How important was Pro Musicis to the Voice and Guitar Duo?
It was important. We got
to do recitals in Rome, in Paris, in Borge.
I think we were in Metz and in Chartre.
They loved us in the high security prison at Borge.
Talk about that.
We took a taxi. You go
through the security gate. They
all know you are coming. They
check and see that itís really you. We
had to show our passports. We
had to be on the list. You get
processed at the front desk like any other visitor and we were taken
straight up to where we would perform.
was a big stone building that looked like it could have been a 19th
Century military fortress. They
had these scary metal doors and everything goes clang.
They took us up to a gymnasium, their common area.
Was the audience there when you arrived?
No. We were placed in
our spot then the audience was brought.
The guards wanted each of the prisoners to sit in their appointed
spot. It was like a class
Did the room have good acoustics?
It was alright. Weíve
talked about bad concert halls before.
Often rooms that havenít been given acoustic treatments are more
lively and more fun to sing in than actual concert halls.
It might have been a bit directional but it was alright.
Father Merlet introduced the program and spoke for a moment.
He didnít make any value judgments to them about what they should
Who was the audience?
age, late teens to 60ís. Attendance
was voluntary. I was told many
were there just to get out for a while and perhaps be able to pass a few
notes to their colleagues. So
for the first 10 minutes there was a lot of bending and greeting and note
were tough characters too, but we won them over.
Adelaide gets Ďem everytime (play
Adelaide, read on).
Singing Adelaide for a bunch of French criminals?
Father Merlet said go for it and we did and that was the one we got
them with. They were right in
the palm of our hands after that.
Did you meet any of the prisoners?
(laughs) No. Itís high
security. They had all these
guards everywhere because we were sitting directly in front of them with no
barrier or anything. They
wanted to make sure we were safe.
werenít anything like a regular audience in a concert hall.
Some had never been to a concert, never heard that kind of music.
Most of them werenít concertgoers.
They were curious about what was going to happen, perhaps a little
uncomfortable. There were
self-conscious grins, how should I behave for these people who have come to
perform for me?
first impression, when you hear music youíve never heard before is going
to be mild surprise but interest. I noticed a few who obviously had culture experience and were
glad to be there because theyíd missed it.
Most of them were on a discovery tour.
Did you present a program that was any different because of where you
No. Father Merlet
encouraged us to keep the program as close to the programs we gave in the
public concerts as possible. He
didnít want us playing down to or for the special audiences.
The whole point was to present the same genre, quality and type of
music that we were performing for the regular concert-going public.
He wanted us to do Beethoven and Schubert.
How many showed up?
We had two groups. The
men first, may be 40. Then
there were 35 or 40 women after that.
Which was the better crowd?
The men fell harder and faster because a little eye contact with a
female is unusual. The men were
all charmed, you know because--be nice to the lady.
They were all very chivalrous.
Were there any attitudes?
Yea, there was an attitude in the women.
I didnít notice any with the guys, they were too busy being bemused
by the presence of a woman singing for them.
The ladies were less prone to that kind of ďsiren charmĒ you
could say. They might look at other women in a more competitive way.
There was a certain adversarial mood from some of the, Iíll call
them, alpha women. There was
this one woman who was obviously the alpha girl.
She put on an attitude. She
sat right in the front and started staring me down and trying to distract me
by wiggling her foot the whole time. It
took a little while to win her over but the moment she quieted down and
began to listen all the other women relaxed.
They were taking their lead from her.
I knew she was the one I had to reach.
It was a group dynamic that would be unique to that situation.
You wouldnít find that in a typical audience.
How did you do that?
You use pure sincerity.
Do you remember what piece you were on when she came around?
That was the Beethoven, the Adelaide, itís special.
Did you do any talking or explaining?
A very little bit.
I wasnít such a good French speaker.
Charlie: Did they mind?
Elizabeth: They were impressed that I even tried. I had a little help, there was someone there to translate for me. I did make an effort to speak French.
takes a lot of organization to sing in a place like that and only a Catholic
priest could get it done.
you learn interacting with special audiences is that your sincerity factor,
artistic personality, magnetism, have to be played big.
You also have to play it honest because they will see right through
you. Youíve got to have every
ounce of charm in your body to get to those folks.
You are going to learn to put out the right stuff performing for
Pro Musicis we would do a public concert then we would do one of these
special things. They were
adventures. We played in the
AIDS ward of a Paris hospital, another interesting experience. We did bed side concerts because the guitar could go
anyplace. We would go to
hospital rooms and play for the patients who couldnít get up.
Pro Musicis was significant for me.
They sponsored debut recitals in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and
then in Europe. Pro Musicis
enriched my career a lot.
(Interview with Elizabeth Parcells 2005)
(Interview with Elizabeth Parcells 2005)