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17.6.04

Fête de la Musique, in Washington

On June 21, 1982, then-Minister of Culture Jack Lang invited musicians to play in the streets of Paris, which they did. Thus began an annual festival, now celebrated throughout France, known as the Fête de la Musique, that inaugurates the season of summer in a magnificent way. Having been in France for a number of these festivals, I can say that the range of music you can hear, all for free and all day and night long, is remarkable. If you are going to be in France this coming Monday, check out the program of events for this year's installment.

Today, I learned that the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities, such as it is, has gotten into the act. Yes, that's right, the group that brought you Pandamania as an example of public art (effectively and justly skewered by Blake Gopnik on May 30 and defended by the Commission's executive director, Tony Gittens, on June 6), is bringing you a Washington, D.C., Fête de la Musique, from June 18 to 21. A comparison with the French original is terribly disappointing, however, I can tell you. The schedule of events, stretched out over four days, is not even equal to what is crammed into a single day in Paris alone. Furthermore, "music" in this case seems to mean "popular music," since the program consists almost exclusively of jazz, folk, rock, and world music. Where are the chamber and symphonic music, the opera scenes, the early music? Grrr.

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