If you happen to be in reach of Brioude, France, this coming weekend 18-19 September, we can recommend a visit to the Hôtel de la Dentelle where Éric Desgrugillers will be giving a talk and concert, on both the Saturday and Sunday at 2.30pm, about the songs sung by lacemakers in the Haute-Loire. This event is part of the annual French festival ‘les journées du patrimoine’. In particular Éric will examine the repertoire of one lacemaker, Virginie Granouillet, known as ‘La Baracande’. Virginie was born in 1878 in Mans, a hamlet adjacent to the village of Roche-en-Régnier which perches high above the Loire valley. Unable to read or write, she worked as a lacemaker from her childhood into her eighties. Jean Dumas, a professor of Italian at Clermont-Ferrand University, recorded 178 songs from Virginie between 1958 and 1961, the year before her death. (Jean came from Vorey, another lacemaking village on the Loire.) Virginie probably knew many more – as Jean put to one side her religious songs and songs in the local dialect of Occitan.
If, like us, you’re unable to get to Brioude this weekend, you can still hear 146 of Virginie’s songs, as well as some of her conversations with Jean, as they are available on the Base inter-régionale ‘Patrimoine oral‘. (In theory they are also accessible on the website ‘Portail du patrimoine oral‘, but in our experience this is less reliable.) Jean’s many other recordings of singing lacemakers, such as Virginie’s neighbour Marie Soulier, are available on the same website. Éric has also written a book – Des chansons tissées aux fuseaux [songs woven with bobbins] – which includes a CD of Virginie’s songs.