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M-C 2007 concert Fri Seillans 136.JPG
A concert in Seillans, 2007 Musique-Cordiale International Festival
Genre Classical music
Dates August
Location(s) Seillans
Years active 2005–present

Musique-Cordiale is the name for an international festival of music and song and for a series of other musical events in France and Britain. It grew from a dream of making music and encouraging musical appreciation at the highest level in the most conducive surroundings. In a spirit of entente cordiale, the festivals draw people from all ages and many countries and are designed to encourage inter-cultural friendship and understanding through a shared involvement in music-making. Singers and players range in age from 15 to 75.

Choral origins[edit]

Musique-Cordiale Academy orchestra in rehearsal
Concert in Bagnols-en-Foret, France
Artisan Music plus, Seillans 2005
Opera in the Open Air

Described in the European Festivals Guide for 2012 as "A fortnight’s fresh, unpretentious and sociable music-making",[citation needed] the annual Musique-Cordiale summer music festival is based in the village of Seillans and concerts take place there and in neighbouring villages and hill towns in the Pays de Fayence in the Var in SE France, including Bargemon, Mons, Bagnols-en-Forêt and Callian. Venues have also included the cathedral in St Raphael and the lovely old churches in Aups and Correns. In 2012, the Guide notes a "Strong choral presence in Mozart and Poulenc, plenty of Ravel, Debussy and Saint-Saëns". A Telegraph's review by Michael White after the 2012 summer, was entitled "Singing Poulenc in a Sauna" and highlighted the participative character of much of the festival.[1] The choir, in particular, offers the opportunity for good singers, many from renowned choirs from all over Europe, to participate in the process of music-making with a range of "a capella" and accompanied works. The final concert in Seillans is invariably a grand and joyful occasion, featuring major works such as Bach's B Minor Mass and St John Passion and Mozart's Mass in C Minor among other rousing choral and orchestral pieces of music. 2012 was the 8th annual festival.

A key regular feature of Musique-Cordiale events is a period of rehearsal and performance of major choral works by the Ensemble Cordial, a European choir & orchestra with instrumental and vocal soloists. It consists mainly of French, British, German, and Swiss musicians and singers, and has included musicians from the USA, Japan, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and South America. The ensemble includes some internationally renowned instrumentalists and professional musicians, interacting educationally with budding young singing and playing talent from conservatoires. It has provided a springboard for promising singers and musicians who tend to make their first appearance at the festival while at or soon after graduating from colleges such as the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, the Zurich University of the Arts (Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK)) and Nice Conservatoire (CNRR de Nice). It also includes good enthusiastic amateurs, there to build up or refresh their skills and contribute to the music-making.

The festival features concerts and open rehearsals by the choir and orchestra, together and separately, and various other ensembles, choirs, chamber orchestras, quartets, trios and a small vocal 'Consort Cordiale', as well as performances and master-classes by other musicians and soloists. Concerts take place in churches, public buildings, out-of-doors and in specially-erected stadiums in the towns. There is also an "Academie", featuring small classes for promising young instrumentalists who later perform alone and with established players in a special concert.

Premieres of Commissioned Music and Musique-Cordiale winter concerts[edit]

Works specially commissioned for Musique-Cordiale and premiered at the festival in recent years include pieces by Graham Ross and Cecilia McDowall. The festival is a uniquely European event with a southern French flavour. In 2005, Musique-Cordiale featured in a weekend of choral and instrumental performance as part of the October Canterbury Festival and its choir has also performed in an autumn weekend in Totnes, Devon. Since then, an annual winter concert in London has allowed participants to meet again and to perform for a wider audience. Along with seasonal works such as The Messiah and Christmas Carols, winter concerts allow Musique-Cordiale to re-premiere pieces commissioned for the summer festival in France.

Orchestral, Chamber Music, and Opera[edit]

soprano Anna Leese & tenor Andrew Parnell, applause after a Musique-Cordiale Festival operatic concert in Seillans in 2007

The festival repertoire, from classical to jazz, from sacred to sexy, is designed to suit an eclectic variety of tastes. There has been a particular focus on choral works and opera arias, performed a cappella or with a full or chamber orchestra. Such concerts are interspersed with, for example, violin, piano, trumpet or oboe recitals, musical soirées, lectures and lively youthful gigs by singer-songwriters. Classical training and a passion for music, professionally performed, are common features among most of the musicians, regardless of what kind of music they play or sing. Away from the festival, members of the orchestra are key players in the London Philharmonic, Halle, BBC Symphony, Zurich Tonhalle and other major European orchestras. Recent and future performers include Artisan, Emily Kraemer, Stephen Roberts, mezzo-soprano Polly May, Piers Adams, and Red Priest (violin, cello, piano and a variety of recorders), Hans Martin Ulbrich (oboe), Florenz Jenny (bassoon), pianists Marina Nadiradze, Paul Posnak, and Martin Kasik, oboist Mike O'Donnell, cellists Christopher Hoyle and Chiara Enderle, promising young sopranos Dima Bawab, Rosie Bell, Anna Leese & Elizabeth Drury, tenor Andrew Staples, pan-piper Michel Tirabosco, violinist Eva Thorarinsdottir and the Bolivian Soloists quintet (flute, cello, violin, double bass and piano).

