It’s a busy time in our valley at the moment, what with Crankworx, Pass’portes and AllRide festival taking centre stage over the first few weeks of the summer season. But next week will see the summer solstice, and with it Fête de la Musique, France’s national day of festivities for all things musical. More widely known in English as World Music Day, this genre-spanning musical free-for-all was actually started in France. Fête de la Musique was born in 1982 and has grown in popularity so much over its 35-year history that it’s now celebrated in over 120 countries around the world.
Fête de la Musique is always free, and aims to celebrate all aspects and genres of music. It’s a way to bring people together, for the public to experience new musical genres, and to unite amateur and professional musicians in a creative, communal space. In France, many towns, cities and villages will take a night off and spend an evening partying the night away to all kinds of music, from amateur punk bands to classical orchestras, DJs to traditional folk bands.
It all started when French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, appointed composer and music journalist, Maurice Fleuret, as Director of Music and Dance. Fleuret saw the evolution of music and culture of ‘music everywhere and concerts nowhere’, and sought to do something to change this.
In 1982, the Ministry of Culture carried out a survey on French cultural practices, which revealed that five million people in France played an instrument, including half of all French children. However, concerts were only accessible to a small minority. Lang and Fleuret decided something needed to be done to integrate music and performance into the realm of the public, support the amateur musician and make different genres accessible to everyone.
The first Fête de la Musique was hastily organised, but the results went way beyond expectations; hundreds of towns got involved, thousands of musicians and performers took to the streets to play and crowds of people came down to watch. The festival soon picked up traction and quickly became the phenomenon it is today.
Nowadays, most big towns and cities in the France put on free open-air concerts in multiple central locations; the concerts are still free and mostly community-organised. There will be plenty going on in Morzine, including live music and festivities at La Marmotte d’Or and Coup de Coeur. Chamonix, Geneva and Thonon also put on some serious genre-spanning spectacles over the week, providing free access to stunning concert halls and lakeside venues alike, as well as lots of amazing music. If you’re looking for something a little more local, plenty of towns along the Valley Verte will be holding celebrations as well.
For more information on Fête de la Musique events near you, check out our events calendar and get involved!