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Lo Cor De La Plana celebrates Occitan language and culture
by E. Joyce Glasgow - SGN A&E Writer

Lo Cor De La Plana
March 27
Seattle City Hall


Lo Cor De La Plana is a six-member polyphonic male accapella singing group, formed in 2001, who sing in their native, ancient Occitan language and combine tradition and heritage with the influences of 21st-century city life. They are from the La Plaine quarter of Marseilles, the largest city in southern France and a musical melting pot for 26 centuries, influenced by the music of the Mediterranean, Africa, and Italy.

The sextet accompanies themselves only with stomping feet, clapping hands and hand drums/tambourines. They are earthy, bold, and vibrant, and their material is new, mysterious, and exciting for most contemporary ears here in the U.S.

Occitan (also known as Provencal or Languedoc) is one of the oldest living languages in Europe and was spoken for centuries in the southern Provence region of what is now France, until the French came along to dominate with their own language and culture. It is closest to the Catalan language. Many people in our contemporary times are not aware that the Occitan language - mistakenly considered archaic and long forgotten and mostly now associated romantically with the aristocratic poetry of the historic troubadours of medieval times in the 12th and 13th centuries - is alive and well and spoken as a first language by around 1.5 million people today.

Lo Cor De La Plana performed a highly anticipated concert, led by their founder Manu Theron, at Town Hall in Seattle on March 27 as this season's final offering of Town Hall's annual "Global Rhythms" series. It was a great choice to present to the Seattle audience, who welcomed them enthusiastically.

Their lusty urban folk songs were raucous, funny, suggestive, serious, and ribald, and included comments on everything from love to greed to the police. The songs sounded like a blending of medieval and contemporary Balkan, Italian, and Spanish music, with Islamic style, and mellismatic flourishes on numbers with provocative and gritty titles including (in English translation here): "Ball Breaker," "Lazy and Greedy," "Get Out of My Way," "The Cops," "The Old Woman," "The Young Bride," "The Neighbor's Daughter," "Nine Maidens" (a reference conjectured possibly to homosexuality), and "The Big Noise."

I love this articulate and passionate quote from their concert program and I think that readers will get a succinct idea of what the group is about from it:

"Our influences are everywhere - in churches, factories, bars, festivals or theatres, and we do not hesitate to mix disconcerting paganism of old Occitan backgrounds with the preoccupations of Marseille musicians of today. We do not renounce any influence, from Bartok to Massilia Sound System, or any origin, from Oran to Rove, as our only ambition is to evoke and resonate in our music all that our city and the world around it has given in terms of an environment 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!"

These musicians are great and a real find! Their music is original, engaging and exhilarating! Check out their videos on YouTube and their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/locordelaplana.

For more information on upcoming events at Town Hall visit, www.townhallseattle.org.
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