Fete de la Musique

The annual Fete de la Musique takes place on 21 June, with celebrations of various kinds all over France. My first memory of the Fete de la Musique was in Lyon in 1990, I think. We were lucky enough to accompany musicians playing on barges on the river, after which we joined the general music and mayhem in the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon. There were so many people and such little room to move. I felt physically ill from claustrophobia. It was crazy, but a night to remember.

The celebrations in Quillan are ever so slightly smaller, though they still rock the place. As I write the windows are shaking and the floor is vibrating with the beat. It’s the most people I’ve yet seen in the square, though the numbers will swell further in July and August in full tourist season.

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They started setting up a couple of days ago – the stage was trucked in on a trailer early in the morning, the maneuvering making for entertaining viewing. We thought the stage was already big enough, and right below our windows, but apparently this is just the warm-up act. A larger more ‘permanent’ stage is used for the main summer festival season in July and August. Yesterday and this evening technical gear was set up for light and sound. They’ve obviously done this before as they know what they are doing – or seem to.

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The evening started after 6pm with the local brass and instrumental bands. It’s impressive that Quillan, despite its economic decline, has retained groups like this. They are a vital part of the festival programme.

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As the evening has progressed the programme has progressed through french international a la Pink Martini to 80s rock and pop – a mix of originals and covers. We even had some Sting and some Bruce Springsteen.

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The tables at all three cafes and bars are full of patrons, drinking and dining, and its still very warm out there at almost 11pm.  Earlier families were more evident, with the kids dancing and running around.

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Ollie enjoyed hanging out in the square for a while. I joined him at one point. The music didn’t prevent Nicholas going to sleep and hasn’t woken him up since (yet). There won’t be too much sleep for us though as they are due to go into the wee hours, with the last slot scheduled for 00.30. Tomorrow there’s a fishing festival on the square from 8.30am to 6.30pm. What will be impressive is how they will manage to pack out all the sound equipment this evening in time

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