LA FÊTE DE LA MUSIQUE
The OmPaPa Band
Inside the Hotel St. Paul Rive Gauche
Trio Klezele: Julien Petit, Rémy Yulzari,
Tuba Player of the OmPaPa Band
Paris, City Of Lights,
Becomes City Of Music
OR one day out of the year, Paris, the City of
Lights, becomes the City of Music. It’s the amazing Fête de la Musique, the day when all Paris stops whatever they are doing
and fill the streets to listen. That was my re-introduction to
the City. The Hotel St Paul Rive Gauche, in the heart of St
Germaine des Pres, was surrounded by every conceivable type of
music. There was no time to unpack.
Launched in 1982
by the French Ministry for Culture, Fête de la Musique has
become so popular it is observed in more than a hundred
countries. The Ministry created it as a way to encourage major
musical institutions — orchestras, opera singers and choirs — to
perform outside their standard venues.
Every style of music is welcome, from classical
to funk, R&B, rock, blues, jazz and Klezmer. This is completely
different from a music festival, because la fête is above all a
free popular entertainment.
The object of la fête was an
exchange between City centers and the banlieue, or suburbs, to
offer concerts in hospitals and in prisons as well as promote
exchanges between amateur musicians and established talents.
Anyone who can play music or sing is invited to do so, for free,
any place they wish. The city publishes a list of performers,
performances, locations and times.
By law, Paris prohibits street musicians.
Fête is the exception. Every street, quay, courtyard as well as
some hotels, train stations and museums are filled with
musicians, singers and orchestras. There were orchestras at the
Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Hotel Soubise, one of the most
treasured mansions in Paris and home to Museum of French
Pierre Boulez led the
Orchestra d’Paris in
Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird. The orchestra played under
the famous glass pyramid. The line of people started forming
four hours before the 10 p.m. concert.
Kurt Masur led the National Orchestra of
France in Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
Brahim-Djelloul (soprano) and Renata Pokupic
On rue de Seine there were more fans than
foot space for The OmPaPa Band made up of architecture students
from l’ecole des Beaux Arts. The tuba player, the only woman in
the group, stole the attention of the crowd.
And there was Klezmer music. In fact,
several Klezmer bands. The Gefilte Swing played traditional klezmer music traversing the strains of the American Yiddish
music of the Twenties to the Forties. The Balkans Yiddish on
Broadway played klezmer and jazz music. My favorite was the
Trio Klezele, three young musicians Yannick Lopes,
accordion/guitar, Julien Petit, saxophone, and
At midnight, as I headed to my
hotel I was distracted by familiar music, Diana Ross and the
Supremes. I took a detour that brought me to Place de l’Odeon.
There was a mob dancing and swinging to a dj playing all the
sounds of my childhood. The music of the 70s and 80s drew a
multi-generational crowd that danced on the steps of the Odeon
and the cobblestones of the street.
In the words of Alan Jay Lerner, I could have
danced all night.