Events surrounding the French National Day, Tuesday, July 14, were many and merry. The chief one occurred that day: the reception given by the Consul General. In addition, and before and after, there were the full-day Bastille Day Fête on the preceding Saturday, Sunday’s French Mass and Déjeuner, and, in a cabaret format, “Encore Aznavour,” on Monday and Tuesday. Cinephiles indulged the following days with the New Orleans Film Society’s French Film Festival at the Prytania Theater presented in partnership with the Consulate General of France in New Orleans.
A l’occasion de la fête nationale
To celebrate France’s National Day, Consul General of France in Louisiana Gregor Trumel held a reception at Antoine’s Restaurant, which has been reveling lately in its own 175 years. In 1840, it was established by Antoine Alciatore and, since then, has become a Crescent City institution. Dignitaries in the city, as well as holders of French citizenship, and those members of various French organizations and the diplomatic corps, ascended the steps of the Vieux Carre restaurant to the Japanese Room, the party’s site.
Tricolored silk flowers in blue, white and red appeared as arrangements in different sizes. Larger vases of the flowers were placed on the bars and smaller ones tied with red glitter ribbon centered the smaller tables. Guests milled about, chatting with the host and enjoying champagne and the music of cellist Cecile Savage and guitarist Georgi Petrov.
At 5:40 p.m. Consul General Trumel greeted the crowd from an interior balcony within the room. In his subsequent words, both in French and in English, he mentioned that this was his first Bastille Day in New Orleans, “the most French city in the U.S.” He continued with thanks to those people and companies who support his and his office’s efforts, as well as to his staff and to Antoine’s; recognition of the importance of jobs and trade offered by French companies; and the role of French heritage in the city and state. He closed with appropriate toasts and the singing of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem. Leading the spirited singing was Simone Brown.
Once again, Gregor Trumel mixed with his guests, as did Vice-Consul Olivia Lamy. From various French organizations came honorary consul of France in South Louisiana Christian Goudeau, CODOFIL (Council for the Development of French in Louisiana) President William “Bill” Arceneaux with spouse Patricia, French-American Chamber of Commerce-Gulf Coast President Eric Belin, FACC-GC executive director Loretta Krasnow, Alliance Française of New Orleans director Aurelie Champvert (with Maurice Morange and their little son, Gary), Group Direct Inc. CEO Damien Regnard, Christophe Pilut of Le Centre International de Lafayette, and Louis R. Koerner Jr., who heads up the Bastille Day Celebration.
The passed food, such as soufflé potatoes, oyster canapes, and creamed spinach in puff pastry, found eager takers. Among those enjoying the delicacies and the general hobnobbing were City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy, and New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation President and CEO Mark Romig.
Noted, too, and all with a title or two were Scott and Janet Howard, Dickie Brennan chatting with Melissa Gibbs, Howard Margot and Suzanne Stouse, Conny and Casey Willems, Dave and Shauna Grissett, Jacqueline Simon, Earl Dyke, Beatrice Germaine, Jean Cranmer, Michael Howard (who sported the day’s three colors), Jim and Terri Sutterfield, Meagen Moreland-Taliancich, Alexandra Stafford and Raymond Rathle, Joseph Dunn, Robert Lyall, Liz Williams and Rick Normand, Mary Matthews, Cassandra Holbrook and many others, who looked with delight as Antoine’s signature dessert, Baked Alaska, was brought forth. Guests continued to sip their Pommery Champagne as they read the confection’s inscriptions, “Bon 14 juillet” and “Happy Bastille Day.”
To put a cabaret — maybe “cabernet” — cap on Bastille Day, a number of Francophiles made tracks to Mid-City Theatre for music by the legendary Charles Aznavour performed mostly in English by Philip Melancon, Heidi Melancon and Dr. Hector Ventura (who even did a number in Spanish).
Born Shahnour Varinag Aznavourian in May of 1924 to Armenian immigrant parents in France, the beloved chanson entertainer has written more than 800 songs (including “Yesterday When I Was Young”) and has sold more than 100 million records. The world of cinema claimed him as well. Relishing the entertainment, with quite a few seated at café tables and sipping wine, were Dennis and Madeleine Crawford, Bonnie Broel, newly retired Diane Johnston, Joan Eckholdt, Dianne Huber and pal Jimmy Hyland, and Nancy Oelschlaeger. The first act ended with people dancing in the aisles.
