Created forty years ago by Jack Lang, then Minister of Culture under François Mitterrand and now President of the Institute of the Arab World in Paris, the Fête de la Musique (playing on the double meaning of “music festival” and “make music!”) encourages more than 18,000 concerts across the country on June 21 each year by 5 million amateur musicians, in front of nearly 10 million spectators, according to the Ministry of Culture . Nearly 8% of the population played an instrument or sang on the day of the summer solstice. In small non-tourist towns, it is often the only major cultural event of the year, so successful for forty years that 120 countries have created their own Fête de la Musique, in the United States, in Nigeria, in China, Australia, UK, Germany, Italy, Brazil…
Aaron Friedman is the founder of the NGO Make Music New York. This American discovered the Fête de la Musique when he was on a university exchange in Bordeaux in 2000. “I had joined a free jazz group as a saxophonist, and all the members of the group were talking about the Fête de la Musique on June 21, ”he says in his playful tone at Point. “Unfortunately, I was supposed to return to the United States on the 15th, so I missed it… But in 2006, I remembered this party and wondered if it could be successfully implemented in my country. I went to Paris to check, with a camera to document it. I was struck by the spontaneity of the event. The participants didn’t need much preparation or production: it’s just a party where you have to arrive on the right day with your instruments and start playing. I found it so inspiring… I knew it was a big event, but I couldn’t imagine how deeply rooted it was in the minds of the French people. They are culturally comfortable with the idea of taking to the streets to demonstrate or go to a festival, so there is something very French about the Fête de la Musique, but music is universal, so the Fête de music can exist anywhere. »
Today, Make Music Day is the city’s biggest music event, with more than 1,000 concerts a year. In 2014, Aaron created Make Music Alliance to develop the Fête de la Musique in other American cities. “Now it exists in 105 American cities… But it’s not yet as established as in France across the country,” he acknowledges.
“There are Aaron Friedmans all over the world these days,” marvels Jack Lang. “This year is even more awesome than other years, it’s insane, amazing wildfire!” It has become the biggest music festival in the world. As a universalist, I want to propagate everything I do. From the second edition of the Fête de la Musique, I took my phone to call my fellow European ministers, the French Institutes and the embassies, to spread it city by city. »
This year, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the event, Make Music Alliance is organizing the special event Faire La Fête, bringing together 40 concerts in 40 countries, all paying tribute to French music through the repertoire of its authors and composers – all styles combined. In Querétero, Mexicans will be able to attend a tribute concert to Pierre Schaeffer, father of concrete music. In Berlin, the singer Irma will give a concert at the Brandenburg Gate. Kurdistan will pay tribute to French electronic music. In Osaka, 100 trumpeters will perform Saint-Saëns’ Ave Maria and Mouret’s Fanfare. Sydney will bring Lapérouse back to life with the jazz suite Astrolabe and its show inspired by the incredible voyage and mysterious disappearance at sea of the French navigator.
In New York, the music of French composers and musicians will occupy seven stages spread over Liberty Island, Ellis Island and Battery, all overlooking the Statue of Liberty, a powerful symbol of friendship and the ties between nations. On the program: Camille Saint-Saëns, Bizet, Bozza, Boulez, Clément, Couperin, Debussy, Faure, Gombert, Josquin, Piaf, Poulenc, Rameau, Ravel, Reinhardt, Satie, Tailleferre and Varèse – as well as a more contemporary repertoire by French musicians living in New York…
“My dream would be to organize a competition to find the music or the few universal notes of the Fêtes de la Musique, that we realize that we are participating in the same global event, every June 21, everywhere in the world”, hopes Jack Lang. The motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” would come into its own.