On June 21st, the whole of France celebrates the Fete de la Musique, with parties and concerts everywhere – and who am I to miss out on a party!!?? 😀
So I rounded up a few friends and together we went to Beziers to see what we could listen to! We left fairly early, and as we walked from the underground car park up the Allees Paul Riquet, it became clear that we had arrived a little too early. But still, it was good to be able to have a look around without missing anything! The food stalls looked colourful and the smells were tantalising!!
We headed for Place de la Revolution, where the Sardanistes would be dancing later in the evening. The plan was to have dinner at Brasserie du Palais, and be able to listen to the music and watch the dancers from the comfort of our table. On the way to Place de la Revolution I came across some interesting details.
The atmosphere in Beziers was very summery and festive – lots of people out in the streets, all getting ready to party in one way or another!
Our meal at Brasserie du Palais was delicious! A large plate of tapas to share, followed by great main courses, and nice desserts.
The restaurant takes its name from the former archbishop’s palace, which is just across the square, and today houses the local courts of justice. Next to it is the cathedral, and we had a fine view of that from our table.
We were just about finishing our desserts, when the musicians started to gather on the stage, and it wasn’t long before they struck up their first tune.
And as soon as they started to play, the dancers appeared – at first only a few of them joined hands to form a small circle.
Now a word about the music and dancing – the Sardana is a Catalan tradition, played on instruments of which a few are not found elsewhere in France or Europe. The band is called “Cobla” and the dancers are called “Sardanistes”. For the full explanation please have a look at the Wikipedia entry, which I think explains it all very well.
I was watching in blissful ignorance, enjoying the uplifting sound of the music and watching the dancers with fascination. It seemed as though anyone could join in, and the circle grew larger and larger, until it was all around the fountain and the square. The steps seemed to be very simple – it was only later, when talking to a couple of the dancers, that I found out that there was a lot more to it! 🙂 .
The band, as well as the dancers I spoke with, had come from Perpignan, where they had already performed earlier that day. They explained that the Sardana is a traditional dance, as opposed to a folkloric dance, so nobody wears any special costumes. Both the dancers were wearing the traditional espardenya shoes though – you’ll be able to see these shoes in the video below (e-mail subscribers, please visit the webpage to view the video).
Did you notice how the flute player also plays the tiny drum, which is strapped to his arm? The double bass has only three strings, and its player is really going for it! We sat and listened and watched, and enjoyed every minute of it!!
It was getting dark and the lights came on, and with the whole square alive with music and dance, it was just magical.
When we had had our fill of the Sardana, we wandered over to the cathedral, where another concert was just coming to the end: Nicolas Celero at the piano, playing music by Franz Liszt, and Michael Lonsdale reading in between the musical performances.
On our way back we walked down Rue Viennet and passed Place du Forum, across the road from the town hall, which had all been transformed with strings of lights into the most magical of places.
The Eglise de la Madeleine looked very majestic, lit up against the black sky.
And then we reached the Allees Paul Riquet once more, and wandered amongst the many people who were either watching the act on the main stage in front of the theatre, or just enjoying the start of summer.
Mark your calendar for next year, and plan to be in Herault around June 21st – I promise you’ll enjoy the festivities!