2 In Arts and Entertainment/ Outdoor Experiences

Fête de la Musique: World Music Day In France

On June 21, 2019, I finally attended my first Fête de la Musique, also known as World Music Day, in France.  While the Coronavirus pandemic has taken over the world, France is now opening up more businesses; however, it’s unlikely there will be live events this year, so let’s hope we have them in future years. I hope my visit last year in Sarlat isn’t the last time I attend because it is an event everyone should attend at least once.

[Updated June, 2021: Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot announced that Fête de la Musique in 2021 will take place with some health conditions: masks are still required (”masquée avec un couvre-feu)but mini-concerts in bars and restaurants are permitted and no more curfew! (It was originally set for 11:00). No health pass will be required and indoor musical events will be limited to 50%. The event will take place on June 21 during the third stage of France’s confinement schedule.]

World Music Day In France

June 21 is commonly known as the summer solstice—the first day of summer and the longest day of the year; however, it’s more commonly known as the day the music plays in every major (and minor) town in France: la fête de la musique. It’s a major cultural event in France celebrating music outdoors by locals—amateur and professional—and as individuals, duos, or in groups. What’s so special is that the music covers all genres of music: classical, rock, jazz, folk, funk, techno, blues, and more. 

The tradition was started by France’s Minister of Culture Jack Lang and French composer Maurice Fleuret in 1982 and the first event was held in Paris. It then spread to other countries around the world. The intent was that the concerts would be held outdoors, on the streets and be provided to the public free of charge. Music was to be accessible to all.  What resulted is the slogan, “Fête de la Musique” which plays on the words, “Faites de la Musique”, which means, “make music”. Today, over 130 countries and over 1000 cities do just that. They make [lots of] music!

Fête de la Musique In Sarlat (2019)

World music day in Sarlat (J. Chung)
World music day in Sarlat (J. Chung)
Rock band at the Fête de la Musique
Rock band at the Fête de la Musique (J. Chung)
World music day in Sarlat (J. Chung)

In 2019 I spent two months in France with a week in Sarlat in the Dordogne-Perigord region. My stay coincided with the Fête de la Musique, so I was thrilled. The festivities didn’t really start until about 6:30 pm. In the main square, on main streets like Avenue Gambetta, and on numerous street corners, there were diverse musical acts and included:

  • rock bands-one was performing “We don’t need no education” by Pink Floyd
  • jazz bands
  • cellists
  • solo electric guitarist
  • folk dancers
  • line dancers
  • choirs

They were scattered throughout the town so no matter where you walked, you’d likely run into an act. Most people stood around and watched, drinking a beer or wine and munching on take-out food like a sausage in a bun. If you wanted to sit and have a drink or meal there were also tables in the big squares such as Place du Peyrou and Place de la Liberté.

Was it crowded? Yes, somewhat, particularly as it got later into the evening but it certainly was a family event and it felt very safe to be out.

Music Celebrations In France (2020)

I have always wanted to be in Paris on June 21; however, it’s never worked out. I have heard the Fête de la Musique in this city is amazing…..so many venues and acts to see in such a beautiful city. 

For 2020, however, it doesn’t look like there will be many (or any) live celebrations for World Music Day going on in France. There’s no chance of doing social distancing in Sarlat much less anywhere else in France if you have the festival going one. Consider that in larger cities like Paris, tens of thousands of people would be mingling on the streets so many festivals have been cancelled. 

The government has stated that until September 2020 gatherings greater than 5,000 people are forbidden. I tried to find out if any town in France is going to proceed with outdoor concerts on the Music Day and couldn’t find any with definitive plans. Roquebrune Cap on the Côte d’Azur simply said “something” might be happening June 19-21 and updates would be forthcoming.  Based on the interview by France’s Cultural Minister, Franck Reister on Europe 1 Radio earlier in the month, I don’t think any town will have an outdoor event.

“Les spectacles dans les zones vertes seront possibles dans des salles. Pour autant, on se dirige vers l’impossibilité de pouvoir organiser spontanément un concert dans la rue.”

[Shows in green areas will be possible in halls. However, we are heading towards the impossibility of being able to spontaneously organize a concert in the street.]

Concerts In France Without Live Audiences

Last year’s major concert to celebrate the day took place in Nice with over 30,000 spectators but they decided a live venue would not be possible again so they moved it to Paris. The only official “Fête de la Musique” celebration will be  streamed live on June 19. The television networks, France 2 and France Bleu will be airing a program called “Tous ensemble pour la musique” (“All together for music”).

Performances by 30 artists such as Patrick Bruel and Pascal Obispo and rising French talents will be shown, at the Accor Arena in Paris but without any audience in attendance. Supposedly it will also be aired in Canada, Switzerland, and Belgium.

If you’re interested in some other posts related to the Dordogne, check out the ones about unique caves in the region, taking a hot air balloon ride over the Dordogne valley, and Gouffre de Padirac, a cave that has a river in it.

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Fete de la Musique-World Music Day In France

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  • Reply
    Frances Folsom
    June 11, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    This festival sounds wonderful. The buildings in Sarlat look beautiful.

    • Reply
      June 11, 2020 at 6:11 pm

      It’s a really picturesque town!

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