Handel - Messiah - Les Talens Lyriques - La Grange au Lac, Évian-les-Bains

Having isolated in France before rehearsing and performing Mozart’s Idomeneo in Würzburg, I returned to Paris with Les Talens Lyriques, instead of going home as I usually would. These are still not usual times and it was not pragmatic for me to return to London (to quarantine in England and then to have to quarantine again upon return to France). So, as it happened, I had ten isolation-free days (including my birthday) in Paris between these excellent projects with Les Talens Lyriques.

In my free time I visited Saint Germain-en-Laye, explored the gardens at Versailles, traversed Père-Lachaise Cemetery, ate baklava at the Grand Mosque of Paris, and continued working on my natural trumpet book. 

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Paris was an inspiring place to be at this time; it was the epicentre of a vast variety of live performances after French restrictions were suitably eased on 9th June 2021. Future historians will surely write about this exemplary return to live music-making, especially in such challenging times. The saying ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’ has never been truer in France at the moment and I must say a huge thank you to Les Talens Lyriques for surmounting the significant challenges that Covid-19 has brought - their organisational team is extraordinary. 

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Les Talens Lyriques prepared for a performance of Handel’s Messiah [HWV 56] at the Conservatoire Jean-Baptiste Lully in Puteaux, and relocated to Évian-Les-Bains, on the French side of Lac Léman, on Friday 25th June 2021 - with fantastic views on route by rail. Saturday morning brought an opportunity to swim in Lac Léman. Only a few hardy souls were keen; Jean-Marc (violin), Gareth Hoddinott (2nd trumpet) and me. It was my first time swimming since my local swimming pool closed in March 2020 and it was a brilliant, more scenic, and surprisingly warm (19°C) reintroduction to swimming, with eagles and marsh harriers making appearances above the crystal clear water.

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Les Talens Lyriques (led by Gilone Gaubert) and the Chœur de Chambre de Namur (led by Thibault Lenaerts) rehearsed at the Grange au Lac in the late afternoon. We began our performance at 7pm, with Christophe Rousset conducting. Amanda Forsythe (soprano), Christopher Lowrey (alto), Jason Bridges (tenor) and Nahuel di Pierro (bass) were the soloists, and I had the great pleasure of performing the aria The Trumpet Shall Sound. Christophe’s interpretation of this aria was vibrant and lively. 

It was great to play something ‘under the spotlight’ with Les Talens Lyriques. I have played for this group regularly since 2014, yet I think this is the first time I have played with them at 415Hz (other works have often been at: 440Hz, 430Hz, 400Hz, or 392Hz before), and it is certainly the first time I have played an obbligato aria with this fantastic orchestra.

A sizeable audience (N.B. not all seats were intentionally not available for sale) gave a rousing round of applause after the performance in La Grange au Lac. The applause was almost overwhelming, and very welcome after such a long time of predominantly doing recordings and live streams without an audience present. It was a great venue, set on the hills above the lake in leafy surroundings. 

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This performance marked my first unrecorded project since March 2020. It was such a joy to be able to perform so freely to the people in the room. That, for me, is the essence of live performance. I played a few spontaneous ornaments that I would not normally be willing to commit to hearing again and again if it were for a recording, and I cherished the freedom of disposability that this live performance permitted. [By the way, I am still a very selective maker of ornaments and I follow the timeless advice of Dalla Casa (1584): ‘with divisions [minuta] do few things, but make them good. So, let everyone strive for a good tone, good tonguing and good divisions and imitate as much as possible the human voice.’]

We had an excellent trumpet and timpani section comprising: Russell Gilmour (1st trumpet), Gareth Hoddinott (2nd trumpet) and Marie-Ange Petit (timpani). It was great to see Gareth again, and to play together after such a long interval. Gareth played on a mouthpiece that I made, and he sounded brilliant on it. It was also a huge pleasure to meet and play alongside Marie-Ange, who is a renowned timpanist. We look forward to collaborating again for a Beethoven project later this year.

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Afterwards, I was delighted to read the following review on Olyrix

"La maîtrise des trompettistes, particulièrement Russell Gilmour, ajoute en éclat lors de l’air The trumpet shall sound (La trompette sonnera) et le légendaire Hallelujah." - Emmanuel Deroeux, Olyrix

"The mastery of trumpeters, especially Russell Gilmour, adds sparkle to the tune The Trumpet Shall Sound and the legendary Hallelujah." - Emmanuel Deroeux, Olyrix
and another review on Forum Opera shows a close-up photograph and reads something like:

"Avec un effectif aussi limité, l’union fait la force : appuyé par la trompette éclatante de Russell Gilmour, le chœur n’est jamais aussi convaincant que lorsqu’il chante à l’unisson. Si ce parti-pris d’un Messie écrémé d’une vaine pompe convainc, c’est aussi parce qu’il est assumé d’une baguette dansante par Christophe Rousset." - Christophe Rizoud, Forum Opera 

"With such limited choral forces, there is strength in unity: supported by the dazzling trumpet of Russell Gilmour, the choir is most convincing when it sings in unison... under the dancing baton of Christophe Rousset." - Christophe Rizoud, Forum Opera
a video of our encore can also be viewed on lefigaro.fr

and some photographs were shared after the event:


As I finished writing this blog, the Eurostar departed Paris Gare du Nord, and the reality of ten days of quarantine dawned on me. I was comforted by memories of these fantastic concerts and of a wonderful 28 days spent in France and with Les Talens Lyriques. I also realised that, since the 31st of May, I have travelled 99% by rail; including on 5 trains to get home: 1) Evian to Bellegarde, 2) Bellegarde - Paris, Gare de Lyon, 3) RER to Gare du Nord, 4) Eurostar to London St. Pancras and 5) Thameslink to Bedford.

Russell Gilmour
Russell Gilmour Blog
writing on music, photography, engraving, travel and life as a freelance professional musician.