- Bastille Day Celebration
From Mass to the meal. And all along, there were good tidings with a Gallic slant. For years, the Bastille Day Mass in French has been at St. Louis Cathedral followed by the “Déjeuner” (luncheon) in a nearby restaurant. In 2014, the location was Holy Name of Jesus Church on St. Charles Avenue with the pastor, the Rev. Edwin “Eddie” Gros, SJ, as the presider and homilist, and Ron Guidry as the deacon. Very recently, the church and principals were the same. Assisting this past July 12 were Ursuline Academy pianist and choir director Helen Honoree Myers, Cantor Elizabeth Rizzo, Manon Scialfa, Anne Phillips, Colette Stelly Friend, Marie-Agnes Scialfa, and, as the choir, students from Ursuline and Soeur Anne Marie.
Often, nothing succeeds like gustatory success, so the Déjeuner was held at a familiar venue, Commander’s Palace, and the menu was repeated from 2014. The favorite four courses were gumbo du jour, wild white shrimp remoulade, grillades and cheese grits, and praline parfait.
Decorations were bleu, blanc et rouge.
Exchanging seasonal pleasantries and relishing the tasty luncheon fare in the restaurant’s Coliseum Room II were the above Consul General Gregor Trumel, who expressed to the group that spouse Ingrid and their four children were traveling and unable to attend, and Louis Koerner Jr.
The consul general then took the floor to talk about the tradition of the Mass in French and the Déjeuner; the economic boom and boost in the number of French people in Louisiana he’s seen; and the importance of CODOFIL. He concluded saying it was a pleasure and an honor to be invited and received.
Applauding him were Laurie Moeller (with Louis Koerner), Cherie Cazenavette, Joe Friend with spouse Colette, the above Father Gros, deacon Guidry, Roger and Georgie Smith, Vicki and Yvonne Cappel, Donna Apgar, Cynthia Cashman, Christine DesJardins, Cecile Andry, Bronwen Fitzpatrick, Phillip Mollere, Edwin Fleischmann and Ruby Harlow Shrieves, and spouses Jay Powell and Melissa Daigrepont.
Also, Jeanne Williams, president of Les Causeries du Lundi, who, two days later and on the morning of Bastille Day, was one of the leaders at the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Jeanne d’Arc Statue at the Place de France on Decatur Street. The Council of French Societies hosted the event that included a brief ceremony followed by cake and champagne.
Back at Commander’s, a trio of music makers wended its way all around the tables, stopping for a while in the Coliseum Room II. When asked for requests, the Joe Simon’s Jazz Music LLC players (which included Chuck Brackman) responded to “La Vie en Rose” and “Marie Laveau.” At the close of the luncheon, all the attendees stood and sang “La Marseillaise.”
- Bastille Day Fête
Dog days of summer! But if the pooches were dressed up a la française, then they could become winners in the French Dog Contest. There were two first-place winners: Most French and Best Dressed. The crowds loved the concours de chien (French Dog Costume Contest) that was sponsored by Alliance Française, FACC-GC, and the French Consulate, in partnership with the Louisiana SPCA (represented by Jackie Shreves).
The daylong festival was held at Riverwalk’s Spanish Plaza, which, according to co-emcee Mark Romig, was French Plaza for that day. Admission was free for the fête that included the doggie contest, live music, food and drink vendors, kids’ activities, “Guess the Weight of the Basket,” and more. Lots more!
Teamed to put the fête forth were Alliance Française, FACC-GC, and the consulate and a slew of volunteers, many above-mentioned. Consul Gregor Trumel along with the two emcees officially opened the activities at 11 a.m. At the count of “one, two, three!”, the sound of popping became pervasive. Audience members initiated the fun with distributed poppers and, on the stage, a bottle of champagne was joyfully uncorked. At the end of the day, the sound was repeated, thanks to Bastille Day fireworks.