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First, let me tell you about a time that people under 120 cannot know! Yes, you read that right, 120 and to be even more precise, 118 years old. Its 120 years, L'Harmonie will celebrate them in 2018. With celebration, happiness and songs.


120 years, these are several hundred minutes, more or less crisp stories, a few surprises, all told in texts for the most part written by hand by people who have succeeded each other in the post of secretary.


First surprise, and not the least, L'Harmonie, at the end of the 19th century, was composed only of men. Why? No doubt because at the time, only these gentlemen had the right, after the hard work accomplished, to go out and have a drink at the local bistro or to take their mind off things by going to sing. Because the women were supposed to take care of the children, prepare the meals for the day and the next day. For entertainment, there remained knitting, laundry and Sunday service. In 1912, slight (r)evolution since mention is made of female appearance with thanks to the charming young ladies of the gym for their precious help (sic).


60 years to feminize L'Harmonie


It would have been legitimate to think that the mobilizations of the wars of 14-18 and 39-45 would have finally opened the doors of the choir to the ladies. Nothing came of it... However, we will note this small mention on the program concerning the event of January 22 and 23, 1916: "Musical and literary evenings given by the singing society L'Harmonie with the help of the ladies of the locality" .


We have to wait until 1947 to read in a report dated January 7: "Great success for the repetition of this beginning of the year which saw the participation of 24 active members, plus 3 new members and a nice participation (no precision as to number) – of ladies and damsels”. Without further formalization. Conclusion: the men's choir is enriched by a few ladies and young ladies… but is not yet ready to become officially feminized.


In the fall of 1948, female voices were finally duly mentioned on the programs of the annual evenings. But be careful, we are not yet talking about “mixed choir” but about “male choir with a sub-section of ladies” (re-sic). It is on the program of the annual evening of March 8, 1958 that women and men are united under the more general and asexual label of singing society. The name mixed choir will appear in the 1960s.


News item


Before going further into the history of L'Harmonie, we cannot resist the pleasure of telling you a crisp anecdote, although a bit bloody... Here is what we can read in a report dated 19 February 1903: “After the rehearsal, the president opens the discussion about Constant Rothen who, we remember, struck one of his friends with 2 stab wounds”. The President declares that, given the scandalous conduct, he (Constant Rothen) no longer deserves the right to be part of the society.) This is how Mr. Rothen was expelled, after a vote of the members, from L'Harmonie. Rest assured, this episode has remained unique in the history of L'Harmonie.


Destinations of yesterday and today


Often, most choirs like to organize annual outings. Harmony is no exception to the rule. It would take too long to tell you all the outings or visits of the choir. For fun, we want to mention here an excursion that took place in 1920. The choristers of the time took the train to Puidoux, then walked to Chexbres to take the Corniche to Lutry. All these little people returned to Renens… by tram. It is also said that the company paid for the train and the tram as well as the small snack taken on the way… All this for the modest sum of 5 francs per person.


In 1991, from August 10 to 18, L'Harmonie moved up a gear and flew to Warsaw. For some, it's the first flight. So, we can read at the beginning of the story of this epic: “The big day is finally here. 58 people find themselves in Cointrin in joy or apprehension”. On the program, visits to tourist sites, meetings and a concert organized by the director of the Lublin choir. The Harmony provoked cheers, standing ovations and emotion by ending its performance with the famous Gaude Mater Polonia that the Polish knights used to sing after a victory.


In 2014 and 2015, two notable events should be noted, namely meetings and exchanges with other choirs. First there was the visit to Crissier of the choir Les Cantouramiauds, from St-Chamond (France), followed, a few months later, by that of Frascati, an Irish choir from Dublin. Then L'Harmonie did the same by going first to Saint-Chamond and then, a few months later, by flying to Dublin. Moments, exchanges, unforgettable encounters that L'Harmonie intends to repeat. A little music of the future is already being made hear in some heads…Pianissimo.


Attendance and recruitment


As bizarre as it may seem, even at a time when television did not exist, when cinemas were counted on the fingers of one hand, L'Harmonie already had problems with attendance. Since we discover that the president of the choir asks the members to do propaganda. We weren't talking about advertising yet. In defense of "  recruiters  at the beginning of the 20th century, we worked 6 days a week, often from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and those who were interested were not very enthusiastic about attending the rehearsals of the choir which took place late on Saturday evenings. You really had to want to give voice in these conditions.


In the 21st century, working conditions and working hours have improved a lot and the most multiple distractions are more fashionable than choral art. Not to mention that Crissier is close to major cities. This does not prevent L'Harmonie, despite its great age, from displaying excellent health with a good fifty members (a majority of female voices and a slight lack of male voices) very active and motivated.


Flag and costumes


This story would be incomplete if we didn't talk about banners and costumes. To do this, it is necessary to refer to the minutes of May 1, 1980, where one can read that the change envisaged was the subject of an inquiry among all the members. what happened  ? Nothing, according to the reporter at the time. And the discussion to resume more beautiful. Skirts too long for some, too short for others, new blouses, more blouses, etc. The majority of choristers are therefore in favor of maintaining the costume in its current form (see photo). It will be worn during annual evenings, laps and other special events.

The same minutes also include the 'flag' chapter. Yes, a new banner, the cost of which for the time is already a heavy load, is highly desired. The decision was therefore made to appoint a commission responsible for initiating an elaboration and a mode of financing. First and important decision: the opening of a savings account with a first payment of 3  000 francs.


Two years later, on May 15, 1982, L'Harmonie inaugurated its new banner. The event is reported in several media – which goes to show the importance of the event – including La Feuille d'avis de Lausanne (24 Hours for the youngest). On the program: procession, speech and concert given, among others, by L'Avenir, a men's choir from Prilly, the Crissier school choir and, of course, the heroine of the day, L'Harmonie. Nowadays, again and again, this banner is the pride of the choir and is notably taken out of its cupboard for the traditional procession of the abbey. As for the costumes, they have evolved towards a desired modernity, that is to say: freedom in the choice of clothing (trousers, skirts, dresses, blouses, shirts, ties, bow ties or t-shirts). The obligation? A symphony of red and black.


2016, the year of change


History of shaking up habits, L'Harmonie, to avoid collisions of dates with other events, passes to the rhythm of a concert (two evenings) every 2 years "in March, alternating with a singing brunch, in May . Without forgetting the Advent concert also every 2 years. The list would be incomplete if we did not mention its active participation in the various events that are the salt of the town (Music Festival, Theater Festival and its traditional bingo in January).


Rather than working hard on a repertoire for concerts and forgetting it as soon as the lights go out, the choristers, while learning new pieces, take up pieces learned in the past in order to ensure, according to demand or on proposals, second parts of other choirs from Switzerland and elsewhere.

We have to face the facts, at almost 120 years old, this old but dashing old lady that is L'Harmonie has lost none of her vigor, her ever more modern style and her desire for renewal.

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