SOPHIE Toscan du Plantier really wanted to be Irish – that was the message delivered by the father of the murdered film producer at a special concert held in her honour on Culture Night in Schull.
The words of Georges Bouniol were read by Jean Pierre Gazeau, the uncle of Sophie, who was murdered near her home at Toormore on December 23rd 1996.
The message was read at the end of a concert called Remember Me, after the famous aria, and in acknowledgement of the fact that this was Schull’s answer to ‘a traditional Irish wake’ to honour her memory.
The concert was originally scheduled to take place on July 28th – the day Sophie would have celebrated her 65th birthday – but with the village heaving with tourists September 23rd was chosen as a more sombre and suitable alternative.
Bill Hogan who, together with Diana Llewellyn, Denis Quinlan and Len Lipitch, organised the event, described the musical offerings, the poetry, and the words spoken on behalf of Sophie’s parents and her uncle as ‘a communion of souls.’
‘That was said to me by a French woman who attended the event,’ said Bill, who added that the concert at the Schull Harbour Hotel was sold out and people were turned away at the door.
‘It was a tapestry of things, Irish and international,’ he said. ‘It was a mix of the things that Sophie liked and, as there was no speaking between the acts, it worked with a beautiful synchronicity.
‘Diana, the musical coordinator, devised the whole thing, and people felt a powerful energy from it – from the traditional Irish harp to Bach, and songs from Madame Butterfly.
‘In particular the aria Remember Me was really astonishing,’ said Bill, ‘it created the most wonderful feeling, and the concert ended with a standing ovation.’ Jean Pierre Gazeau read a statement from Sophie’s mother, Marguerite Bouniol. ‘Sophie is with us in our hearts,’ she said. And her father claimed Sophie ‘really wanted to be Irish’ – a phrase that Bill said was ‘overwhelming and emotional’ when uttered in the hall.
The organiser said the two-and-a-half-hour production far exceeded their expectations. ‘It was really perfect,’ said Bill, ‘and the standing ovation was really moving.’
The organisers will be donating an estimated €360 from the not-for-profit concert to West Cork Women Against Violence, a measure that was as symbolic as the event itself.
Bill said he had a moment of doubt when – in a previous interview – he described the event as ‘a wake’ but, as it turned out, he said that word described it beautifully.
‘It was very professional, very moving. It was good and appropriate, too. It was the right thing to do,’ he concluded.
‘The co-ordinating committee had a common purpose and the feeling in Schull was that we should have done it a long time ago.
‘As a send-off,’ he added, ‘we feel we have honoured the memory of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. At the concert, you could feel the healing that was taking place for our community and the family.’
‘I hope that that same feeling of healing will extend to Jules Thomas – the former partner of Ian Bailey – who was in attendance at the event,’ said Bill.