Paris the Seventh—Mahler Symphony No. 8 at Le Théâtre du Châtelet

This is an update of the amazing trip I took to Europe last summer. Slowly but surely I’m posting about every day I spent on that excellent continent. To read earlier updates, click herehereherehereherehereherehere and here. And here. And here and here and here and here and here and here.


So where last we left off, I was six days into my summer school art history class in Paris and I was feeling pretty burned out. I was mentally exhausted from seeing so much culture in so short a time. I was physically exhausted from trekking so many miles through the vastness of Paris. And I was emotionally exhausted from not being in contact (thanks to lack of internet connection at our hotel) with family or friends or blog peeps when I had so much I wanted to share with everyone. By day six, I was pretty spent and I didn’t know how to snap out of it so I could enjoy the fullness of my trip.

But then, just at the peak of my bone-deep fatigue, a miracle happened: I got this email at the end of my long day at the Louvre:

From: Erin Wall
Subject: Tickets for Chatelet concert

Hi Camille –

I’m Erin, that weird singery lady from the plane.  I am sorry it’s taken me this long, but I am just writing to say there will be 2 tickets in your name at the box office tomorrow [though by the time I got the email it was today] at the Chatelet.  It starts at 8 and should run just over an hour.  Here’s a link to the theatre website:,461 and that has a little more about it, all in French, of course.

I hope you are having a great time in Paris and that the city is treating you well!

Hope you enjoy it tomorrow night too, if you do come!



Here’s how it happened:

On the flight to Paris, I happened to sit next to this really nice lady who looked a little bit like Reese Witherspoon and said she was going to Paris to sing in a concert.

“That’s cool,” I said, “where is it and when? Maybe I’ll come see you sing if I’m there while the concert is running. I’ll be your groupie!”

“It’s at the Châtelet [sounds like sha-tell-AY],” she said, “and I’d love it if you came. It’s classical music, which might not be your thing, but you’re welcome to come. I might even be able to get you tickets.”

“Classical music is definitely my thing,” I said, and it was true: my parents didn’t put me through twelve years of piano and flute lessons for nothing.

“Well, let me have your email address,” she said, “and I’ll call my agent and see if I can have some tickets for you. They usually give two to the performers.”

“Sweet,” I said, and handed her my card.

As we talked more, it came about that the people sponsoring the concert (Radio France) were paying her all of her expenses to get to/stay in Paris.

Dang, I thought, she must be good or something.

YOU GUYS: Good doesn’t even come close to how amazing she was. As it happened, she was Erin Wall, and she gets paid to sing all over the world, in places like Prague, Hamburg, The Hague, Edinburgh, Montréal, Rio de Janeiro, Munich, and Houston.

And that’s just her 2011 calendar.

Of course, none of this was at all apparent to me until I actually got to the theatre the night of the concert, picked up my {free!} tickets at the box office, and moseyed my way into my seat, which, as it turned out, was most excellently located in the fourth row from the stage, smack in the middle.

Waiting for the concert to start with the only friend I made from the class. We were terribly under dressed but since I hadn’t gotten the email about the concert (curse you, hotel with no wifi) until we’d already left our rooms for the day, we had to come straight from the Louvre without time to change before the concert. We rationalised that we were students and there really was nothing we could do about it. Nobody kicked us out.

Here’s what the Châtelet looked like from where we sat (before the choir came in, while the orchestra was still warming up):

Before long, the choir seats started filling up. I looked and looked for my friend Erin from the plane but couldn’t find her. I began to wonder if I could even remember what she looked like at all. Finally, only a few minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin, I saw four ladies making their way to the front of the stage—the very front—and take their seats right next to the conductor. “Those must be the best singers,” I thought to myself, and guess who was the one sitting DIRECTLY NEXT to the conductor?

My friend Erin Wall.

That’s her on the far right; image (and writeup of the very concert I attended) from here.

Best singer, indeed; she was like a movie star. After I got over my astonishment that I knew the principle soprano up there on the stage (and after I got over my sheepishness for not understanding how amazing she actually was when I was sitting only inches away from her for seven hours on our flight to Paris), I then had to get over my utter bedazzlement at the sight of the dress she was wearing. Did you see that gown?

At long last, the concert started. I got goosebumps.

The concert continued and I had goosebumps.

An hour and half later, the concert ended—and I had goosebumps.

It was so spectacular. The audience was outrageous when we finally were permitted to clap—we must’ve clapped, all of us, for twenty minutes. Not a word of a lie. The conductor and soloists kept going backstage and then coming out and bowing, over and over. Nobody wanted the evening to end—at least, I didn’t, and by the sounds of the thunderous applause, I was not alone.

As soon as I could, while still on my cultural high, I announced it to the world:

By the time I got back to my hotel room it was nearly midnight, but I stayed awake to record the events of the day in my journal. I am so glad I did, for even though—or perhaps because—my thoughts are so scrambled (from the late hour and emotional highs and lows, no doubt), they capture perfectly the emotions I felt that night:

I can’t remember the last time I was so moved—it sounds corny but it’s true. I left feeling so uplifted, and I realised I hadn’t felt that in a long, long time. I would even venture to say it was a spiritual experience. I can’t remember the last time I felt so passionate—so inspired—to do some good in the world. I was grinning nearly from start to finish. It made me miss playing in an orchestra; it made me miss creating beauty. It moved me to be a better person, to do better things with my time than I’ve done in a long time.

Paris has been good to me today.

And indeed it had.

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
This entry was posted in awesome., French, good tunes, introspection, my edjumacation and me, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Paris the Seventh—Mahler Symphony No. 8 at Le Théâtre du Châtelet

  1. Geevz says:

    Umm WOW!! That is absolutely fantastic! Sooo cool!

  2. For some reason I thought the story was going to end up entirely different. I had visions of the concert being awful, until I got to your review. (Don’t know why I had such a pessimistic attitude.)

    P.S. I wish you still lived in Arizona so you could hang out with us next week. Maybe one of these months the stars will align and you’ll be in town.


  3. Erin says:

    Thank you for writing this! Not just because you said nice things about me (which is always nice). I’m getting ready to sing something new, huge, and terrifying tomorrow night, and have been really getting bogged down in criticism of myself, in details. Reading your last paragraph reminds me why I really do what I do, and what its purpose is – to uplift others. If one person can walk out of a performance feeling as you did after that concert, then it is totally worth it! And for the record, that piece of music always leaves me feeling the exact same way – there really is something special about Mahler, and to me it is very spiritual music. :) Thank you, Camille! I’m enjoying reading about your trip, and the rest of the blog too!

  4. Pingback: Paris the Eighth—Flea Market, Montmarte Cemetery, and Sacré-Cœur Basilica | Archives of Our Lives

  5. EIFchorus member says:

    What a marvellous performance you gave tonight. Your high notes, sung so quietly and so beautifully, made my spine tingle – such a memorable experience. (and the dresses looked beautiful.
    ) Thank you.

  6. the MIL says:

    So Cool!!!

  7. Katherine Talley says:

    Thank you for sharing! I know exactly how you feel about being moved to be a better person and impact the world. And as a singer myself, it’s terribly inspiring to this and know it does truly move people.

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