Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Medieval Weekend

July and August the village's main street is barricaded every Friday for the weekly night market. This week it was closed all weekend to make space for one of Léran's major yearly celebrations: tah=dah-- Lérancestral
   Stalls selling crafts, food and food line the street and kids play medieval games but the  high point is the spectacle in the meadow below the chateau, a 90-or-so-minute pageant that recounts the early history of the village. This year the choir was invited to take part so Peter and I, along with maybe 15 other members, dressed up in medieval gear and sang our little hearts out. 
   All year long, a group of village ladies sews costumes and the results are truly magnificent. Mine was a deep purple with floor-sweeping sleeves, and a veiled hat to match. Peter was a picture in a scarlet knee-length tunic. The person behind all this immense amount of work is Anne-Marie. She's the lady with the basket over her arm in the shot at the top of this post. 
    Saturday afternoon, some of the participants paraded through the village. 
What's wonderful about the spectacle--no, two things are wonderful about it--is that first the realization that the scenes you are watching (or, in our case, taking part in) might well have happened on this very spot hundreds of years ago. The second is seeing people you know, Cecile from the boulangerie and her son, Matthieu (in silver and black), our mayor, Henri (in the saffron-and-garnet coloured costume) and his wife, and countless others, playing different roles. In a potentially Oscar award-winning performance. Matthieu, for instance, was scarily realistic as a plague victim, then, magically revived, showed up some 20 minutes later, as a young noble. Meanwhile, Henri pulled the "bring out your dead" cart but also acted as a noble.
   The choir's role was to be wedding guests. We walked on to the meadow, basses, altos, sopranos, tenors, sang our "Non nobis, domine.." then mingled in with two other processions and paraded to the rear of the performance area. Where we danced. Let's be frank here.  It wasn't exactly choreographed. Instead, French and English, we all dredged up memories of whatever country dances we'd learned as kids--and winged it. That over, we became the audience for a tournament. 
    Finally we paraded to the front of the meadow and sang the unofficial Occitan national anthem before applauding the audience who applauded back. We then lined the exit route so that we could each applaud each other all over again. Oh my, it was fun. 

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