Thursday, October 11, 2012
Fête des Vendanges in Montmartre
Arbois, with its Fête du Biou (see blog, Sept. 6, 2011), isn’t the only place in France boasting a grape harvest festival. In fact, Parisians need travel no farther than Montmartre, which is an easy ride on the Métro. Right here in my own backyard, the first (or second) week-end in October has been celebrated with a Fête des Vendanges as long as I’ve lived in Montmartre. In fact, I just looked it up and it dates back to 1934 - although I’m not sure this kind of thing was allowed under the Third Reich years. 1934! That means this year is (pause while I pull out my calculator) ... the 79th year. 79 and still going strong.
Lately, each year has had a theme. For 2012 (Oct 10-14), it's "Festival of Delicious Delicacies", which is very general. Sometimes it's more specific, like in 2011 when it was "Montmartre and the Islands". Meaning their islands, the French West Indies. Which is why that year’s godparents were Jocelyn Béroard - from Martinique and lead singer in the zouk group Kassav - and Laurent Voulzy, composer and singer born right here in the neighborhood but of parents from Guadeloupe.
The increasing popularity of this Fête has brought about some fun events. For instance, on Sunday - just as some people are going to church - other people will be celebrating a Non-Demand in Marriage. If that sounds strange, it’s because you’re not familiar with a song by Georges Brassens, who was very big in the musical world that (still) is Montmartre: "J’ai l’honneur de ne pas te demander ta main, ne gravons pas nos noms au bas d’un parchemin", or poorly translated: "I have the honor of not asking for your hand, and we won’t sign our names at the bottom of a document". Yes, I know it doesn’t rhyme, but I have limited time to write this. This event takes place on the Place des Abbesses, directly across from St. Jean Church, where more serious Catholics are attending mass at that very moment. The Mayor of the 18th arrondissement, which includes Montmartre, unsolemnly pronounces you fiancés forever and a photo is taken to commemorate the event. This foolishness has been going on since 2007.
(see blog, June 18, 2011) but more and more every year. And as last year was placed under the sign of the West Indies, there was lots of dancing in the streets. Along with hip-hop creole, a concept that fascinates and perplexes me. French film director Claude Lelouch, of A Man and a Woman fame, hosted a performance of The Jungle Book at his Ciné 13 moviehouse-cum-theater. And all the other "pocket theaters" of the neighborhood programmed something musical as well.
Although I missed Montmartre's Fête des Vendanges this year in order to enjoy the Indian summer of Ann Arbor, I’m sure a good time was had by one and all.
For a video on the grape harvest, click on www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuoy-uS3zis