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Messiaen House in Fuligny

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© Malcolm Ball

This is the 18th century house where Messiaen's aunts (Agnès and Marthe) lived and where he spent his summer vacations for many years from 1922 onward. Here he notated his first bird songs (later saying in his view the Aube region was the best location in France for larks) and composed, among others, Preludes for piano, Le Banquet Céleste, Le Banquet Eucharistique, Les Offrandes Oubliées, Le Tombeau Resplendissant and possibly Diptyque and Trois Mélodies as well as many more sketches that would find themselves in later works. Messiaen continued to visit his aunts in this house throughout his life.

The current owner has decided to sell this house and the couple who wish to buy it intend to demolish it in view of the costs for its restoration.

The Association LA QUALITE DE VIE reacted immediately, and is doing everything possible to have this "house of character" become an historical monument.

The idea is to have this house bought by those who are interested in the world of BIRDS, in HERITAGE, in CONTEMPORARY MUSIC, in the ORGAN, in Olivier MESSIAEN...

A FOUNDATION LE CHANT DES OISEAUX DE FULIGNY will make this place a concentration of Culture : "the grown-ups" and "the school children" will be able to learn and recognise the birds, their song, their life... One can imagine a specialised media library... and in a small auditorium one can listen to all the music and songs of the bird world... And maybe a care centre for injured birds and animals...

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© Thomas Bloch

© Malcolm Ball

Olivier's father, Pierre Messiaen (1883-1957) was born in Flanders - *one of Charles and Marie Messiaen's seven children (three brothers: Pierre, Léon and Paul; and four sisters: Marthe, Madeleine, Marie and Agnès). In 1900, the Messiaen family moved to Fuligny, in the Aube region, east of Troyes. Among the Messiaen children, one of the most artistically gifted was Léon, born 1884, a graduate of the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts; he was at the start of a promising career as a sculpture when killed in action in 1918. The Messiaen family  tomb, in the churchyard of La Chaise near Fuligny, is surmounted by a striking sculpture after Léon Messiaen entitled L'Énergie fauchée ('Energy spent')*. Léon reworked the sculpture a copy of which can be seen close to the cathedral in Troyes that commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of the 1914-18 war.

*Peter Hill & Nigel Simeone - MESSIAEN pp. 7-8

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© Malcolm Ball

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© Malcolm Ball

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© Malcolm Ball

Léon Messiaen

Madeleine was the longest-lived of the seven children (b.1890) and married Paul Guéritte in 1912 and died in 1987.

Here is Messiaen's own recollections of the house:

'My memories [of nature] go back to the age of fourteen or fifteen, chiefly to a period when I went and stayed in the Aube with aunts who owned a rather odd farm, with sculptures by one of my uncles [Léon], a flower bed, an orchard, some cows and hens. [...] To 'restore' my health, my brave aunts would send me out to tend a little herd of cows; it was really a very small herd ( there were only two or three cows) but even so I looked after them very badly, and one day they managed to escape and wrought havoc in a field of beetroot which they munched through in a few hours. I was told off by everyone in the village. The Aube countryside is very beautiful and very simple: the plain, its big fields surrounded by trees, magnificent dawns and sunsets, and a great many birds. It was there that I first began noting down birdsong'.

Samuel 1967 pp.24-5; Samuel 1986, pp34-5.

Peter Hill & Nigel Simeone - MESSIAEN pp.8

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© Thomas Bloch

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© Thomas Bloch

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© Thomas Bloch

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© Thomas Bloch

Watch video of the house and listen to the birds!

Here