Sunday afternoon at Gailland Lac, Chamonix, in June and a different kind of French experience starring PianO. PianO was/were on tour around lakes in the Haute Savoie giving concerts. Their USP is a floating piano (pian-eau – get it?). In my mind, France, piano and water spell incipient disaster and that is what we witnessed, although all was fine in the end; in fact more than fine it was all good fun, but completely bizarre.
We arrived at Les Pelerins station around 11.oo for an event due to start at 11.30, though we were realistic and did not expect anything to happen before 12. We were wrong and a capella trio (called “Garcon – s’il vous plait”) was wandering around the small crowd by 11.35 with a blackboard singing to young children and other people. Those they selected chose a word from the blackboard and they sang the song and crossed off that item from the board. They were very good and amusing, but lurking in the background on the edge of the lake stood a small grand piano on a raft with a big sunshade, surrounded by transparent balloon-like balls looking like floats.
The “garcons” finished and left. For about an hour people picnicked and sat around in the hot sun. To prepare for the concert, I suppose, a woman went onto the floating raft, carefully avoiding the microphone cables, and started to take the sunshade down. She was having trouble so a gallant older man paddled the short distance needed got on the raft and went around to the same side as her. This was too much for the equilibrium of the raft which tipped up and, once beyond the vertical, tipped over leaving the two people swimming and the piano more than half submerged, resting on the bottom of the lake. Panic ensued. A group swiftly formed a tug-of-war team, a man appeared in a wet suit and several people waded into the water. In short order the piano was back on the raft. The microphones were changed, keys tested and fixed somehow. Some towels were carefully deployed and the odd piece that had fallen off was retrieved and replaced. The older man, who caused the mishap, got back in the water and swam off into the middle of the lake, no doubt in shame and anxious to avoid a justly deserved bollocking. After only about ten minutes the Maestro was called forward and he appeared carrying flippers! Disappointingly, these were for the man in the wetsuit who swam with the raft and artistically moved it around on the lake during the concert.
The pianist was very good despite having his feet in water most of the time and with the raft at quite an angle from the horizontal. All his numbers were “for Philippe” and, to the amazement and astonishment of the crowd, the raft drew close to the shore and Phillippe jumped aboard the raft, which set sail again steered by the flipper-footed, wetsuited swimmer. Phillippe started to sing. He appeared quite petrified of moving lest the raft tip over, again.
This nicely rounded off for me an enjoyable but most bizarre afternoon. Phillippe, well over ankle deep in water, barefoot, but with long trousers slowly wicking water higher, singing while accompanied by piano, being towed into ever deeper water by the third member of the trio, wearing flippers.