Chris Slade describes the son et lumiere presentation at the abbey of Bon Repos called "Le Pays de Conomor" in Brittany, which takes place during the first two weeks of August.
Let me introduce you to the Fête de la Musique: my partner and I love going to live music events and, although we’ve only lived here in France for eight months, we’ve already seen quite a few local bands. My partner, who is a musician himself, has also played music here in France – it’s great fun, you get to meet loads of new people and there are great social events. We’ve just found out about this famous, extremely popular annual event called La Fête de la Musique.
This music festival takes place every year throughout the whole of France, on 21st June, the day of the summer solstice. It is a giant street musical event, where thousands of musicians, live bands, DJs, singers, drummers, etc, gather in bars, cafés and on the streets to perform all kinds of music, inviting crowds to join in and enjoy themselves. They can be found across large town or city squares, but also in parks and pretty much at every street corner. This free event covers all styles of music: jazz, rock, folk – in fact, every kind of music, including classical and popular music to dance to, with both amateur and professional performers. There is something to suit all tastes and nobody needs to feel left out. Whether you like the accordion or the saxophone, rappers or string quartets, you will find something that you will enjoy, and that is a promise.
We’ve spoken to several people who have been before and they all say the same… great events, a real sense of community and just generally a good time had by all. The fashionable French word for this jolly, pally atmosphere is “Convivialité”.
La Fête de la Musique started when composer Maurice Fleuret became Director of Music at the French Ministry for Culture. In 1982 he looked at a study on the cultural habits of the French and found that five million people, and one child out of two, played a musical instrument. This led him to dream of how he could find a way to bring people out onto the streets to make music. Subsequently, on 21 June 1982, the first Fête de la Musique was launched all over France, bringing together a whole nation.
Straight away, this event was a huge success with professionals and amateurs joining in to make music and offering free concerts among other musical demonstrations. The fête has been a tradition in France ever since.
This incredible free musical event is no ordinary festival and has become so popular that it has even started spreading across other countries all over the world, where it has met with just as much success and enthusiasm. For example, it has now become quite an event in Germany, with Berlin in particular. Nowadays there are around 50 cities across Germany also celebrating this event. Unsurprisingly, it is now also present in neighbouring French-speaking European countries such as Belgium and Switzerland. It is equally celebrated in Canada (Quebec City), China, Colombia, the United States (New York) or Sweden (Stockholm). However, the dates may not always be the same as in France, but the principle is the same.
So, if you are looking for something to do on 21st June, look out for the local adverts and join in with the events happening near you. You will find that no matter where you are in France, there will be something happening very close by. Take a picnic, relax, sit at a pavement café and join in with the fun… we’re going to. And don’t forget that there are many more Summer Fêtes in France.
What’s going on near you on 21st June? Are you watching and listening or are you performing? Let us know by leaving a comment below.