Chateau de Goutelas is a castle in the natural and historical region of Forez in the center of France.
60 years ago it was a ruin. Today it is fully restored and a cultural center.
Forez is a region with mountains and plains on the Eastern side of the Massif Central and the Loire river runs through it.
The area is full of traditions and historical memories and famous for its agricultural products and mineral waters. It has also got a lot of remains of or restored medieval and renaissance castles and cloisters.
Montbrison – a city with some 10.000 inhabitants next to Château de Goutelas – is considered the historical capital of the Forez.
55 years ago to the very day, Duke Ellington arrived in the Forez to play a concert at Goutelas.
It was the result of a chance meeting between two extraordinary personalities with strong commitments to contribute to a better world – Duke Ellington and the French lawyer Paul Bouchet.
Bouchet came across the ruins of Chateau de Goutelas in July 1961. He was enchanted by it and told his friends about it. One of them, the painter Bernard Cathelin, was especially enthusiastic and urged Bouchet to have it restored.
By that time, the land was owned by a farmer, Noël Durand. According to the retired winemaker Robert Duclos, who was contacted for this article, Durand was not willing to sell.
But when Bouchet told him that he was going to set up an independent association for the restoration and running of the castle, Noël Durand changed his mind and agreed to donate the land free of charge to the association. It was set up by Bouchet and Cathelin and a group of their close friends, particularily laywers from Lyon.
They worked hard together to find funding and bring together people of all sorts of backgrounds – workers, farmers, artists and intellectuals – for the restoration of the castle.
For this article, I have talked to Bernard Dorel, who was an 18-year old law student at the University of Lyon when he, inspired by Paul Bouchet, volunteered to join the restauration team. He describes the Goutelas adventure as the illustration of Paul Bouchet’s philosophy of life and work.
In his book Mes sept utopies, Bouchet summarises it in this way: “I think that the ideas incarnate only when they are born out of people working together. This never happens quickly, one night, during a conference, then nothing. People must act together.”
The restoration started 60 years ago and in 1966 Ellington went there to give the project his support.
In 2012, the French filmmaker Laurent Lukic started to make a film about the restoration and Ellington’s visit there. He researched film archives and made many interviews for it. Many of the people he interviewed had met Ellington in Goutelas and quite a number of them had died during the last six years.
In 2016, Lukic organised a private showing in Paris of an one hour and 13 minute version of the film. Unfortunately, the film is not available for public viewing for copyright reasons but the trialer is. One can only hope that full film will soon be available to a wider audience because it is a very well done documentary.
When Ellington went on his 1965 European tour, he did not know anything about Château de Goutelas. But he had met Bernard Cathelin in New York before it, liked Cathelin’s portraits of women and wanted him to make one of a lady friend. So when Ellington arrived in Paris (presumably with his lady friend), he went to see Cathelin, who took the opportunity to introduce him to Paul Bouchet.
If they talked about the Goutelas project at that time is of course impossible to know but when Ellington played in Lyon on Jan. 28, Ellington invited Bouchet to his hotel and there they had a long night talk about it.
When Bouchet left the hotel, Ellington said to him (according to Bouchet): “I would also like to do something like what these men and women are doing for Goutelas; soon I will come to Goutelas to play for them.”
“Some months later, I got a call from Ellington in Madrid,” says Bouchet in Mes Sept Utopies, “announcing his imminent arrival in Goutelas. It was in February so the weather was not the best”.
Ellington flew from Madrid to Geneva in the morning of March 25, 1966. At the airport, Bouchet and Cathelin met him and drove him for more than four and a half hours to Goutelas. The final part of the trip was small countryside roads.
At the castle, preparations for the concert had been going on for some days. Bernard Dorel remembers the excitement around the preparations for Ellington’s arrival. “One had to finish reparing the roof of the old stable to make it into a concert room, organise the meal for 200 people with the help of staff from the student’s restaurant in Lyon, make sure that the welcoming instants are perfect and up to standards for the Duke etc.”
In addition, the orchestra of the high school of Lyon (INSA) had to be trained to play music from Black, Brown and Beige and a good piano to be found. Finally, a Steinway was brought from Lyon but the concert room was quite cold so it had to be heated up and this was done by moving the stove from the local church to Goutelas.
“We did not know who Ellington was”, says Robert Duclos, “but when Paul Bouchet told us that he was a famous jazz musician, who could help Goutelas, we trusted him and did our work”.
When Ellington arrived at Goutelas in the dark evening, the way into the castle was lined with young people with torches in their hands and the band played.
Ellington had Paul Bouchet and Bernard Cathelin on each side and it was like the duke of the castle was escorted into it by his main knights.
Bouchet opened the concert with some welcoming words to Ellington. “In this place, which we want to be the home of a new art of living, we bring you, in exchange for your presence which is for us a kind of spell, something new and ancient: the testimony of a brotherhood“.
Ellington was apparently moved by what Bouchet said and responded. “I have been welcomed in a multitude of places . But never in a place like Goutelas. I am happy and proud to be here in a house that was built and rebuilt by good people, for a good cause; I greet you my brothers“. And then he added “Je vous aime à la folie”.
After that, he sat down at the Steinway and played a rendition of New World’s A-Comin’.
It was a very natural selection for the occasion encapsulating the visions and hopes that he and Bouchet shared.
It was followed by a medley of wellknown Ellington songs: It Don’t Mean A Thing-Satin Doll-Solitude-Don’t Get Around Much Anymore-Mood Indigo-I’m Beginning To See The Light-Sophisticated Lady-Caravan.
