La fleur en papier doré

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La fleur en papier doré
La fleur en papier

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A surrealist fantasy for symphonic wind orchestra

La Fleur en Papier Doré (in English The Golden Paper Flower) was commissioned by HAFABRA Music and dedicated to Louis MARTINUS. It was first performed on 20th December 2019 at the Mid-West Clinic, Chicago in the McCormick Convention Centre by Grand Symphonic Winds under the baton of Professor Matthew J. George. La Fleur en Papier Doré is named after a historic bar dating back to the 18th Century in the heart of Brussels, Belgium. 

In the 20th century it became a meeting place for members of the Belgian surrealist movement, including the artist René Magritte. The writer Georges Prosper Remi, better known by his pseudonym Hergé of Tin Tin fame, also  frequented this bar, as did the Belgian singing legend Jacques Brel. La Fleur en Papier Doré is located next to the antique quarter of Brussels, the Sablon, and has a similar old-world atmosphere. The walls of the bar are covered in artifacts, philosophical citations and yellowing sepia photographs, and the wooden bench tables are etched in graffiti from the past, giving it a unique and quirky feel. I am a frequent visitor to La Fleur en Papier Doré. Apart from the attraction of the famous Belgian beers and traditional cuisine on offer(!), I am excited to think of all those great minds, intellects and talents that have come together there. From my very first visit I felt I wanted to write about this unique haunt. I have described my musical offering as a `Surrealist Fantasy’. The work is written in two distinct sections named after Magritte paintings: I. La Lampe Philosophique (The Philosopher’s Lamp) II. L’Echelle de Feu (The Ladder of Fire). Both are intended to conjure up the no doubt thought-provoking conversations and debates that must have taken place amongst all those eminent artists, writers and poets as they propped up the bar. The composer commissioned a poem by the writer Martin Westlake to capture the atmosphere and sentiment of the work.

 The Golden Paper Flower

 Martin Westlake

 October 1944.

As the war drifted away to the East,
Geert[i] had an idea.
Art was thirsty work.
Surely artists needed a space to think and drink,
And talk, of course.
So, he and Marie-Jeanne[ii]
Rented a small house in
The Cellebroerstraat[iii]
And opened a café,
La Fleur en Papier Doré
The Golden Paper Flower.

Geert had further thoughts,
And he painted them on the walls.
Who could disagree with his belief
That everybody is entitled to twenty-four hours
Of liberty every day?
Or that when the grass grows,
The cow dies?
In true anarchist spirit,
He and Marie-Jeanne
Decorated the walls
With anything and everything,
While countless cigars and cigarettes
Turned the walls golden brown.

 Truth be told, Geert was not that good an artist.
Or perhaps it was more that he was an artists’ artist,
For the artists came in their droves to think and drink,
And talk, of course,
Just as Geert and Marie-Jeanne had imagined they would
In the autumn of 1944;
René Magritte and the surrealists,
Pierre Alechinsky, Pol Bury and the Cobra movement,
And Hugo Claus celebrated his first marriage
By inviting fifty friends.
Georges Prosper Remi came,  
When he was not Hergé drawing Tintin,
And Jacques Brel savoured the Geuze
And helped brown the walls with
Countless cigarettes.

Twenty years after Geert had that idea
He passed away, and everybody said
That it wasn’t really the same anymore.
Anyway, all the artists have long since gone now,
But the café lives on
In the Cellebroerstraat,
With Geert’s thoughts on the walls
And all those artists’ spirits
Dancing above the tables
Of La Fleur en papier doré

[i]Geert (Gerhard) Van Brauaene (1891-1964), anarchist poet, actor and art dealer.
[ii]His partner, Marie-Jeanne Cleeren.
[iii]The Celle Brothers were an ancient and obscure religious order.

MARTIN WESTLAKE was born in Buckinghamshire (Amersham) and grew up in North West London (Harrow). He studied at University College, Oxford (BA), the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna Centre (MA) and the European University Institute, Florence (PhD). He lived and worked in Italy and France before moving to Belgium (Brussels). He has worked for several European political organisations and institutions and is afomrer Secretary General of the European Economic and Social Committee. Martin is the author of a number of books and articles about British and European politics and institutions as well as a major biography of Neil Kinnock. He is also a budding poet and is currently working on an historical novel.

 La fleur en papier doré on our YouTube Channel



Louis Martinus
Louis Martinus