The main musical attraction in the Parc Floral yesterday was on the stage by the lake, a wonderful musical exchange between American blues, soul and folk singer Eric Bibb and Malian singer and instrumentalist Habib Koite. It was a grey day with gusty showers but the people packed round the edge of the canopy were applauding as loudly as those sitting comfortably in the dry when the musicians walked back on stage for a third encore.
This was the sixth weekend of the 22nd Paris Jazz Festival, a two month long series of free, open air concerts that sees the park packed with people of all ages every weekend. If you want to hear the detail you need to be up under or near the canopy, but the music drifts out over the lake and surrounding grassy banks, providing a gentle background soundtrack to picnics, games and lazing by the water.
These concerts aren’t completely free as there’s an entry charge to the park only on days when there’s an event taking place, but for €6 you can spend all day in the park with two afternoon and early evening concerts thrown in. I can’t guess how many people were in the park yesterday, counting all the people in the woodland gardens, play areas and adventure trail as well as the hundreds round the stage and lake. The festival organizers estimate an average of 100,000 spectators each year. The park looks none the worse for wear by the end of the season and it’s a great setting for the music.
There were plenty of children enjoying the concert yesterday but, for those who wanted something with more active participation, there was also a musical treat on the edge of the wood. An animator at the entrance to the roped off space was handing out drumsticks and short bamboo canes and children were peacefully engrossed in experimenting with the different sounds produced by hitting and tapping a wide variety of natural and man made objects. Nominally a children’s activity, the adults who’d brought a child as passport were enjoying the playful exploration as well, particularly with a series of upturned calabashes in washing up bowls of water. They’re off the edge of this picture.
You could offer a similar activity in a city square but the woodland setting adds an extra dimension. The children are listening intently to the differences between the sounds made by different objects and materials. As they walk away from the activity their ears may be better tuned to the natural sounds around them too – to bird song, rustling leaves, crunching gravel and running water – adding a new layer to their experience of this richly varied environment.