning at Stansted Airport and amongst the crowd inching towards the security desk are nineteen members and associates of Hall Royd Band. We have spent the previous night with friends, in hotels, with family or on the road from Bradford. Soon we will be airborne, heading towards the South of France where we expect to be met by sunshine and two minibuses from the village of Clapiers. We arrive at Nîmes to find neither sunshine nor minibuses. After the delayed drivers (wrong time) have picked up most of the band and the car carrying the other band members  has taken a diversion (wrong turning), we find ourselves at a restaurant near Clapiers for an initiation into the French menu. Pete is in heaven and Ronnie performs his first money-management-miracle of the week.  A couple of hours later and everyone is settling into their hotel or host family. Eventually, after 26 hours on the road (and sea) the van arrives to be unloaded before Mark and Brian are delivered to their own accommodation for a well-earned rest.


On Tuesday morning sunshine is still only a dream as the volunteer minibus drivers, Yves and Michel David take us to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert for a grand day out planned by the village. We meander around alleyways, count cockleshells marking the Camino de Santiago and admire ceramic drainpipes with fish faces. Brian is delighted to find a fragment of the True Cross in the Abbey. John has his first failure to find his souvenir of choice (ask him).  Yves and Michel David take us to Saint-Jean-de-Fos for lunch where they try to pay for our wine but Ronnie is too quick. We then visit a pottery museum, with live demo, before finishing the trip at a caveau with an explanation of the production process followed by wine tasting. Aisha’s translation skills are tested to (beyond) the limit but luckily David is an experienced winemaker. Several bottles of wine are purchased but the star feature is the wine aerator used when pouring the samples of red wine. Yves and Michel David present us with six bottles of wine for the band – victory to the Clapiers team.


Despite the emergence of sunshine, Wednesday is a working day with a full rehearsal in the morning. We break to explore the lunch options of Clapiers – patisserie or Chinese restaurant  –  before reconvening at Le Foyer du Romarin in our 'France 2018' tour shirts. Audience members jingle their way through a 40-minute set of our liveliest numbers and demand an encore. We’d been advised to keep the set short but definitely leave the audience wanting more. Afterwards, several people tell us how much they enjoyed the performance: some had even been moved to tears (and it wasn’t even that bad). The van is packed and taken back to base for unloading whilst band members enjoy some free time in Clapiers. In the evening there is an official reception, with an abundance of food and wine, to welcome us to the village. We wear our 'France 2018' tour shirts. Gifts are given and received, Mark reads a letter from the Lord Mayor of Bradford, ably translated into French by Kit, and decides he’s tackled enough formal French for one week. Overwhelmed by the deliciousness of the saucisson sec, Mike proposes to the lady who organised the food but, sadly, she feels that she is already adequately supplied with husbands (one).


On Thursday we take the bus, tram and train to Sète. Aisha heads to the ticket office. It’s 10:30 and the train leaves at 10:50. The clerk tries to print a single group ticket but the printer decides that we need 18 outward tickets and 18 return tickets. Unsurprisingly, there is insufficient paper. The clerk tries to fit the replacement blank sheets forwards, backwards, upside-down...and at 10:47 Aisha finally dashes to the platform clutching 36 tickets. Fifteen minutes later we arrive in Sète and, led by Keith, walk the long way along the waterside to find the bandstand. There is a flea-market in the square so Aisha reminds everyone that we only have a SMALL van – which has already arrived so we can unload before dispersing to explore the town and find lunch. Wearing our 'France 2018' tour shirts we play two 45-minute sets. We perform well but Mark decides to drop Lloyd from the final set list for Friday. During the break, Linda buys some cupboard doorknobs but John still does not manage to find his souvenir (ask him).

Friday morning is free so most people decide to head for the centre of Montpellier to explore the city. Keith and Aisha, enjoying the quietness of the lanes, are passed by a group of Hall Royders waving enthusiastically from a little train. Steph unfortunately suffers a fall but by some miracle, everything she needs simply appears including plasters and a walking stick. At 4pm we are back in Clapiers for a technical rehearsal with light, sound, projector, screen (but no control key), USB stick (once Aisha retrieved it from her accommodation) and no computer. Once everything has been found, and the band moved further back on the stage so that David does not get hit by the screen as it is lowered, we are able to play through several verses of Ilkley Moor, with vocals, and feel ready for tonight’s performance.

