The composer, guitarist and singer gives Friday, April 19 an unprecedented concert in the abbey of Noirlac (Cher), a highlight of the Printemps de Bourges.
La Croix: How do you feel about giving a concert in the abbey of Noirlac (Cher)?
Rodolphe Burger: Playing at Noirlac is a gift made to me by the Printemps de Bourges. I love the Cistercian abbeys, and this one is particularly beautiful. She is in a staggering state of preservation, time seems not to have done her work of degradation. The acoustics are different in every room, from the refectory to the dormitory. Among other wonders, the abbey of Noirlac is a place thought from the acoustic point of view.
You often perform in places of worship …
RB: I will play soon at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, I also performed in Strasbourg Cathedral. I like to find myself in these religious buildings, even when sometimes they are no longer consecrated. Thus for “It’s in the Valley”, the small music festival that I take care of, at home in Alsace, we play in the small church of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (Haut-Rhin). It is no longer consecrated, but it alternately hosts Lutheran, Calvinist and Catholic Masses, as well as electric or acoustic concerts: it is a magnificent way to occupy it.
How does your show in Noirlac take into account the specificity of the abbey?
RB: My concert on Friday, April 19th with bassist Sarah Murcia and percussionist Christophe Calpini is designed according to the venue. We will begin in acoustics in the abbey, then we will play in the refectory of the brothers converses whose wooden ceiling lends itself to the electric instruments, and we will hear some of the pieces of my next album still unpublished, which will be released at the autumn 2019.
You also designed a project for Reims Cathedral?
RB: Yes, I was invited by the former mayor of Reims Adeline Hazan in 2011. She had reopened the cathedral at an electric concert years after a concert that caused a terrible scandal in the 1970s. all the more courageous that I came with a proposal not totally consensual. Mirror the Song of Songs in Hebrew by an Israeli woman and a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, said in Arabic by a Palestinian Lebanese singer. And all this organized by a Calvinist in a Catholic cathedral.
Does your birth in a Calvinist family irrigate your music?
RB: I was raised in the Calvinist faith in Alsace. Small, I even wanted to be a pastor. Then I had a phase of mysticism. Then I got closer to a worker pastor who was ministering in the Peugeot plant in Mulhouse, and who had a great role in my intellectual training. I fully assume this training. I was nourished by Protestantism, and also musically – when one is Calvinist, one bathes in Bach! But I want there to be no confusion. For me, playing in a church does not mean making religious music.
But these religious buildings inspire you and touch you …
R. B: I was stunned like so many others to see the smoke column rising from Notre-Dame de Paris in flames. The burning stone seemed unreal, because I had not thought of all that lumber. But then, it was heartening to learn that there were no deaths in the fire and that a restoration would be undertaken.
Religious buildings matter to me because I fully recognize the elevation power of these places. They are spiritual elevators. The sound is also elevated, in a psychedelic way. One evening, I found myself alone in Strasbourg Cathedral to repeat, a very strong moment. This cathedral, my favorite, is a really powerful place, while remaining a “heimlich” (in Alsatian an intimate and sacred place). It is high, transported, what I respect. Secular music in a church is elevation without transcendence.