The choir Au clair de la rue started out as an improbable encounter and an unwavering friendship. That of a former fisherman, Serge “the Gaul”, who begged near a famous market in Nantes, and of the former engineer Yannick Jollivet (The cross from September 26, 2017). The first is sad to bury his street friends without a farewell word or song. The second suggests that he bring together other fellow soldiers to form a choir intended to celebrate these anonymous people. More than thirteen years later, the rehearsal room has moved to another area, Serge Le Gaulois is no longer in this world, but the choir displays the same enthusiasm every week.
That afternoon, Yannick Jollivet, wearing round glasses and colorful suspenders, lists the choristers’ upcoming meetings: here, in a hospital psychiatric department, there in a church. Those who have already played at the European Parliament, at the Folle Journe de Nantes or in front of the Pope at the Vatican do not forget their primary vocation: to sing for the dead in the street or isolated people. They have already accompanied more than 270 burials. “We often experience very powerful moments, like this man who died from alcohol who wanted the beer that killed him to be poured on his coffin”says the co-founder of the choir.
“We all have value”
« We want to show that no one has gone for nothing on this earth, that we all have a value, a mission and a usefulness”adds Christian Delouche, 62 years old, weathered face topped with a cap. ” I am coming back from far “slips the one who today lives in shared accommodation in the Lazare association, still very moved to have “lit the fire at the Opera” on November 22, in Nantes. That evening, the choir is invited to sing alongside the Angers Nantes Opéra choir, as part of the “It goes better by singing it” concerts. They were designed to make lyrical art accessible to as many people as possible, with entry costing €4 and an invitation to the public to participate in the singing.
In front of a packed house where families and children are more numerous than usual, the arrival of the singers from Au clair de la rue does not go unnoticed. Some arrive limping, another carrying a bag full of trinkets places a lantern in the middle of the stage. Fragility is presented in full light, before the moved gaze of the professional choristers, elegantly dressed in black. The shared songs follow one another, Song for Auvergnat from Brassens to Tenderness from Bourvil. “For once, we look at them and we give them back dignity in a society that makes them invisible », Comments Yannick Jollivet, overwhelmed by the attitude of the spectators who applaud standing, some of them with tears in their eyes.
A happy companionship
Enough to delight Xavier Ribes, the generous conductor of the Angers Nantes Opéra choir, who has been following Au clair de la rue for around ten years. “I discovered its existence in the newspaper and managed to contact them and put myself at their disposal», he confides backstage after the show, before falling into the arms of Yannick Jollivet. Those who became friends shared rehearsals, galettes des rois and even a premiere at the Opera in 2019. “What is music for if it doesn’t allow us to connect with others”asks the choir director, who will soon go to play in prison.
For Yannick Jollivet, this companionship brings a lot to the choir: “They have never sung so well! During rehearsals, Xavier is able to see the messing lips from twenty meters away. He would be able to distinguish an angry fly from a loving fly…” The choir’s next big project, next May: board a barge in the Nantes-Brest canal, to go and sing from village to village. A nod to its co-founder Serge the Gaul, who dreamed of piloting the boat. “When we both cast off on this Nantes market, smiles Yannick Jollivet, we didn’t know the wind would take us this far. »
Other street choirs in France
To deploy its model, the Nantes choir launched the federation of choirs Au clair de la rue in 2016. It now brings together around ten choirs, all of which have the common point of going to sing at the burials of street dead. . We find them in Saint-Nazaire, Bordeaux, Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Montpellier… They share a repertoire of ten popular French songs: Auvergne et Bad reputation of Brassens, My lover from Saint-Jean,The Street of the Three Sailors, The Red Rag or The Northern Irish Ballad by Renaud.
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