Marcelle Gerar  (1891 - 1970)

Marcelle Gerar (real name Regerau) was a lyric soprano and teacher of singing who began her professional career in 1921 and specialised in contemporary French music: Honegger, Ibert, Milhaud, Roussel and Florent Schmitt dedicated vocal works to her.

Ravel appears to have first made her acquaintance in 1923 or early 1924 (see his letter to her in November 1923 (Orenstein, [1989], letter 227)). He then wrote for her his song Ronsard à son âme, of which they gave the first performance at the Aeolian Hall in London in April 1924. They went on to make concert tours together and Gerar soon became a close friend of the composer (she was one of those who went to greet him at Le Havre on his return from his tour of the United States).

It was Marcelle Gerar who undertook to organise the garden party at Le Belvédère in June 1928, at which the bust by Leyritz was presented to Ravel, an occasion which turned out to be one of the happiest in his later life. She subsequently joined with René Chalupt as co-editor of the first substantial volume of Ravel's letters (Chalupt [1956]).

Whistling to lizards

Marcelle Gerar later became the dedicatee of a work by the Dutch composer Rudolf Escher (1912-1980) entitled Air pour charmer un lézard (1953). Escher acknowledged Ravel as one of his influences (he also wrote a chamber work called Le tombeau de Ravel) and he had learnt of the composer's whistling habits from Marcelle Gerar during a visit to Ravel's house at Le Belvédère which they made together.

The Air pour charmer un lézard is a piece for solo flute, and it carries the dedication: "à Marcelle Gerar, en souvenir du 11 juin 1950 - ce jour lumineux à Montfort-l'Amaury où elle m'a racontè que Maurice Ravel aimait à siffler d'interminables airs pour charmer les lézards...."