After the concert, Ellington had a question and answer exchange with the public and a black muscian in the audience, Oswald Russel, acted as interpreter.
According to an article in Le Progrès de Lyon, Ellington announced during the evening that “he was going to write a symphony for Goutelas and for all men de bonne volonté.”
The concert was recorded with a single microphone but a very professional one judging from the photos.
The recording was issued on a numbered 10” LP and 500 copies were made. Most of them were not sold but given away according to Marie Claude Mioche, former director for Goutelas. But some must have been. In a record review column in Le Progrès de Lyon from July 10, 1966, the reviewer refers to a record store in Lyon as it was sold there.
Today, the LP is a real collectors item and costs 100 euro upwards for good copies. The concert was also issued on the French label Président. The circumstances surrounding this are not known.
Château de Goutelas has also issued the concert on CD, presumably using the original tape. It can be bought directly from Château de Goutelas, 277 route de Goutelas, 42130 Marcoux -France. Tel +33 4 77 97 35 42.
After the concert, there was the big reception for the attendees of the concert and a dinner for a smaller group.
It was not easy to find an appropriate night accomodation for Ellington. The half-renovated castle was not an option. The solution was to put him up in the home of the mayor of Marcilly le Châtel. He had a rather “bourgeois” house with hot water and other facilities.
The next day, Ellington had a busy schedule.
It started in Marcilly le Châtel. Ellington had expressed a wish to be photographed in a horse-drawn carriage and it was arranged there.
Then Ellington and his entourage went to another small municipality, Sail sous Couzan, to visit its famous medieval castle. The little girl with the task to hand over a bouquet of flowers had never seen a dark skinned man and was a little bit afraid when she saw Ellington.
Next he went to visit the mayor of the small village of Marcoux, M. Jean Duclos and his family. Château de Goutelas is located in this village. Ellington visited the wine cave run by his son Robert, tasted some of their wines and posed for a photo with the whole family.
Both Robert Duclos and his wife were quite involved in the visits on the second day. Ellington asked them to get him a hen and put it on the piano for photo session at Goutelas that was next on his agenda. He wanted to give a “rural atmosphere” to the photos. Mme Duclos got a red hen and had the particular task to ensure that the famous “hen on the piano” was calm during the photo session at Goutelas.
An old piano had been transported to the back of the castle. Two photographers from Paris Match were in place to take the photos and Mme Duclos did the “swinging trick” (head under the wing, then swing and swing) to make the hen dizzy and calm long enough for the journalists to make what was to be a world famous shot.
Before departing to Montbrison for a late and long lunch at Hotel Lion d’Or, a kind of “family photo” of key actors in the Goutelas project was taken.
At about eight o’clock in the evening, the three-course lunch with champagne was finished.
“We were zigzagging a little bit after the numerous and versatile toasts drunk”, Ellington remembers in Music Is My Mistress. “We arrived in Lyon at one-thirty and everybody accepted my invitation to come up to the suite in the Grand Hotel to have some ice cream and drinks from the plastic bottle of Turkish vodka that Billy Strayhorn had given me”.
The following day, everybody escorted Ellington to the airport. “I was very moved as we was make our adieux”, writes Ellington. Then he flew to Paris and straight back to New York.
Paul Bouchet had ensured that the local press covered Ellington’s visit. Both Le Progrès de Lyon and Le Progès de Saint Etienne published articles about it and here is one of them.
It is obvious that Ellington’s visit to Goutelas had a strong impact on the reputation of the castle but also on many people in the area and the region. Robert Duclos said to me: “It really helped us to get the touristic and agricultural offers of Forez better known.” Perhaps he is exaggerating but it says a lot about how people, who came in contact with Ellington were affected”. It is 55 years since he and Bernard Dorel did it and still they remember all the details.
When one visit Goutelas, there are memories of Ellington everywhere. His name is on the honorary plaque of those who helped with the ressurgance of the castle and there are photos from his visit over a whole wall.
The piano from the photo session with the hen is long gone but the spot where it stood is one of the most photographed.
To the left on the photo is the Ellington sculpture by the Bulgarian artist Guerogui Filin.
Ellington’s visit to Goutelas was followed by other similar visits and events.
In 1990 Claude Bolling went there to play Black, Brown and Beige (or part of it). He was followed by Mercer Ellington and The Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1994 and came back in 2006 for a summer concert together with Fabrice Eulry.
André Wentzo also appeared several times at Goutelas. In 1999, he gave a “hommage à Ellington” concert with an interpretation of the Goutelas Suite came back together with Laurent Mignard both in 2011 and 2016.
Claude Carrière came to Goutelas with Wentzo and Mignard in 2016. His passing away a week ago is a big loss for both the French and international Ellington community but much beyond this. His work as a radio and record producer and a jazz pianist has been of great importance and his kind personality gave him many friends.
We honor and thank him with an short excerpt from his concert at Goutelas on July 9, 2016. Claude, we will miss you immensly!
At last I like to thank Laurent Lukic, Bernard Dorel, Robert Duclos and Marie-Claude Mioche for giving me information and advice for the article. I also like to thank Gautier Grangeon, who four years ago raised my curiosity about Goutelas and Ellington’s visit there, and Hubert Delaye sharing Goutelas videos and friendship.
Marie-Claude is a former President of the Château de Goutelas Cultural Center Association and currently a senior adviser to it. She appeared in a regional TV news program a couple of years ago and talked about the castle and the association.