Young conductors such as Tomas Netopil and Kevin Griffiths provide energetic new approaches to the direction of works which the Ensemble Cordial performs; the Bach Mass in B Minor, the Mozart Mass and the Mass for Double Choir by Frank Martin have found favour with audiences in the past and the latter reappeared in the 2007 repertoire by popular request — and also because the choir found this an intensely satisfying a cappella piece to sing. In 2007, the choral programme included Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, The Brandenburg Concerto (J S Bach), Handel's Dixit Dominus and Zadok the Priest with the Duruflé Requiem, with its 2 organs played by Andrew Parnell and vocal solos by Christopher Wray and Rosie Bell, providing the musical centre-piece of three final choral concerts performed in three beautiful old churches under the baton of conductor Errol Girdlestone.

Choir & orchestra rehearsal under Tom Seligman, Seillans 2010

Each year, a specially-constituted Quartet, consisting of well-known chamber music players, plays as a quartet under the guise of Quatuor Cordial 2005, 2007 etcetera. Other pieces performed in concerts during the 2007 festival included: familiar opera arias sung by Anna Leese following her recent Covent Garden debut, including J C Bach's Cara la dolce fiamma and, with Andrew Staples, the Mi ciamano Mimi, O soave fanciulla duet by Puccini, and Trumpet concerti and sonatas by Albinoni, Handel, and Vivaldi, JS Bach's Concerto for 2 violins and the Marcello concerto for oboe and strings. The Quatuor Arpeggione string quartet performed a concert and its violinists, Nicolas Risler and Isabelle Flory also played in the Ensemble Cordial again in 2007, with Nicolas leading the orchestra, conducted by Errol Girdlestone. Musical direction in 2008 is by Kevin Griffiths and Tom Seligman, himself conducting at the festival for the first time. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, Tom Seligman and Clare College Cambridge Music Director, Graham Ross, shred the baton. In 2012 Tom Seligman is the sole conductor and in 2013, Graham Ross will also be the sole music director. The artistic director of the festival is violinist and viola-player Pippa Pawlik.

Recent Summer Festivals[edit]

Concerts in 2007 & 2008 took place in the towns (and lovely Provençal "villes perchées") of Bargemon, Seillans, Bagnols-en-Foret and Mons. The 2008 International Musique-Cordiale Festival ran from 3 to 17 August 2008, the 2009 the festival dates were 6–14 August 2009'.

The 2010 festival featured an outdoor staging of Cosi fan tutte and performances of Fauré Requiem and Haydn's Nelson Mass. In 2011, La bohème was performed.

The Musique-Cordiale International Festival in 2012[edit]

The festival ran from 7 August to 18 August 2012 and concerts took place in Seillans, Bargemon, Callian, Mons and Bagnols. There were daily evening concerts and several (free) lunchtime performances. As in previous years, there was a late Jazz night on Saturday 11 August in Seillans, featuring sets by artists from Britain, France and Switzerland. As in previous years, the festival has been generously supported by the municipality of Seillans as well as by the towns of Callian and Bagnols-en-Forêt, in addition to participation fees paid by singers and academy students and by sales of tickets at its overwhelmingly capacity audiences of local people, tourists and music-lovers who come to the region specially for the festival. The 2012 festival programme is available on the Musique-Cordiale website.

2015 International Festival & Academy[edit]

The 11th annual Musique-Cordiale international festival is scheduled to take place from 1 to 15with the Academy assembling in the previous week and rehearsals beginning on 3 August. The festival features 27 concerts, of which a majority will be free.

As in previous years, venues are the medieval hill towns of the "Pays de Fayence" including Seillans, Mons, Callian, Bagnols-en-Forêt, Montauroux, Tourrettes, St Paul en Foret and Tanneron. There are also concerts in nearby Claviers and Bargemon in the Var, France.

Works include "The Creation" by Haydn, sung in German by a choir directed by Graham Ross, music director of King's College, Cambridge, and out-of-door staged performances of "Puccini's Italian opera "Tosca", with surtitles in French and English accompanied by a festival orchestra. This is directed by John Savournin.

2013 Festival[edit]

There will also be a free open-air concert sponsored by the City of Saint-Raphael as part of the festival. Conductors are David Bates of La Nuova Musica and Graham Ross, Director of Music at Clare College, Cambridge. Works to be performed include Dvorak Stabat Mater, Mozart Symphony No. 29, Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra, Britten Rejoice in the Lamb, Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music, Rameau Pygmalion, Carissimi Jephte, Handel Dixit Dominus, Charpentier Le Reniement de Saint Pierre with a "Classic meets Jazz" evening with Michel Tirabosco (pan-pipes) from Switzerland and Germany's Klazz Brothers and Maria Markesini.

The 2013 Musique-Cordiale Academy[edit]

The Academy will again be directed by violinist Skye Carman. She has been concertmaster of the Holland Symfonia and violin professor at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts School of Music/ArtEZ Conservatorium in Arnhem, Netherlands. Since 1992 she has given her Audition Training course in Europe and the U.S.A.. She maintains a private class of violin and viola students and conducts the Galamian String Orchestra, which is a part of the Galamian Foundation, of which she is founder and director. The week-long Academy runs from 3–10 August; students take classes and have the opportunity to rehearse and perform in quartets and alongside professionals in the Ensemble Cordiale orchestra in a concert at the end of the week. Skye will this year be working with Jane Hyland, an experienced cellist and teacher from London who will be her co-instructor & mentor to the students throughout the week. Jane was Principal Cellist of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Solo-Cellist with the Orchestra of the Staatstheater, Kassel, Germany and has played with all the London orchestras. She now concentrates on teaching, recitals and chamber music.


  1. ^ White, Michael (21 August 2012). "Singing Poulenc in a Sauna". The Daily Telegraph. 


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