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Sounds of 'The Little Singers'

All-male French choir to perform at church that caters to local French Catholic community.

July 23, 2010|By Sarah Peters, sarah.peters@latimes.com

NEWPORT BEACH — An all-male choir from France will perform Saturday at a Newport Beach church.

The touring Les Petits Chanteurs d'Aix-en-Provence will sing during evening Mass and perform a special half-hour concert afterward at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church.

The young French singers, however, won't be entirely out of place. The church on Mar Vista Drive, off Eastbluff Drive near Jamboree Road, has become a magnet for Orange County's expatriate French community, many of whose members are Roman Catholic.

Once a month at Our Lady Queen of Angels, Mass is given in French. Catechism classes are taught there in the language. And members of the county's French expat community gather at the church regularly for potlucks, and the sharing of home-cooked dishes that offer a respite from American fare.

Between 50 and 100 French Catholics belong to an association known as the Catholic French Community of Orange County, said Bernard Prat, the association's spokesman and co-founder, who lives in Santa Ana. He believes that the true number of French Catholics in O.C. is much higher.

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"They just haven't heard of us yet," Prat said.

Les Petits Chanteurs ("The Little Singers"), who will be performing at the church, range in age from 8 to 28 years old and are members of the one France's oldest choirs, which was formed 49 years ago in the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence by Gérard Mouton, the choir's current director.

"Boys come to this choir partly because they like to sing and partly because they want to be together in the group," Herve Gautier, the tour director, said of the choir which has family-like dynamics.

As the children grow with the choir, the most senior members stay on to coach the junior members.

The choir will perform both well-known religious songs as well as more modern secular pieces, Gautier said.

With the exception of the mini-concert, the rest of the Mass should go on as usual.

Orange County's French Catholic association that Prat helped to found is part of a larger "welcoming committee" sponsored by the French Consulate in Los Angeles for French nationals entering the U.S.

Our Lady Queen of Angels has given the association permission to use church facilities for religious services and community events.

The association was the brainchild of Prat's wife, Elizabeth, who was a teacher in France. The couple moved to the U.S. in 1995.

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