Saturday, June 22, 2013

Festival of Saint John


It has finally arrived.  The gods have seen to it that the recent massive thunderstorms are held at bay.  We've nearly reached 20 degrees Celsius.  A veritable wave of warmth.

The French celebrate the summer solstice by staying awake from solstice dusk to dawn the next day and listening to music.  Concerts are held throughout cities and villages.  All of which are free.

The day is also known as the fete de la saint-jean - the feast of Saint John.  Fires were traditionally lit in celebration of the harvest and the summer solstice.  In Paris, Louis XIV last lit the fire of Saint John in 1648.  Recently (1984) the night was given over to music.  Personally, I'd like to see what the French would do with a bit of fire.  Alas, one can't have everything, even when living in paradise.

Here in Paris, 5 pages of l'officiel des spectactles are devoted to la fete de la musique.  You can choose a music style and find where that kind of music is being performed.  Or you can simply wander an arrondissement and listen to whomever shows up.  We took both approaches.

I saw that Ensemble Alta would be performing at the musee cluny.  I grew up listening to medieval music.  For some reason I was attracted to the tones and tempo of the sounds of that time period.  It helped, too, that there seemed to be a renewed interest in old music from Western Europe on the part of recording artists and a few record labels.

We plotted and planned to made our way to the concert.  What a treat.  The event was held in the courtyard and the acoustics were perfect.  It was easy to imagine what it was like to have been in this very same courtyard in 1334 listening to music back when the structure was a townhouse for the abbots who lived there.

This is someone else's video from another performance.
Can you imagine Pierre Hamon playing this same
tune on these pipes out in the courtyard of the
musee cluny?  Magick.  That's what it is.  Pure magick.

Lunch was just up the street at the Balzar.  It's been nearly a decade since we've dined there and it seemed conveniently located to the concert.  The bistro had changed hands just before our last visit and the meals were excellent.  This time, the food was decent enough, though not up to the quality of a decade ago.  Further, to my way of thinking, it was rather over priced.  I can't imagine paying 23Euro for a 50cl bottle of admittedly good rose when something similar at other places would set us back only 9Euro.

WH Smith was our next destination.  Not for music, but for books.  Or is that music for the eyes and brain?  Anyway, we found a couple potentially interesting things to read and headed back to the apartment.

After an early dinner, we explored a different arrondisement.  We listened to a choral concert that was being held in a church. As we were thinking they'd be there later, we quickly continued on our way.

Up the street there was '50's style rock and blues being played at the marie (city hall).  The announcement suggested there might be New Orleans style jazz, too.  After finding seats, we noticed we were the only listeners moving to the music.  Maybe it was the lack of the promised jazz that held everyone in check, other than the crowd of children bop'n and dance'n in front of the stage.  It was cute watching them play unselfconsciously.  We watched a little Line Dancing, a little Macarena (true!), and some of the moves looked a lot like a well choreographed Bollywood dance scene.

After the set ended, we started toward choral event.  But we didn't get too far before coming across a small group of Breton who performed in traditional garb and played a little bal musette.  They had bagpipes unlike anything I'd ever seen before.  The tonal range was very different than Scots Pipes.  The Bretonne folk style was the fourth kind of music we'd listened to over the span of 10 hours

This is someone else's video, but it illustrates the kind of
music the group we saw performed.  What's lacking
here are the incredible, beautiful costumes the group wore. 

We missed the choral concert.  It seems to have ended, though it didn't matter to us.  We'd had a good time.  We're old folk and don't need to stay out all night.  Home and hearth were calling.

The evening had been warm and beautiful.  Excellent for profiter la vie.

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