august 23 2005
& LE BEL CANTO ORQUESTRA
1 Festa a Vernet lès Bans (Juan Morata)
2 La sardanoise aux cheveux bleus (arranged by Pascal Comelade)
3 Sardane ralentie (Pascal Comelade)
4 Sardane à l'huile (Que fais-tu là ?) (arranged by Pascal Comelade)
5 Sardana dels desemparats (Pascal Comelade)
"The maddest rumor all over Vernet, Was that the man in black had just arrived (...) If one day you walk past the casino, Look up there, right at the top, Yes between the sky and the ground, that's where he lives, But bend down your head when you walk past this house Or he'll throw stones at you while playing his piano Laughing with happiness, laughing with happiness." ("L'homme en noir" (The man in black"), by Général Alcazar, 2000, on the " Des sirènes et des hommes" album, disques Chant libre / MSI)
seven of them, dressed in black or dark colours, sipping a pastis or a beer
outside the Le d'Artagnan bar. When the music and dances stopped, they got up
without quipping a word and went inside the bar one after the other, they nodded
to the barman and went behind the counter and then through a door leading to
a small room.
For the last night of the Europe Fair in Vernet-les-Bains, the program for Wednesday 6 July 2005 announced sardanes and traditional Danish dances, Denmark being the guest of honour this year. The sun was setting with no hurry on the Place de la République, the central point of this small Catalan spa resort, "Pyrenean paradise ", as it says on the advertisements. The place was overcrowded, and the patients and tourists had their eyes and ears full of the Danish dances, maybe especially the Danish female dancers.
The time of the sardanes was approaching. The Danish were slowly making room for the Catalan musicians and dancers on the stage set-up in front of the Maison de la presse (Just to remind you briefly : sardane is a Catalan dance derived from the contrapàs, born between Perpignan and Figueres, that is done in the round. Sardane is also the music that the dance is done to, played by the cobla, an eleven piece orchestra).
The audience was queueing in front of the various bars to get helped, while they waited for the show to start again. Nobody had paid any attention to the men in black, who had come out of the backroom of the bar at the other side of the place, with bags and boxes in hand. Within a few minutes, they had unpacked their instruments on the d'Artagnan terrace (small piano, guitar, ukulele, percussions, flute, trumpet, trombone and fiscorn) and started an unannounced acoustic performance which quickly attracted a festive audience.
It was, as you've probably guessed, the Bel Canto Orquestra, which played that night a concert of about twenty minutes until the sardanist colles and coblas of the main stage were ready to follow suit. In this Summer of 2005, the line-up of the Bel Canto Orquestra, around Pascal Comelade, included Didier Banon, Jean-Paul Daydé, Patrick Félices, Gérard Meloux, Pep Pascual and Samy Surfer.
In keeping with the spirit of the Fête de l'Europe, the Bel Canto Orquestra performed only sardanes that night, and we are happy to propose you an aural document of this unique homecoming performance of the Bel Canto.
The five titles played that night include two sardanes composed by Pascal Comelade, "Sardane ralentie" (released in 1986 on the "Bel canto" album) and the famous "Sardana dels desemparats" (of which there are three versions, in 1993 on "Traffic d'abstraction", in 1998 on "L'argot du bruit" and in 2004 on the "La filosofia del plat combinat" compilation). The band also played two traditional sardanes arranged and retitled by Pascal Comelade, "La sardanoise aux cheveux bleus" ("The Sardanish with blue hair' : the reference to the theme of the night seems obvious) and "Sardane à l'huile (Que fais-tu là ?)". For this last song, there's probably a nod to the chorus of the main track of the "4 gros tubes" EP by Reims band Les Combinaisons, released in 1987. It is not confirmed yet, but it is possible that Pascal Comelade heard Les Combinaisons play this song in Reims in 1986 as part of the "Festival des traversins", the alternative program to the "Musiques de traverses" festival : the Bel Canto Orquestra was on the bill of the main festival that year.
The record opens with a cover of "Festa a Vernet-lès-Bans", composed by Juan Morata for the original 1950's single "Sardanes à Vernet-les-Bains", that could be precisely be found on sale at the time at the Maison de la presse Rajau on the Place de la République. Juan Morata is famous for popularizing the sardane in the 1950's, to such an extent that some of his tunes were used for the 1955 operetta "Les amours de Don Juan", starring famous French duo Marcel Merkès and Paulette Merval.
Pol Dodu, august 2005.