Voyage 2007


Single Screen, 22:37, 2007

Rocamadour, France

‍ 44.7994° N, 1.6179° E

On 16th August 1936 composer, Francis Poulenc travelled from a hotel in Uzerche to visit La Chappelle Notre Dame in Rocamadour. This journey culminated in an encounter with the black Madonna housed there. He was so moved by this tiny statue that as soon as he returned to his hotel that evening, he wrote Litanies à La Vierges Noire. This encounter was to change his life forever.

In the summer of 2006 I retraced the same journey that Poulenc made seventy years ago. This was part of a longer journey from Bristol to Gstaad to Venice to Paris to Toulouse and home. During the whole trip I kept a diary.

What results is a 23 minute journey from hotel to Chapel where the minds and actions of composer and artist become intermingled. A French voiceover guides us to reflect on this particular pilgrimage as an allusion to almost any journey we have experienced.

I recorded a physical journey in the present that has a destination tangibly rooted historically and geographically, but whose ultimate goal is (and was, in Poulenc’s terms, although he didn’t realise it at the time) the less palpable prize of inspiration.


16th August

Poulenc travelled from his house at Le Grand Coteau at Noizay to the Hôtel du Commerce in Uzerche (Buckland, S., 'Francis Poulenc: Echo and Source', Victor Gollanz Ltd, 1991, p.107)

22nd August: Makes the 45 km journey from his hotel to the town of Rocamadour. Here he comes face to face with the black Madonna housed in La Chapelle Notre-Dame. He buys a small icon with a litany written on the back.(Burton, R.D.E., 'Francis Poulenc', Absolute Press, 2002, p.65)

29th August: Using a prayer on the reverse of an icon as a starting point, the first major religious choral work Litanies À La Vierge Noire is completed.

2006 (a more detailed diary is now available):

20th June: I fly to Toulouse, pick up hire car and drive to Uzerche.

21st June: Research trip one locate Hotel Teyssier find out which room that Poulenc stayed in in 1936, drive from Uzerche to Rocamadour ascertain walking time from station to La Chappelle Notre Dame and back, film the black Madonna.

22nd June: Research trip two, take taxi from Hotel Teyssier (formerly Hotel du Commerce) to Uzerche station.10:36am train from Uzerche to Rocamadour via Brive la Gaillarde arriving at 12:03pm, walk the 4.5 km from Rocamadour station to Chappelle Notre Dame, 13:41pm train back to Uzerche (Buckland, S., 'Francis Poulenc: Echo and Source', Victor Gollanz Ltd, 1991, p.107).

23rd June: Research trip three, as trip two but filming.

24th June: Research trip four, as above.