Light and music will fill the air at these upcoming festivals
Stars and Stripes June 16, 2023
On June 21, the date of the summer solstice, denizens of cities throughout Europe will stay out late to enjoy not only a glorious light-filled evening, but also one full of sound.
La Fête de la Musique, or Festival of Music, is an international phenomenon breathed into life by the Ministry of Culture of France in 1982. The festival was intended to welcome the return of the summer sun in a fun way and with music as its centerpiece. While the performing artists involved could be either amateurs and professionals, three things were important from the start: the shows should encompass all genres, be aimed at all types of audiences and be free of charge. Forty years on, the event continues to be staged all over France, in dozens of other countries and in hundreds of cities throughout the world. European countries staging large-scale events include Belgium, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain.
Those who find themselves in France on the day are apt to find lively, sound-filled scenes in city squares, pedestrian throughways, parks or other public gathering spots. The musicians are giving their time and sharing their talents for free, and no entry fees are charged. Online: fetedelamusique.culture.gouv.fr
Those based in Germany can find Fête de la Musique events too. Cities that typically take part include Aachen, Bamberg, Berlin, Darmstadt, Dresden, Essen, Frankfurt am Main, Hannover, Hanau, Kassel, Landau in der Pfalz, Saarbrücken, Stuttgart and many others. Online: fetedelamusique.info
A number of other summer events shine a spotlight on musicians at all skill levels. Here are some to check out over the months to come:
Rothenburg o.d. Tauber, Germany: American high school students have been enlivening this medieval jewel of a town for nearly 50 years. The Ambassadors of Music program, held in June and July each year, sees high school band members representing different states call in to Rothenburg, which is just one stop on their tours throughout Europe. In one-hour concerts held at 2 p.m. at the market square and 4 p.m. in the Franciscan Church, the student groups perform popular classical pieces as well as melodies from Hollywood blockbusters. The students hail from across the USA, and travel as winners of competitions held in their respective states. The states represented in the Ambassadors of Music tour of 2023 include Oklahoma (June 17); Nebraska (June 23); Illinois (June 26); South Dakota (July 2); North Carolina (July 5); Wisconsin (July 8); Missouri (July 11); Iowa (July 17); and Utah (July 20). Online: ambassadorsofmusic.com
Tallinn, Estonia: Every five years, the cozy Baltic capital city hosts one of the largest choral events in the world. In a highly moving expression of a small country’s culture and resilience, more than 30,000 singers join voices in the Estonian Song Festival, whose next edition is slated for July 3-6, 2025. A similar event is the Youth Song and Dance Celebration, set to take place June 30-July 2 in 2023. Attendees can enjoy the sight and sound of 10 choirs and four dance groups made up of performers between the ages of 7 and 27, including a handful groups from abroad. The foreign participants are mostly made up from families of the Estonian diaspora. A folk music party takes place at Tallinn’s Freedom Square on July 1. Online: 2023.laulupidu.ee/en
Krakow, Poland: The EtnoKrakow/Crossroads music festival, featuring artists from the ethno and world music scene of Poland and far beyond, strives to preserve endangered traditions and support intercultural dialogue and understanding through artistic expression. Open-air concerts are held at the stunning Main Market Square and other venues July 2-9. Performances include a mix of ticketed and free-entry events. Online: etnokrakow.pl
Rudolstadt, Germany: A town by a river in southern Thuringia plays host to one of the largest and most prestigious world music festivals in Europe. Twenty stages spread across town serve as the venue for concerts, workshops, talks and other kinds of performances. The festival’s friendly atmosphere and the breadth of music performed ensure many repeat visitors. Each year features a guest country of honor, and in 2023, musicians from Cuba will be welcomed. Running concurrently this year is the Euroradio Folk Festival, which promotes the cultural diversity of Europe through musical exchanges. Fiddles, accordions, balalaikas, throat singing, yodeling and other traditional sounds of folk music are not only preserved, but continuously redefined. A weekend ticket for all four of the Rudolstadt Festival dates, July 6-9, goes for 120 euros. Online: rudolstadt-festival.de/en
Frankfurt am Main, Germany: The home stadium of the Frankfurt Eintracht soccer team plays host to THE GRAND JAM, a concert in which a thousand aspiring musicians from the region and beyond will combine their talents and fulfill aspirations of performing before a live audience in a vast venue. Viewers are invited to sing along to a playlist made up of all-time favorite radio hits. Tickets to the performance set for July 29 at the Deutsche Bank Park go for 39 euros each. Online: thegrandjam.live/index.php/en
Weston-Super-Mare, UK: There may well be pirates invading this pleasant English seaside resort from Aug. 4-6, as the Sea Shanty and Folk Music Festival will see more than 50 acts take to stages set up in the Italian Gardens and other venues. Performers include not only shanty choirs but groups and individuals performing folk, jazz and world music. Entry is free, and the festival is well suited to families. Online: wsmshantyfest.com
Norrköping, Sweden: Every four years, choirs from around the world gather in a different city to compete in what’s billed as the Olympic games of choral music. Norrköping, located 100 miles south of Sweden’s capital city Stockholm, is set to host the 5th European Choir Games & Grand Prix of Nations Oct. 28-Nov. 5. The agenda includes friendship concerts, workshops, consultations and competitions across different categories and skill levels. Online: interkultur.com/events