This is the second part of our conversation with Mark Bilyeu and Clara Osowski, please see below for the first part.
“Late summer is such a beautiful time to be in Tours,” remembered Clara. “We walked to our homestay close to the train station and enjoyed the city’s bike trails while remarking how the ease of biking and scenic views of the river reminded us of Minneapolis.” Laughing, she added, “Well, without the castles!” (Tours definitely has the edge on Minneapolis for number of castles in the surrounding area.) Mark also appreciated the history of the area – “It’s pretty amazing when you walk by a tree that was planted by Napoleon and know that the house you’re in is older than the state of Minnesota.”
Sightseeing aside, the main reason they were there was to take part in a 10 day workshop, which also included participants in theatre and poetry. As the only Americans invited to participate in that particular session, they interacted with others from around the world including Brazil and Singapore. The lessons were all taught in French so they prepared by taking some classes at the Alliance Francaise and were thankful for a French Canadian participant who helped them with anything “lost in translation.” A literary professor also helped them understand the meaning behind some of the works they studied and performed.
A workshop related highlight was a tour of Francis Poulenc’s house, which sits in a vineyard overlooking the Loire Valley and is opened once a year for workshop participants. “I got to play his piano so that was fun,” says Mark. “And his house was for sale to anyone who has a lot of spare change.”
After returning to Minneapolis, Mark and Clara performed in concert at the Weisman Art Museum in September 2013 and have also been the featured performers representing Minneapolis and Tours Sister Cities at Sister Cities Day in July for the past three years.
This spring and summer, they are busy planning the third edition of the Source Song Festival (held this year August 8-13). Started in 2014, the weeklong festival centralized at the MacPhail Center in Minneapolis celebrates poetry in music for composers and lovers of song with guest clinicians, concerts open to the public and opportunities for local performers and students to interact with internationally renowned artists. François Le Roux will be participating in the festival for the third time and doing master classes with local students, except unlike the Académie Francis Poulenc the instruction will be in English.
On the blog they created for their first visit to Tours, they wrote “Our goal is to establish a regular exchange of Art Song, music and ideas between Minneapolis and Tours, and look forward to future projects which engage communities and promote understanding of our equally rich and meaningful cultures.” Minneapolis and Tours Sister Cities is proud to support Mark and Clara’s international collaboration strengthening the bonds of friendship between our cities.