The Fete de la Musique came about as an idea in – you guessed it – France, in 1981. The story goes that Paris’s culture minister found out that every second young person played an instrument and he was struck by an idea – there should be at least one day each year when everyone who had the urge, could come out onto the streets, bring their instrument, and just play. One day that would be filled with music, the city full of people just playing and enjoying music, coming together and having fun.
Sounds like a pipe dream?
But in fact it happened. I guess if you’re the culture minister…anyway, the next year, in 1982, the first Fete de la Musique was held on the streets of Paris, and it was such a huge success that the idea quickly spread. The Fete was celebrated in a couple more towns and cities each year, until by now it’s a popular worldwide institution: sometimes called the Fete de la Musique, or translated into the local language – for example in the UK it’s simply Music Day.
There came quickly to be a General Agreement that covered how a Fete should be organised, so that it could be considered as being part of the international thing.
For example, money is left aside for this one day. No commercialisation. Even professional musicians give up on making any money that day and do it just for the love of the thing.
Another – much newer – tradition which was kicked off in 2018 is the Europe-wide singalong. At exactly 6pm, in every city around Europe, people gathered at a particular place – in Berlin on the steps of the National Museum – and sang two songs: Don’t Look Back in Anger and Imagine from John Lennon.
I stood there on the steps a year ago and felt a swell of happiness to think that all across the continent people everywhere were doing their best to sing along to the same song, a song of peace, love and togetherness, across borders, cultures and languages.
And of course we’re looking very much forward to the Fete de la Musique 2019 this year too!