“With just those voices and percussion, they did remarkable things . . . The music was equally robust and intricate.” —New York Times
Singing in the disappearing Romance language of Occitan, the vocal and percussion ensemble Lo Còr de la Plana of Southern France not only brings a captivating ancient culture to life, but combines its rich traditions with 21st-century polyphony and subtle electronics. On their first U.S. tour, the irrepressible men of Lo Còr combine bendir drums, tambourines, foot-stomping, and hand-clapping with drones and call-and-response to create an utterly infectious musical experience. Lo Còr de la Plana performs its area debut on Saturday, March 28, at 8 pm in the Walker Art Center’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater. The ensemble’s art reflects influences ranging from chant to Bartók, Middle Eastern vocal tonalities to the Massilia Sound System. Copresented with the Cedar Cultural Center.
The language of Occitan, along with Gaelic, South German, Basque, Italic, Catalan, and French is spoken in France, but has never been an official language. A written idiom for more than 10 centuries, Occitan was the chosen language of European poets during the 12th and 13th centuries, and rich noblemen and kings, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine’s grandfather, Guilhem, or Richard the Lion Hearted himself, wrote and composed Occitan pieces.
Members of Lo Còr de la Plana comment, “We present an anthology of traditional, but also original, songs that may give the listener a first overall view on how the Occitan spirit never fails to celebrate the vital energies of life; especially when pointed as close to its death, as the current French state likes to describe our culture.”
Founded in 2001, Lo Còr de la Plana performs a wide-ranging repertoire, from the most religious to the most unfettered, the repetitive to the occasional. The group’s influences are everywhere: in churches, factories, bars, festivals or theaters. Mixing the disconcerting paganism of old Occitan with the preoccupations of contemporary Marseille musicians, they do not renounce any influence, from Bartók to Massilia Sound System, or any origin, from Oran to Rove. Rather, their sole ambition is to evoke and resonate in their music all that their city and the world around it has given them in terms of sounds. “A police siren, a newborn baby, the remains of a paradise or a fantasyland, a drunken party, sheep, wolves . . . in short, the peaceful, heady passion of day-to-day life.”
Past performances include major international festivals: Festival Respect (Czech Republic); Babel Med Music; Festival Stimmen-Voix-Voices (Germany); Festival d’Ile de France; Festival Villes des Musiques du Monde; Festival SFINKS (Belgium); Fira de Manresa (Spain); Estivada (Rodez/Haïfa, Israel); Tanz & Folkfest (Rudolstadt, Germany); Les Méditerranéennes (Argelès); Les Suds (Arles); Chorus des Hauts de Seine; Printemps de Pérouges; La Mounède & Festival Convivencia (Toulouse); and Festival de Saint Chartier. Most recently, Lo Còr was featured at Globalfest in New York and hailed by the New York Times as “The most striking group at GlobalFest. And with just those voices and percussion, they did remarkable things. They sang rich choral harmonies and joyfully ricocheting counterpoint.”
Tickets to Lo Còr de la Plana are $22 ($18 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.