“April in Gervasoni, chestnuts in blossom, holiday tables under the trees.” -E. Y. Harburg
After a thrilling high-altitude experience, it typically takes two days to not just regain the altitude and perspective, but also it takes a while to comprehend what exactly occurred.
That was our experience in France.
Transporting 36 musicians from the city of Paris for a tour of three concerts was an incredible experience that I am unable to completely convey in this Newsletter. My words are not enough as will our photos miss the bulk of it. stories told with excitement to anxiously waiting family members will only give an idea of what was experienced. What happens when strategy meets vision or passion meets enthusiasm, and the divine spark meets faith can’t be grasped by those who haven’t yet reached the top of the mountain. Because it’s an integral part of me I am compelled to try to share it with you.
Duvivier Canapés was for me at least the result of almost 14 years of musical education for my children. It was a joy to watch my heart overflowing with joy when I was elated. After hearing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” played with less-than-perfect intonation that was 10000 times as well as the foot-stomping the eyeball rolling, and of the ‘I hate playing the violin that my kids would say when they weren’t able to focus and the 90-minute round trip daily trips for Westport for lessons, I was able to watch not just my children Ben and Cristina as well as the children of the orchestra, ranging from twelve to 18 years old, play Beethoven’s “Fifth” and Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” in an ancient cathedral in central Paris made me feel ebullient. The tears dripped down my cheeks when the music moved and lifted my spirit to a new height I had never imagined. Friendships formed with innocent of people, as the similarities were revealed and shared. Blockades erected due to political divisions as well as theological differences and ideological differences were dissolved in the global love music.
It was an unforgettable adventure, and I’ve picked up a few lessons during the process:
1.) Our feet are on the shoulders of spiritual giants that came before us. If one travels to cities with cathedrals that are still in place after the chaos during the Crusades and the many battles fought in the city it becomes clear the extent of the faith-based beliefs of those before us. The Chartres Cathedral, and walking through the hallways at La Trinite and the Magdalena Cathedrals where our children played–off me to not just enjoy the privilege of admiring stained-glass windows depicting famous Biblical themes, but also gave me the opportunity to reflect about the inspiration, vision and commitment of the people who created them. In the past, in Paris the religion of the day was not an integral element of the daily routine. It was a way of life.
2.) Music, art, and literature are essential elements of the life you want to live. Just as the right shoes, a good mattress and good books, they are essential components of every child’s life; good art, great music, and great literature give the necessary nourishment to the soul. Walking through the halls of the Louvre, and my favourite museum in Paris Musee D’Orsay gave me a new appreciation for the importance of art that is amazing. These guys aren’t masters for no reason. I’m sure that this world will be more secure and more joyful if everyone learned painting, performed an instrument, or joined a choir and read the classics regularly. Music is the universal human language; those who don’t understand the importance of this must take up taking a listen to Mozart.
3) Celebrate serendipity. This is a concept I have explored in my book and in my previous newsletters and Newsletters, it’s worth repeating this time, since I observed how I embraced, practiced and embodied the principles I teach. You may have noticed already that I’ve got an enviable amount of adoration in the lime green color (or disease depending on how you view it). It was pure luck that while strolling down the Parisian street to look for French candles and ceramics we stumbled across a lime-green lounge set against a bricked storefront. I started laughing with a maniacal grin. In what other city than Paris could I find an orange-colored sofa on the sidewalk? I immediately sat down in it, enjoyed the moment and allowed it to be captured on film. It was pure luck that, as I walked through a crowded shopping area I was snatched by the back, and then an Parisian lady who could not even speak English attempt to inform me that her name is “La Coq” and could I inform her of a place where she could purchase that Vera Bradley backpack I wore that featured roosters and eggs? I assured her in English that the backpack was no longer available but she was able to sign-language her request to take out a pen and paper to write down the web site on which she might be able to find it. The serendipity of that experience remains a source of joy for me. Perhaps it was the serendipity of our guide for the trip was near perfect, that our flights were smooth and that our hotel was perfect and that our Parisian orchestra, which performed in a concert in concert with us, was prepared and enjoyable. It was either serendipity or angels watching us: we savored each and every win.
4.) Food plays a major aspect in the celebration of life. Being French is to possess an interest in everything connected to food. They unapologetically indulge in culinary arts and take advantage of all its stress-relieving positive effects on a three-times-a-day basis. They support a “live to eat’ instead of eating to live M.O. This is evident. “Take-out coffee” is an contradiction. It’s simply not a thing in France. Coffee is meant to be drunk sitting down, preferably with a friend or two, along with a baguette or a sugar-or-chocolate-filled crepe as well. While French women aren’t likely to get overweight, American women visiting France may. I took on the French dining culture for eight days, and came back with a “wiggle in my waddle,” in case you’re wondering what I’m talking about. What’s that? Sara tara (or is it Spanish?)
5.) Appeal and charm are effective. They’re not overrated. From Hotel staff, and Parisian servers to waiters and the store clerk at the Ralph Lauren store: all satisfied our needs with grace and class. The moment an unsuspecting but beautiful floral arrangement caused an unending twitch to my throat and the “Polo clerk” ordered up an ice-cold glass for me. The water was served with a napkin that was placed on top of the silver tray. (When has the most recent time something like this happened to you in the States?) Our orchestra was able to join along with the local orchestra in a concert that night, we were all us–captivated by its Parisian conductor Sylvan. Young and lively charismatic, he radiated charm with his gracious and humble manner towards us. His hot pink tie that he was wearing against his all-black “uniform” proved once again the power of charisma.
6.) “Canapé” means something. The French are not willing to begin any conversation without it. One time, as I rambled into my discussion of the need for many Eiffel Tower charms for bracelets but without the obligatory “Canapé” opening, the store clerk interrupted me in mid-sentence and interrupted my conversation by asking “Canapé, Madame, how can I help you?” What a wonderful way to be reminded on a regular basis that this is truly, a wonderful day!
7) “Paris” means even more. The night after evening two of our tour full of energy and excitement after climbing to the summit of the Eiffel Tower, I accidentally made the mistake of saying “Paris” (jwahr) rather than “Home spirit” (swahr). Sarah the flawlessly fluent chaperone I was speaking to about my mistake, announced: “Happy joy of life to you, too!” As I swayed up the escalator that led to the hotel, I did not be aware of the severity of my mistake. The next day, in the car, everybody greeted me with a “Paris.” This was the first time it stuck. Sits was our passcode for April of Paris. I can’t think of a password more fitting.
Our kids shined like sugar-coated gumdrops sprinkled across on the sidewalks of Paris and dotted important landmarks and sweetening every food. I was delighted and honored to be part of an event with importance to our small and unassuming youth orchestra. They were ambassadors of goodwill for our symphony, for our town, and even our country. Never was I more proud of myself as a music lover, parent, and an American. Perhaps my story can give you some information on how you too, can be proud of your life.