Although it feels like we haven’t had much of a spring here in Paris, summer is around the corner. And what better way to spend the longest day of the year, June 21, than with a country-wide music jamboree? That was the thinking behind the creation of la Fête de la Musique, which officially began in 1983 under the auspices of Culture Minister Jack Lang. Since then, Make Music Day (as it is widely called in English) has spread to more than 700 cities in 120 countries. But nowhere is it more celebrated than here in Paris.
For this 35th edition, the theme is “Music is stronger than…“, an uplifting appeal to unite as a community after a difficult year. The official website has helpful instructions about how to set up your own concert (for practical and security reasons, it’s best to go through official channels), plus a list of open calls for people who want to participate in making music. If you prefer to enjoy the show as a spectator, you can check the city-wide listings here or contact the city hall of your arrondissement or town for more information about activities and concerts on offer.
What the festival means for performers …
As widespread as the festival is, la Fête de la Musique can mean different things to different people. For singers and musicians, it’s the annual opportunity to strut their stuff in public. As singer Mathilde, 22, puts it:
“la Fête de la Musique is a big event for me. It celebrates what I love the most in the world. Music represents for me freedom and sharing. I love to sing and feel that connection with the audience and that thrill when a gig comes up unexpectedly on the streets or by the Seine.”
This year, however, Mathilde plans to spend the day in the streets rather than up on the stage. “I already performed the two previous years and this year I want to enjoy it differently! What I love most is to wander, drink, dance, and sing with my friends. It is really pleasant to have the chance to listen to all kinds of music; there are so many opportunities in Paris. Oh, and it is also the occasion to celebrate the return of summer!”
For others it’s a nostalgic event …
For other people, la Fête de la Musique is more of a nostalgic event, a reminder of past celebrations and significant milestones. Maryse, 51, recalls the year she turned 17: “I remember the arrival of the socialists as leaders of the country. A piece of freedom. We all went outside, everywhere. Everybody was playing anything and everything. People took to the streets to play with their drums, violins … It really was the musiciens du dimanche (Sunday musicians).”
And for the younger generations …
Make Music Day is also a wonderful way to introduce young children to live concerts (for a list a family-friendly events, check out the program here) and let them experience first-hand how music can truly bring people from all walks of life together. For 20-year-old students Marcos, Nat and Ben, who plan on attending the open-air dance party at the Batofar, this is what the Fête de la Musique evokes most of all:
“It’s a chance for the city to come together to share their love for music. It evokes a sense of community and creates this unique atmosphere and energy all over the city of Paris. And of course, it’s a chance for us all to spend the night out together! “