So, yesterday was the Solstice, the longest day and, here in France, the Fête de la Musique (Festival of Music). This is an annual event, held on 21st June and involves musicians (professional or amateur), going out into the streets and strutting their stuff. There is only one restriction – all performances must be free. Events range from large-scale concerts by major artists, to a temporary stage constructed for the occasion in the village square. I had thought this was either an ancient tradition, dating back to pagan times (like Halloween), or the consequence of some interesting historical event (like Guy Fawkes night). But no. This year is the 30th anniversary of an event created by the Ministry of Culture.
When I first heard about the Fête, I imagined a bucolic scene where fragile Edith Piaf-types stood on street corners singing La Vie en Rose with the voice of a nightingale, while grizzled mariners perched on stools hand-made from shipwrecks they had survived played the accordion and crooned the sea shanties of their youth. How wrong I was.
You’re most likely to encounter a bunch of Metallica look-a-likes playing their favourite thrash metal tunes. If it’s not them, it will be your standard four-piece rock band with a flat female lead vocal doing covers of Toto. Or, perhaps, as I found last night, a new horror. The high-school orchestra giving their all to a dirge that wouldn’t have been out of place at an Irish funeral. However, nothing I heard last night was as bad as last year. If you’ve ever had a neighbour who went away for the weekend, leaving behind a very lonely and sad dog you can begin to imagine the terrible noise that some people call singing. When I expressed amazement that nobody made it stop, my French friend simply shrugged his shoulders and said ‘it’s the Fête de la Musique, anyone can play’.
Groove is in the Heart
I haven’t heard this for years, but it was played on the radio the other day. Take a minute to get your spangly unitard and false eyelashes out; you’re going to need them as you get on down to Deee-Lite. As we all know, Groove is in the Heart!