Two Minneapolitans travel to Tours for a song

Clara with Francois Le Roux (center) and Mark (right)

Clara with Francois Le Roux (center) and Mark (right)

This spring, the Académie Francis Poulenc in Tours, which fosters the talent of emerging artists from around the world, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Minneapolis and Tours Sister Cities wishes un bon séjour en Touraine to two Minneapolitans who studied at the academy in 2013 and are returning to participate in a day long concert at the Tours Opera House.

Mark Bilyeu and Clara Osowski both took different paths to Minneapolis – Clara grew up in North Dakota and moved here with her husband, while Mark is a native Chicagoan who came for graduate school at the University of Minnesota. Both share a background as a classically trained artist – Clara (a mezzo soprano) has a master’s degree in voice, Mark (a pianist) has a master’s degree in accompanying – and met through a mutual friend. While studying at a workshop in Vancouver, they met François Le Roux, the founder and artistic director of the Académie Francis Poulenc, who encouraged them to come to Tours.

After a friend mentioned that Tours is also Minneapolis’s sister city, Mark did what anyone would recognize as a logical next step – he googled it. With help from Bob Corrick and other members of Minneapolis and Tours Sister Cities, Mark and Clara were off for their première visite to Tours in August 2013.

They happened to be there for the grand opening of the city’s new tram (similar to our light rail) and took home an unexpected souvenir – “I remember sticking some red confetti in my back pocket as we rode around,” says Mark, “and then I forgot to take it out before I washed those pants so they now have a nice red spot on them.” They also tried to get some “screen time” on the live broadcast happening at city hall just in case anyone was watching on the internet back home.

Stay tuned for more including remembrances of Tours and Mark and Clara’s ongoing work for lovers of song…

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