We return to the hall at 8pm, with jackets, and take seats at the back of the hall ready to watch a young local band, Les Loustics du Pic. We are hoping for an audience of at least 50 people. As the audience arrives, we move further back and eventually have to give up our seats. Anyone who goes into the dressing room is mobbed by young French musicians. There are at least 150 people in the hall by the time the Loustics start playing at 8.50. The Loustics have colour, energy, movement, enthusiasm and talent. Wow! The formality of a brass band will be a complete contrast.

We arrange the stage, go into the dressing room to don jackets and walk on to open with True and Trusty.  Encouraged by Mark, the audience claps along whilst the band bakes in our blazers.  After the first number, we remove our jackets (phew!) as Aisha introduces the band and explains that our second piece is about the experience of our week in Clapiers – “Singing in the Rain”.  The audience laughs (phew!). We play with energy, the audience applauds with enthusiasm and all goes well. Pete stuns the audience with his rendition of Summertime. The screen comes down and Mark scrambles to get out of the way (more laughs). The audience gasps at the beauty of Ilkley Moor as displayed on the screen.  Clifford leads the singing and the audience joins the chorus. The band feels that the song goes on forever – worse than Christmas – but luckily, Mark does not lose count of the verses. The mayor is presented with a flat cap (la casquette de Yorkshire). We finish our set with Hootenanny and the audience loves Mark’s chicken dance. Finally, we invite the Loustics to join us on stage to play two big band classics and then the concert is over. We have played 90 minutes without a break and are more than ready for the refreshments (including wine – phew!) that are waiting for us.  The concert has been even more of a success than anyone could have predicted (phew!).


Saturday morning brings sunshine and another early start as we travel to Aigues-Mortes (after some confusion about the bus times but luckily, David had checked the Saturday timetable).  En route we pass flamingo lagoons and the 1960s extravagance of La Grande Motte before everyone is astonished to see the medieval walls that surround the town.  Most people spend the full day in Aigues-Mortes where, despite an abundance of shops, John once again fails in his souvenir quest (ask him). Kit and Alex spend three hours on exploring every part of the wall-walk. Pete and Mike decide to take in the beach on the way back. Late in the evening, Aisha gets a call from Mike; he and Pete have missed the last bus back to the hotel.


On Sunday, everyone does their own thing. Ronnie and Dorothy walk to the garden centre, Alex and Kit go to the beach, John and Linda hike up the hill to Montferrier-sur-Lez (no shops). In the evening is the end-of-tour celebration dinner – a thank you to our hosts. Ronnie performs more money management magic whilst Aisha has several conversations with the hotel manager about the room bills and Pete dispenses wine. Hall Royd Band certainly knows how to make the most of individual talents. Main courses have been ordered in advance but the hotel manager has to take orders for dessert and learns the English expression ‘herding cats’. This comes in useful when he has to take orders for coffee. Finally, whilst we are drinking coffee with coffee, coffee without coffee, tea or verveine there are thanks and gifts. The mayor is presented with six bottles of Saltaire beer and Aisha receives some luxurious toiletries (she says it was the shirt – honestly). The hosts and their guests depart whilst the hotel crowd... well, there’s a bar.


It’s Monday again. The van is packed for the last time and the minibuses take everyone to Nîmes for the flight back to Stansted. It’s been a wonderful week and the Hall Royd family has been extended with promises of a return match with a band from Clapiers to Shipley.  Many people helped to make this visit a success. In Clapiers there were volunteers and council staff including Camille, Aurelien, Delphine, Serge, Yves, Michel David and Jean-Luc. We are especially grateful to the people who generously opened their homes to the band: Yves & Jackie, Jacky & Wendy, Gilles & Marie-Laure, Jamila and Gabrielle. We couldn’t have performed on the bandstand in Sète without the help of Patrice Esposito, the Entertainment Coordinator for the Sète town council. Alain leads Les Loustics du Pic with whom it was a joy to share the stage. The Mayor of Clapiers, Eric Penso, determined that we should feel overwhelmed by the hospitality of Clapiers.  He worked hard to achieve this and succeeded. We couldn’t have performed at all if Mark and Brian hadn’t driven our instruments from Yorkshire to the South of France (and back again, in time for rehearsal on Friday). Ronnie managed money marvellously. Keith literally went the extra mile to provide transport and Ruth spent hours sweating over the copier to make sure we had music. Thank you all!

Photos from the gallery

Various from France
Sete France