“Songs for Lake Geneva” in the center of the book and exhibition

“Songs for Lake Geneva” in the center of the book and exhibition

From Gilles to William Sheller via Sarcl or Deep Purple, artists from all walks of life have been inspired by Lake Geneva for their songs. Intangible heritage brought together by Marc Aymon and Lionel Gauthier in a book and exhibition.

“Chansons pour le Léman” is a strange collection born from the whim of the singer Marc Aymon: collecting songs from Lake Geneva, recording them specially, then “exhibiting” them in the Musée du Léman in Nyon.

Marc Aymon’s (crazy) idea tickles Lionel Gauthier, the museum’s curator. He himself is a musician, a songwriter and admits that he knows entire cars by heart. It should also be said that the place of Lake Geneva in the history of art is primarily on the side of fine art, not the “small art” represented by the poem.

Sixty songs

The search begins, the harvest turned out to be good: about sixty songs later, the team got down to business. Lionel Gauthier, nevertheless an expert in the field, did not expect to find so many songs: “When Marc offered me the project, he came with two songs and I immediately had three songs in mind: ‘Genève’ by William Sheller, ‘Smoke’ on the Water” by Deep Purple and then “Les mouettes” by Sarcl. We had to search a lot, but it shows once again how special Lake Geneva is among lakes. of the world. I often say that there are several million lakes around the world, but there are not several million lake museums because Lake Geneva is special.”

Lionel Gauthier, a geographer by training, has strong arguments. If the lakes of the whole world are indeed named for their size or depth, Lake Geneva has a specificity related to the history of the inhabitants of its shores, including a certain Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “He brings the English, he brings Byron, Shelley, and everything is connected”.

From Shelley to Sheller

How can a poem interest a geographer? “Everything is geographical. We can do geography about anything: social, economic geography, volcano geography or sexuality. I got out of my disciplinary straitjacket. My geographer base helps me understand the world, I’m curious about everything about the lake, and I want to tell it . I would introduce myself more as a chronicler of Lake Geneva than as a geographer.”

The poems of Lake Geneva say a lot about the landscape, it changes so much with the rhythm of the seasons and the author’s mood, and this is one of the poetic strengths of the lake: “Take William Sheller and Philippe Katerina, they talk about the same corner of Geneva, but the two poems are very different. “A painful love story for one, a difficult awakening in an English garden for another, two very distant personalities offering a very personal reading of the same place.

>> To listen: “Geneva” by William Sheller

Tradition and modernity

“Not long ago, I was with a friend from Grenoble who works for Le Musée dauphinois. I asked him if it was possible to reproduce the same thing in Grenoble. He told me no. We went to find some songs, or some really traditional songs. Here we have both traditional songs and very modern songs.”

François Vé, Gilles and Urfer of course, Aliose, Marc Aymon, Michel Bühler, regionals of the stage give way to surprising performers, some of whom have never set foot in the waters of Lake Geneva. So Marseillais Koger, Scotto and Sellers with the “Song of Lake Geneva” for which the lake served as a rhyme with ‘lovers’, ‘gentle’ and ‘charming’.

We will also note the antics of John Godd, who misses his Lake Nokoué in Benin and crocodiles on the shores, and only bags of crocodiles in Lake Geneva!

Pierre Philippe Cadert/aq

“Poems for Lake Geneva. Here the lake resembles the sea.” Author: Lionel Gauthier. Illustrator: Cyrille Chatelain. Music director: Marc Aymon. Editions Glénat / 192 p.

The (musical!) exhibition can be viewed until February 18, 2024 at the Musée du Léman in Nyon.

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