Sunday, July 22, 2012

Musical follies and fanfares

So that's what Brasserie means We’ve reached that time in the year when almost every weekend sees another music festival in the Gers. The two best known are the Mirande Country Music festival from a week ago, and the Marciac Jazz festival in August. Between them are the Vic-Fezensac Tempo Latino, the multi-village Musical Nights in the Armagnac and some smaller events that I missed seeing any advertising for until it was too late. I have yet to find a comprehensive website or mailing list, and even many of the individual event websites are surprisingly inscrutable about details of programs and timing. Cuivro Foli'z
One of this weekend’s less-advertised events is the Festival Cuivro’Foliz in Fleurance, which is a higgledy-piggledy one hour drive east of us. Subtitled the Festival of Fanfares, it’s a celebration of street music and brass bands. I don’t know what the actual title means, and in all the event literature and signage, the apostrophe floats around like an itinerant musician. My suspicion is that it’s a reference to many “brass” instruments being made out of copper or cuivre. The result is Spelling Copper Madness. Welcome to the house of fun.

I was further confused about this one as nearby Condom hosts a brass-band event Festival Europeen de Bandas y Penas (apparently that was in May), which is all brass and percussion, or if you take the Spanish title literally: bands and pains/punishments/sorrows. I can see why they use Spanish text to label the festival, as Douleurs de Cuivre doesn’t have the same ring unless it’s the title of some ballad from Les Miserables. However one must concede that Jean Valjean was more worried about French flics than English coppers.

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After stopping in at Peter’s place in Condom for some games of backgammon and free-range Scrabble (I’ll explain this in another post one day), we proceeded to Fleurance for what seemed to be the busiest part of the Saturday schedule, promising spectacles du rue, a parade and Concert de la Fanfar’Classe.

We got there a bit late, but seeing various unattended alphenhorns and cupric virtuosi snoozing in the shade, realised that this was a very relaxed festival.

la Berezina serpents & ladders
Fleurance’s town square has a large old arcade-lined stone hall in its centre, whose western face was the backdrop for some interesting street-theatre. There was an extended piece of brass-backed clowning in progress with various antics on stilts which seemed to involve a story about sleep-walking around ladders. 
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After they were done, a parade around the square with all the assembled musicians setting off in raucous agreement if not perfect synchronicity. You could either watch or follow, so we did a bit of both. Some of the more colourful participants in animal costumes I think to be part of the punk fanfare ensemble Monik et les  Sex Pistons.
The last performance we saw was the debut concert of the Fanfar’Classe a group of all ages and skill-levels brought together for a festival workshop, playing and singing as happily as a pack of malamutes.
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