Wednesday, 27 June 2007

St. Jean Baptiste Day London-style

Having written about two celebrations of the Feast of St. John (those of the Order of Malta and the Venerable Order of St. John) it would be remiss of me not to note a third noteworthy St. John's Day celebration that took place here in London this week: a concert for Quebec's National Day (St. Jean Baptiste being Quebec's patron saint).

I had the pleasure of attending the "Quebec Annual Concert" as a guest of the Agent-General of the Quebec Delegation for London. The concert was held, appropriately, at St. John's, Smith Square and featured Marianne Fiset (soprano) the First Grand Prize Winner of the Montreal International Musical Competition. At the Montreal competition Marianne Fiset also won the Jean A. Chalmers Award (for Best Canadian Artist), the Joseph Rouleau Award (for Best Quebec Artist) and the People's Choice Award.

At St. John's the carefully structured programme (which included Richard Strauss, Rachmaninov, Charpentier and Puccini) enabled the young soprano to demonstrate her wide vocal range. She was accompanied by the distinguished pianist Louise-Andree Baril.

To describe Marianne Fiset as a talented young artist is to deny her proper recognition, for her ability is quite remarkable. I am certain that she has a glorious career ahead. I urge all to note her name.

Following the concert the Quebec Delegation hosted a lively reception in the crypt (if a crypt can be lively!). In honour of the occasion my guest and I both wore ties emblazoned with fleur-de-lys; fortunately our ties were not of the same colour -- indeed, my guest's tie featured gold fleur-de-lys, the traditional symbol of the French Bourbon monarchy, and I did wonder whether some might have regarded this as a demonstration of support for a restoration! Contrary to popular belief, the white fleur-de-lys featured on the flag of Quebec relate not to Quebec's French royal heritage but, rather, to the Virgin Mary.

The concert and reception made for a very pleasant evening -- particularly as I had attended another reception earlier in the evening (this one hosted by the excellent Constitutional Unit of University College London) at which I was delighted to see the great historian Professor the Rt. Hon. The Lord Morgan. The BBC was filming at the UCL reception but, as delightful as it was, I cannot think in what context this event would have been reported.

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