the virtuosos of the brass bands who face the mistrust of the younger generations

By Michel Dallonic

Posted today at 04:00, updated at 08:14

Michel Cathelineau has lost the desire to love. She’s been with him for years and now he can’t find her tonight. Neither in the clutter of his large soft nylon bag, nor in his collection of briefcases. But where did this damn score go? The harmony of Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon (Deux-Sèvres) fidgets. The desire to love (excerpt from Ten Commandments, by Pascal Obispo, published in 2000), it is the house tune, the piece that opens the Friday rehearsals. The chef, Xavier Caillaud, a finicky fifty-something, rolls his eyes. It’s a shame that Michel Cathelineau, the drummer, plays “on the sheet” † In other words, by ear. At 68, fifty-four as bass drum owner and twenty-six as orchestra president, he’s seen others. Heard from others, mostly.

Emma Gallais, 57, plays bass clarinet and Jacques Pelletier, 68, slide trombone.  In Vanneau-Irleau (Deux-Sèvres), January 18, 2022.

From the top of a curious Formica podium, Xavier Caillaud warns: “One measure for nothing and there we go. † The great hall of the socio-cultural center on the rue de la Distillerie reverberates with the first notes. Do, if, fa, fa. Michel Cathelineau intervenes: rolls of cymbals, descents of toms and tutti quanti. So far, so good. Real ? Not so much.

The ties that have united harmony with the Mauzéens since 1870 are fraying. “People listen to music at home, alonelaments the stunned percussionist. Those who play it do it in their corner. Life has changed. Meeting, sharing, it becomes rare. † Claude Caillaud, 84, father of Xavier, former chef who is now in charge of the baritone saxophone, continues: “We used to fill the village hall and courtyard. Today… “

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The harmony of Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon suffers. But not in silence. She is one of the last in the Niort region to still perform. In the 1980s, all the municipalities in the area received their training – harmony, drum band, clique, etc. In 2022 there will be only three, with Niort and Saint-Symphorien.

The crisis is national. The Musical Confederation of France has 2,110 amateur orchestras. In 1970 there were 4,137. It is very worrying. Especially since the average age of musicians increases as the number decreases. Here she turns 60. And there are only twenty-five left behind the desks. To avert fate, President Cathelineau’s men have agreed to merge with the fanfare of Vanneau-Irleau, a neighboring town.

The village hall of the town of Vanneau-Irleau (Deux-Sèvres), where the rehearsal of the Mauze-sur-le-Mignon harmony will take place, on January 18, 2022.

Every Friday evening that God makes in consultation with Saint Cecilia, patroness of the croque-notes, they show up. Gather at 8:30 PM. Late arrivals are not recommended. The lights of the nearby Intermarché gas station elongate their silhouettes, bent over by the transport of worrying suitcases. You’d swear a band of assassins. But these only perform musical works. Not bad by the way. Often they invite their colleagues to Saint-Symphorien or Saint-Maixent-l’Ecole, whose Union Musicale has just been shattered. “But we scroll lessregrets Michel Cathelineau. With age, we have back pain and quickly become out of breath. † A few years ago, for fun, they organized a “ball of the crumbling”. They thought it wiser to give up.

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