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MMD > Archives > June 1996 > 1996.06.13 > 05Prev  Next

Organ grinding in France
By Philippe Rouillé

In every country where people are interested in mechanical music,
there are meetings of "aficionados". The best known of these meetings are
the annual conventions of the collector's associations (MBSI, MBSGB, GSM,
AAIMM, etc.).
      Organ grinders meetings are particularly interesting, because they
mix amateurs and professionals, who play not only for themselves, but too
for the general public, who sometimes discovers with these meetings the
very existence of mechanical music.
      If you go to France this summer, it would be worth -and not too
difficult - to attend one of these, as we have now 20 "festivals d'orgue de
Barbarie" each year !.
      Many festivals take place only once every two years.
      Actually, each festival is not unlike the others : organ grinders
come from many parts of France and abroad (Germany, Switzerland, Italy,
Netherlands, and Great Britain) ; all are dressed up in a way actual XIXth
century organ grinders were never dressed up : something similar to evening
dresses or suits for an Austrian provincial ballroom evening in the XIXth
century, with top hats for men and flower hats and a lot of couloured
ribbons for the ladies.
      You may see (and hear) a large variety of portable organs : old and
new, cylinder or books (and even chips sometimes), small and large, pipes
or reeds, with some unusual instruments (automatic accordions, etc.). There
are often some large organs too (Limonaires, old and new, and one or two
Dutch street organs).
      Remember French organ grinders very often sing while playing their
      They usually play in the streets during the day (some tunes are so
popular that you may listen to them on several organs at the same times,
and at different stages of the music), and meet at night for a good meal
and sometimes some professionnal singing or music hall on a stage (be
prepared to quite a lot of noise).
      Very often, on Sunday, there is a religious service with religious
music played by a barrel organ.
      Some festivals are very large (well over 100 organ grinders in Les
Gets), others are almost family meetings (15 organ grinders).
      It is very common that the whole organization is managed by the
Tourist Office or the City administration of the premises, as it is good
publicity, and it is not rare than tenths of thousands of tourists come for
such events ... (so don't be agoraphobic).
      You have understood : the main interest of the thing is to get fun
together, with collectors and lovers of mechanical music meeting together,
and exchanging news, feelings upon new organs or book music, - and gossip.
      Remember we have now for years several very good mechanical organ
makers and noteurs in France.
      Of course, you will find some similar festivals in other european
countries, with a very enjoyable "ambiance". But in France, we have the
food too, and the wine ...
      The AAIMM journal gives of course in due time a report on these
festivals, with photos.

      There have been already 6 or 7 festivals in France in April-June
1996. I give now a short list of the remaining festivals for 1996 (French,
and some abroad), with some phone numbers to get details. Please verify the
existence of the Festival before going, because I do not know every
festival, and there are sometimes changes. It is very advisable before
going to contact the Tourist office of the city (especially if you want an
hotel room). Their address will be given to you by your local French
Tourist Bureau.
      If not, you may eventually contact the French association AAIMM.
President Christian Lecorne (speak or write in French, please), 113, rue du
Mont Cenis, 75018 Paris, France, tel. (33 1) 42 58 93 49.
Keep in mind for Christian sleep's sake, that, when it is 5 PM in
California or 8 PM in New York City, it is 2 AM in Paris ... and Christian
is sometimes on holidays too.

- 15-16 June, Waldkirch (Black Forest, Germany) (very large festival with
large organs, concert).

- 22-23 June 96, Villers Pol (North of France, near Valenciennes).
Mairie de Villers-Pol, tel. (33) 27 49 06 37

- 28-29-30 June 96, New festival in Wintzenheim (East of France, near Colmar).

- Debut july, Thun (Switzerland) (this year ?)

- 6-7 July 96, Rethel (Northeast of France, not far away from Reims)

- 6-7 July 96, St Jean en Royans (south-east of Lyon)

- 19-21/7/1996, Festival des Gets (South East of France, 1 hour from
Geneva, and near Chamonix-Mont-Blanc).
Large Festival (street animation) in a touristic resort with a large museum
of mechanical music instruments. Tourist office : (33) 50 75 80 80, Syndic
Initiative (33) 50 79 81 15, Mairie, (33) 50 79 74 06, fax (33) 50 79 85 67
Museum : Tel. (33) 50 79 85 75

- 3-4 august 96, Contrevoz (Not far away from Geneva)

- 9-10-11 August 96, Pamiers (Ari=E8ge)(Near the Pyrenees mountains, in the =

- 14-15 august 96, Vichy, center of France (large thermal resort, small
festival but beautiful fireworks on 15th !).

- 16-18 aout : Sainte-Croix ( Switzerland) large festival with living
automatas + Markt) + bi-centenary of Music Box.

- 31 August and 1st September, Chassiers (Ardeche), not far from Avignon
(south of France). Mairie de 07110-Chassiers, tel. (33) 75 39 11 16

- 7-8/9/96, Oingt (near Lyon, in the Beaujolais wine country) : very
convivial, in a wonderful location.

I probably forgot one or two of these festivals ...
Good night and sweet mechanical music dreams (or a very good day) to everyon=

Philippe Rouille

(Message sent Thu 13 Jun 1996, 21:03:47 GMT, from time zone GMT+0200.)

Key Words in Subject:  France, grinding, Organ

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