Anne & Kirk Woodyard – Music and Markets Tours
As we’ve guided our guests through the beautiful town of Aix en Provence for the past 17 years, we’ve pointed out the many niches, filled with Madonnas and saints, on corners of buildings, explaining that “in medieval times these comforting icons were installed during the plague so that the quarantined residents, unable to attend mass, could instead pray to these figures that they could see from their windows”. Did we ever imagine that, once again, the world would be confined to their homes as we are today? France is currently on a 15-day lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
We can see the cathedral bell tower from Ambiance d’Aix, our home in Aix en Provence – do you think that would “count” as a prayer niche?! One of the things we love about our French home is the sound of those church bells. On Wednesday this week church bells rang out throughout France for 10 minutes, beginning at 7:30 pm, as an act of solidarity and hope, and people were encouraged to light candles in their windows at the same time.
In secularized France, I wonder if many now look out their windows to the Madonnas and pray? Even if not, those peaceful Mother and Child statues seem to bless the lively squares below (can you spy the figure on the corner?). I think of this one as the market Madonna. A rare snow draped the shoulders of this one a few years ago.
Just around the corner from our home is this unusual Black Madonna, on the corner of “scrape your elbows” lane – a cobbled path so narrow you have to hold your arms against your body as you walk through.
Pray we will, that this virus will soon be conquered, and the calm Madonnas can smile down on busy-once-again squares!
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, learned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
Since 2003 we’ve hosted Music and Markets tours in France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, England and Spain, and in 2019 added Wonder Tours with a more intentional concentration on art and architecture, local culture, food and wine, and less time dedicated to concert-going.
We also design and host custom private tours – previous locations include many French, Spanish, British and Italian regions.
Between our music-related travels, we split our time between our homes near Washington DC and the south of France. While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups, Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over forty years of teaching and performance experience.