In 1982 the first Fete de la Musique took place in France, and it quickly turned into an institution which is still going strong 31 years later! It takes place each year on June 21 – the shortest night of the year is ideal for partying! All over France there is music and more music, and people getting together to enjoy. Pretty much every village or smaller town has at least one event to mark the Fete de la Musique; I decided to visit Beziers with a few friends and together we enjoyed a totally musical evening.
We started off at the Eglise St Jacques, just a few steps away from the Musee du Bitterois. The church was hosting a number of events and we got there in time to listen to the guitar ensemble from the Beziers conservatoire. They played very well and the music chosen was a delight. The interior of the church was fascinating, and a little reading of the information panels at the back of the church gave some clues. The Romanesque church had been much changed over the centuries to the point where it was hardly recognisable as Romanesque. In 1960 a fire which started in a confessional (don’t ask!) meant that the interior of the church was totally destroyed. During the work to safeguard and restore the building most of the later additions were stripped away, leaving a very stark but serene interior, which has nice acoustics. The stained glass windows have just been installed, made by master craftsmen from Chartres. Walk around the back of the church and you’ll find the small park which was closed on my last visit. Definitely worth a walk – the views are amazing!
From the St Jacques neighbourhood we went on a little walk via the remains of the amphitheatre (my friends had not seen that), and back into the centre of Beziers. At the Hotel du Lac we came across the Symphony Orchestra of the Beziers Conservatoire, and then we went on to the Allees Paul Riquet, where we stopped for a bite to eat, just by the Theatre. The couscous looked very good and it tasted delicious!
Just behind the theatre at the top end of the Allees Paul Riquet the drummers La Bande de Beziers gave it their all. I taped the entire piece – be warned it’s 16 minutes long, so you may just want to listen to some of it.
On we went to Place de la Madeleine to listen to the Jersey Julie Band. They played a great mix of bluegrass, country, and folk music, heavily influenced by blues. Julie is an amazing bundle of energy, who just draws the crowd along!
When Julie and her band finally took their leave, another group, Awek, started up right across from the stage, in the Blues Caravan.
After a bit of blues we went on to the Cathedrale Saint Nazaire and on the way came across a scene almost out of a Van Gogh painting, down the winding back streets with the twinkling lights overhead. All the restaurants were busy and there was of course music here too. On Place de la Révolution we listened to Cobla Tues Vents playing traditional Catalan music and watched a sardane being danced.
On to the cathedral, where we were hoping to see someone jump across the Feu de St Jean (it’s a local tradition to jump across the fire). Alas when we got there we were pretty much on our own, even though the fire was still burning in the cloisters. It did look absolutely beautiful, and the atmosphere was gorgeous and serene.
We wended our way back to the Allees Paul Riquet and towards the car, and on the way caught some more music on the main stage in front of the theatre. The whole square was buzzing and animated, and it was just wonderful to be immersed in that happy feeling.
So mark your diary for next year – June 21 is definitely a great day to be in France – you’ll be bound to find some music to listen to!
A note to all of you who are subscribed to the blog by e-mail: The youtube videos embedded in the post will unfortunately not show up in the e-mail version. To watch and listen please go to the post at http://www.midihideaways.wordpress.com