Celebrating the Summer Solstice with Fête de la Musique

By | June 20, 2017


Tomorrow is the summer solstice and that is always synonymous with the Fête de la Musique celebration.

It is at this time when all of Paris and just about every village in the entire country of France will come alive with the sounds of music filling the air.  Here in Paris it is the most popular of all French festivals. and the most well attended.

What has turned out to be a huge French success, was surprisingly started by an American. Joel Cohen, while working at Radio France in 1976, proposed the idea to the French cultural ministry.

As all things in France seem to percolate a while before being implemented, if at all, and especially from Mon Dieu, an American, it was not until 1982 before Jack Lang, the cultural minister launched the first Fête de la Musique.

To took off like wildfire and now over 110 countries around the world celebrate the summer solstice with their own music festivals.  Ironically enough it was only in 2007 that New York City and a few other cities in the US launched theirs.

The festival here is open to only amateur musicians who are willing to give freely of their time to play on streets corners for the grand public.  The Parisian metro will be graciously free tonight for the million of merry makers.

In Paris, it always resembles Mardi Gras to me, with thick crowds of all ages, heavily laced with beer and wine in hand, weaving in and out in front of you, making it a game of people dodging.

In my own arrondissement , there will be bands playing Caribbean music, jazz, folkloric, French tradition, American jazz favorites, soul and blues, hip hop, Latin american,  celtic, pop, big band, swing,funk, electro, and sex rock, whatever that might be!

Place Denfert Rochereau,  sported  one of the largest, loudest and most popular rock concerts, that was canceled last year and this one due to security concerns.

As this area is literally on top of the Catacombs, the huge necropolis or ossuary,  I can only imagine that those millions of bones eerily stacked underneath will miss rattling till the wee hours of dawn, inviting those 6 million souls buried there to come out again for some earth-bound fun.

The lovely Cathedral of Saint Eustache will start their annual and very popular Festival 36h Saint Eustache starting today at 3pm and go throughout the night till tomorrow evening.

Many other churches also will hold concerts inside or out in front, with classical offerings to gospel spirituals.

Cultural institutes of various countries usually offer music reflecting their individual cultural style, often bringing in well known groups from their countries.

I love Fête de la Musique for the gaiety and merriment it provides.  I also likes to honor the summer solstice, which has always been a high energy time for me, which I especially need now.

Long before the arrival of Christianity, man celebrated these powerful events of nature, from the Zoroastrians, to the Druids and Celts.

Christianity tried to replace most pagan holidays with celebrations according to their doctrinal beliefs, calling the summer solstice St John’s day.

Fortunately, solstice celebrations  are still well celebrated as midsummer days in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries.

Because they know what it is like to feel deprived of the sun during their long winter days of darkness,  they value and celebrate its return in abundance.

Sweden’s midsommar celebration, is a national holiday and wildly popular. I have never been, but it is something I want to do in the future.

Women wear garlands of flowers in their hair and have a custom of gathering different flowers to tuck under their pillow in hopes of dreaming of their future spouse.

Huge feasts abound and there is dancing around the gaily decorated Maypole, which can be interpreted as a phallic symbol.

For the ancients,  the summer solstice was a celebration of fertility.  Even today, Swedish births swirl in number around March, 9 months from the day..

Esoterically, it is a time when the male and female energies merge to provide for the highest state of illumination.     Alchemists see it as a time for the Mystic Marriage or in alchemical terms the hieros gamos, that Carl Jung expounded on in his book Mysterium Coniunctionis.

Nature with all its mysterious elements never gets the full credit. nor attention it deserves for the tremendous influences it exerts on us, unless a natural disaster occurs.   Man remains convincing and  arrogant that we are beyond the controlling forces of our universe.

Forces of gravity are real.  All you have to do, is pay attention to the monumental power of oceanic tides that religiously obey the unavoidable gravitational pull of the moon.

Since our little human bodies are composed of around 60 percent water, we too, in yet undiscovered ways are also covertly manipulated as well.

Those of us who have worked in psychiatry, and the psychological sciences, know that bipolar patients have a more difficult time of stability in the spring and fall.

Our whole body runs on rhythms and cycles, from our heart beat, menstrual cycles, adrenal and other hormonal cycles such as melatonin, which is regulated by sunlight.

