June 24, 2012: La Fete de la Musique (Oh, What a Night)

          June 21 is a national holiday in France: La Fete de la Musique (The Party of the Music). It’s a celebration of World Music Day, and the general idea is to play loud music all day and night, and—for revelers of a certain age—perhaps to drink a lot while doing so. And so children wander around all day, banging on pots and pans and shaking tambourines, while everyone else turns the speakers of their home stereos toward the windows, cranks up the volume, and uncorks du vin. If the 21st occurs on a weekday, La Fete is typically celebrated on the following Saturday.

          The first summer we were here in Bargemon, we found La Fete charming. We were up till 3 a.m. that year; a French mountaintop village is typically so quiet that any sound travels and lingers, and the cacophony from centre ville sounded as if it were coming from our salon. We live quite close to the mairie, which usually hosts an annual concert for La Fete, and that first year we opened all the windows and sat in our kitchen, eating roti chicken and drinking rosé and listening to a French woman sing Italian arias from Lucia de Lammermoor. Later, she did a Tina Turner medley.

          The French love their American pop music. There are staples in their U.S. golden oldies diet that Tevye and I have come to expect to hear at any event: “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang; “Le Freak” by Chic; “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge. And always, always—for reasons no one has ever been able to explain—“December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” by the Four Seasons.

There was no Fete de la Musique to photograph this year, so here is a picture of the table in our kitchen.

          This year, La Fete barely occurred—in the village proper, at least. I don’t know why. But there were pas d’enfants making noise dans la rue; no concert at the mayor’s ce soir. Late in the evening, though, I heard American Top 40 tunes wafting up from the valley below us. I grabbed my book and settled dans la cuisine, waiting to hear it. And I wasn’t disappointed. Sometime around midnight, not long after “The Macarena” and “Y.M.C.A.” and “West End Girls,” there it was, the song Tevye and I refer to as The French National Anthem: “Oh, What a Night.”

          Vive la France.

 Thing I Hate Today: Petulant voisins


One Response

  1. I love it!! Someday I am going to France. Enjoy!

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