Image via WikipediaThis day of celebration of music in all its forms started in France and has travelled round the world...for once a great example of France's civilising mission. I look forward to it and start planning where to go as soon as I can find out what's on, which is not always so easy if you are, like me, on the borders of different regions, so that the local newspaper might well cover something happening seventy kilometres away at the other end of my department, but not something ten kilometres away which happens to be in the neighbouring region. Checking on the internet is not always so easy either..you have national sites, departmental sites, tourist office sites and something is always bound to slip through the net so that you see it reported as a great success the week after it has happened. I ring up friends and we swop information...it's quicker.
This year, our village hall is hosting hip hop. Given that most people in the village are of a certain age and can never have heard of that form of music, I suspect intervention by the culture committee of the local authority. It will have been an interesting evening depending on whether the clients of the bar two villages away that deals in drugs decided to participate. As yet, the grapevine has not borne fruit. My postlady is on holiday and the village correspondant of the local rag is notoriously slow to report. As Didier said once,
'By the time he's reported your Silver Wedding, it's time for the Golden one!'
Friends suggested coming to stay with them for the night and attending a flamenco evening in a local chateau...well, local to them, thus the overnight stay.
We had a great day, caught up with the news, pottered round their garden, had lunch followed by a siesta and then tarted ourselves up to go out.
The chateau is a wonderful sixteenth century building, now occupied by an outpost of the Museum of Modern Art which means that it can no longer host the best Fete de la Musique that I ever attended, where every one of the many rooms had a continuously changing programme so that under the painted beams of the royal bedroom you could have a piano recital, a local choir belting out 'Wimeweh' and renaissance music in the course of an hour, while next door in the great hall you could have a chamber ensemble, folk music and the harpsichord. Too good to last.
The flamenco was to be held in the loggia under the painted hall and we faced the typical dilemma of the French night out. Advertised to begin at eight o'clock, we knew that nothing would start before nine, but, given that there is no rake on the floor, in order to see, we would need to get good front seats. We decided to go early, put programmes on our seats and have a picnic in the grounds...not quite Glyndebourne and not 'le dejeuner sur l'herbe' either!
On arrival, we marked our seats, in the second row, and were about to make off when the occupants of the first row said that people who had done so had had their programmes removed by the staff and had lost their places. We had our picnic on the uncomfortable folding seats instead, but the salmon roulade and the Saumur sparkling wine didn't lose much by the change of venue. Time went on...people assembled...the loggia filled up...the dancers were visible on the low stage, checking their movements....but we were still waiting. Nine o'clock, quarter past, half past nine...and then the main event of the night swung into action.
Staff bearing chairs came scurrying down the loggia to place them between the front row and the stage. Several minutes afterwards, a party of thin women and men in suits followed and occupied the said seats. Among them our friends recognised their local deputy and his 'lovely assistant', together with a bevy of departmental councillors. The front row was furious, we were furious, several rows back were furious. We watched an evening of wonderful, inspiring flamenco between the heads of the local politicos and their fixers.
As we went out to the car park, I ranged alongside one of the front row occupants, who was still furious.
'You know,' he said ' these so and sos didn't even pay for their tickets like the rest of us. I asked the girl on the desk and she said that they got in free, because the department and the state gave grants towards staging the event.'
The contempt of our masters for those of us who pay to keep them in the style to which they wish to remain accustomed is without limits.
It was, despite the talking heads, a wonderful event and no village or even small town could have afforded to book such a troupe of performers, so, bravo for la Fete de la Musique!