Since music is a rhythmic composition of melodic vibrations, it seems perfectly fitting,  that we should celebrate with music when our sun is at the highest point in the sky.

Musical vibrations have an effect on neuronal activity, which is why music has the power to change our mood.  Some enlightens or energizes us or even brings us to tears.

I know medieval Gregorian chants can transport me into a meditative like trance.  Whereas jazz seems to energize me.

Our ancestors knew this, as all religious rituals and services were accompanied by rhythmic chants to bring about a sacred and solemn mood conducive to our spiritual expression.

For me Fête de la Musique is a wonderful way for humans to honor mother nature with our own musical offerings in gratitude for her plentiful warm sunshine and for the regularity of light and darkness.

We all take for granted that the sun will rise and set, and that every 28 days we will be treated to the beautiful spectacle of a full moon.

We are but just a miniscule part of our universe, yet man does not fully understand the workings of this immense and very vast frontier.

Early humans revered and honored nature.  They saw the sacredness in nature that modern man has loss sight of.

Fortunately there still exists in our American Indians, the Aboriginal, the Celtic culture,and others, the connectedness to nature that the modern world has lost.

So for me, to honor the summer solstice with music, seems incredibly fitting.  I, like the Irish will be looking for the plant faeries to come out again, but you must have special eyes to see them.

Perhaps that is why we, like the Irish, and above cultures,  celebrate with drinkable spirits, so we become more open to see beyond what we normally hold as “real”.

Nature continues to guard many of her secrets, and is perhaps waiting for the dawn of day, when human beings offer the respect she is entitled.

Physicists at CERN, having discovered the that Higgs bosom exists in 2012 are now being confounded by a lull in being able to find other physical particles thought to be in symmetry.

As in everything, there is a time for nature to reveal hidden aspects that change our perspective of reality.  Searching with an open mind to see beyond what we already know is essential.

The cloud of unknowing is a thin veil that separates us from astonishing truths yet undiscovered that play with our existence.

For many closed off to the possibility of man having a spiritual connection to nature, preferring to see only the physicality,  they may often be lead astray looking in the wrong direction.

Creating enough space for the spiritual connection, means allowing yourself to acknowledge that this “unknowningness” is part of our universe that does not need proof.

Fortunately, I have had the freedom within myself to have an interplay of mysticism  that knits and validates my own religious beliefs.    The natural forces of nature are a powerful convector and reflector of cosmic energies.

This year, the festive part of Fête de la Musique will be subdued because of  my veil of grief has dampened my desire to seek  as much musical entertainment as in the years past.  I will go despite this for the distraction and to glean whatever joy in listening that I can find.

Right now, as soon as I finish writing and publishing this post, I hope to head towards Saint Eustache for some Baroque music, which easily transports me back to a past that fascinates me.

At the same time, I will be more aware of the mystical forces of the solstice are at their highest, even though for me, the spiritual and natural worlds are woven and intertwined with each other year round.

For those of you like myself, who have mystical leanings,  I wish you a meaningful and safe summer solstice celebration.

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6 thoughts on “Celebrating the Summer Solstice with Fête de la Musique


    Cherry — I really enjoyed reading this–and just “wish” I was there

    1. Cherry Post author

      Herbie, I am sure you would enjoy all the festivities and merriment! Maybe you could get something organized in the same vein on the Gulf coast!

  2. Sharron

    Cherry, reading your blog is always time well spent for me. Thanks for sharing across the miles!

    1. Cherry Post author

      Thank you so much Sharron for your encouraging comment, much appreciated! Sharing with those like you is always a pleasure. Hugs

  3. Isham Smith

    Cherry,I enjoyed reading another interesting blog , I would have thought that Music day in France 🇫🇷 was much older as I have figured out by reading your past blogs that the French love to party w/ music.
    I do welcome the longer happy 😎 sunlit days . But as you may remember that the brutal Louisiana summers with this heat and humidity will change a smile to a frown.the older I get the more sensitive I get to this.
    I seem to have always been aware of the mystical forces in spiritual and nature , I think it’s Mother Nature.
    Hugs to you

    1. Cherry Post author

      Thank you Isham for your comment and sharing your own awareness around the spiritual and mystical sides of nature. With your knowledge and expertise, I have always sensed that you felt that way. You have demonstrated a special reverence for nature, few possess! Hugs

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