Wednesday 30 June 2010

Join In The Fete de la Musique

Every year since 1982, people around the world have been celebrating La Fête de la Musique.

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Bernard C. Cormier
[Photo:© Bernard C. Cormier 2010]
Glen Burg will perform in downtown Moncton Monday as part of Fete de la Musique.

Meaning a "Celebration of Music," it is sometimes identified as, among other things, "World Music Day" in English, and occurs each year on June 21.

Its origins can be traced back to 1976 when Joel Cohen, an American musician employed by a French government-owned radio station, thought up the idea of having an annual celebration about music. He also thought that it would be best if such a day would take place on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

The first Fête de la Musique took place five years later during legendary French politician Jack Lang's stint as Minister of Culture, a political position that is highly regarded and respected in that country. Since that time, La Fête de la Musique has spread out into the rest of the world.

"It was a French initiative," says Gilles Courregelongue, the Consul General of France based in Moncton.

Although the Minister of Culture oversaw it in the early days, he says that it was always a non-governmental activity. "Of course, it went much further than the limit of the French government's competence and its goals," the consul general says. "Now it's in so many countries! In every country of the world, the French embassies are always taking part in it and helping (with) it but it should not (be seen) as a "French Government Action." We are just a part of it. We have maybe been the leader at the very beginning but it's not at all the situation today and that's not the image we want to give because we don't deserve it anymore."

La Fête de la Musique is a day to celebrate music: any music, all music, and any way a person wants to, as long as it's about the music and the musicians perform for free.

Therefore, it is totally acceptable, for example, for anyone to pull out a guitar and walk up and down Mountain Road while playing acoustic death metal.

To make things a little more structured and organized for people who wouldn't do that in Moncton, a committee of various organizations led by the French Consulate, which include The Province of New Brunswick, The City of Moncton, and Music NB, plan free public performances to be held on Monday.

"(The French Consulate) introduced the idea (in Moncton) in 2004," says Mamadou Konté, the co-ordinator of those performances.

This year, as with the previous ones, Konté was involved with the selection process that decided which artists would effectively be performing at the "organized" venues, which include City Hall and Mascaret Park.

"We're open to all genres of music because we're not selecting bands for us but, instead, for the public," Mamadou says. "We don't know what the public will like, so we make sure to offer all musical genres. One night, we sat down and listened to what each band interested in performing submitted to us. We tried to make a line-up that held together and included all musical genres. It certainly was difficult in making decisions to cut bands when we were nearly finished with the process, but I can assure you that we didn't cut many. We had to cut some acts due to time restraints."

Another person involved with the process was Jean Surette, executive director of Music N.B. Jean is also a member of the band Les Païens.

"One of things that the (selection) committee tried to do was to involve as many people as possible," he says. "Have a list of people who wanted to play and try to cater to everyone, if possible. That, obviously, wasn't possible but we tried to. It was to give a good mix, depending on what time of day, where was the venue and what kind of event we wanted to create, like "early-evening/late-afternoon.

"Well, we tried to cater more to families but later in the evening we were able to program maybe heavier or more adult' bands.

"One thing that's beautiful about music, especially on a day like La Fête de la Musique, is to let people have the chance to discover new music, whether it be music that they're not used to hearing or that they don't get to hear. So, it's giving people the opportunity to discover new music."

"The Spirit of La Fête de la Musique is that you play every kind of music at every level! That means that you can have world famous artists and also young kids just learning," says Gilles.

The organized La Fête de la Musique events in Moncton this year will include Alcaz, a band from France.

For some of the performers at La Fête de la Musique, it presents them with a new platform and, perhaps, an exercise in audience interaction.

Local musician and radio personality Glen Burg will participate in La Fête de la Musique for the first time. Although his experiences in public performances include impressive experiences, like playing on stage with members of Gentle Giant, Glen sees his solo acoustic Main Street morning sidewalk set as a welcome challenge.

"It's easy for me to get up on stage in front of thousands of people as I've done before in a band setting and be just like OK! Let's kick this! Let's do it right!' Myself, in front of two or three people, forget having thousands of people! Just having two or three people there, one of whom I might not have known beforehand...the stakes are raised! For me, that's the challenge that I push myself into at the same time with La Fête de la Musique. It's like, OK, maybe people will be more receptive today but at the same time I'm going to be nervous as heck!

"I don't have stars in my eyes playing on the sidewalks of Moncton," Glen adds, "but it's nice to be part of this activity because, over in France, where it originated, you get music on every street corner! "

"The big difference in France, and in Europe, is that (the performances) are small and more spontaneous," Gilles says.

"Here, it's more organized. Also, the cities are different. In Moncton, you cannot do things (that) you can do in Paris. In many European cities, (bands) are playing on the pavement, in the streets..."

In case anyone thinks that he's panhandling, Glen will place a sign in front of him saying I'm not soliciting. I'm here for International Music Day.'

* Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer and broadcaster. E-mail: © Bernard C. Cormier 2010