Rediscovering Fernande Breilh-Decruck, Part 2

Starting in the fall of 2011 I had assumed the position of Director of Orchestral Studies and horn professor at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. WSU had travel grants available to help facilitate international research. In 2012, I applied and was awarded funding. I now had to convince the Decruck family to allow a stranger to enter their home and look at their scores, photos and documents. 

I had studied (I use this term loosely) French in high school for 3 years, but I was not equipped to place a phone call to any French speaking person. Luckily, my friend and colleague with The Chelsea Symphony, Julie Desbordes, offered to help. Julie is a conductor and trumpet player from Limoges, France. She spoke to Helene Decruck and filled her in on my travel dates and my interest in creating a digital archive of her grandmother's work. The family was very welcoming and Julie even arranged her travel plans to coincide with my visit to Fontainebleau. 

On the first day of my trip to France, I met Julie and her mother at the hotel. After lunch, we drove to Moret-sur-Loing to meet Helene. From there, Helene informed us that we would be having dinner with her uncle Alain at his home in Montigny-sur-Loing. The dinner was amazing! Quintessentially French cuisine that was simple, fresh and delicious. Alain is a fabulous cook. The meal lingered for several hours, with multiple courses and a few bottles of wine. It turns out that Alain speaks English well. He is a businessman who learned English both from his time in Marblehead, Massachusetts as a boy and from American troops who were stationed in France. He worked for the troops, running small errands. I was eager to talk about his mother and see the scores, but on that first night we just talked and got to know each other better. The next morning, the real work began...