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Music in France - festivals and more

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Map of FranceHolidays in France for music-lovers

On this page, we look the main music festivals in provincial France, and at the many other opportunities that exist, particularly during the summer months, for visitors to France wanting to enhance a trip to France with a concert or two .  This page does not include details for music in Paris, as there are concerts and musical events in Paris every day of the year.
While mostly concerned with classical music, this page also provides brief information on the main jazz, folk and rock festivals that take place each summer in France



Part 1: the main festivals of classical music in France .


Late May - JuneLoire Valley: The Sully and Loiret Festival is a small but high quality music festival taking place in the Château de Sully and  other local venues  in the area of Orleans. It is mostly devoted to chamber music and small ensembles.
Official festival site

JuneAlsace: the Strasbourg International Festival. This international festival takes place each year in Alsace's capital city, in the month of June.  It features major European orchestras and performers.
Official festival site

July: Provence: the Festival of Aix en Provence. One of the most famous festivals of classical music and opera in France, the Aix-en-Provence Festival takes place each year in July. It attracts major European orchestras and top conductors.

July: Alsace; the Colmar Festival is each year devoted to one or two composers. . Colmar is an attractive historic town in southern Alsace.
Official festival site

Mid-July - early August; Provence : the Festival of Orange, Les Chorégies. World famous opera festival, staged in the exceptional location of the Roman amphitheatre at Orange, a small town in the Rhône valley. In terms of number of performances, this festival is very small, with usually just two operas being staged twice each, plus a few other concerts. But in terms of quality, it attracts world-class performers.

Late-July - mid August; Languedoc-Roussillon. The Pablo Casals festival of chamber music. This festival, named after the great cellist pablo Casals, mainly takes place in the surroundings of historic churches in the eastern Pyrenees, notably at Prades and in the Abbaye St. Michel de Cuxà. The festival attracts top-class performers.
Official website

August: Auvergne: Festival of La Chaise Dieu. Prestigious festival of classical music taking place each August in the austere medieval abbey at La Chaise Dieu, a small town at 1000 metres altitude in the Livradois - Forez regional park. The 51st Festival will take place in late August 2017.
Official website

September: Franche-Comté: Besançon International Music Festival. Well established festival of classical music, taking place each year in September, in this historic regional capital in eastern France. The festival is particularly famed for its Young conductors competition, which takes place every two years.

January-December: Paris. Like any world city, Paris offers a rich programme of classical music events throughout the year. The city has numerous concert halls and opera houses, as well as churches and other venues that are used for concerts. On virtually any day of the year, the visitor will have plenty of concerts or other musical events to choose from.


Part 2 :  Music in rural France - other opportunities

In the summer months, many small towns and rural areas of France put on concerts in a wide array of venues, including châteaux, old churches, open-air theatres and small halls, for the benefit of locals and visitors. There are plenty of small festivals, sometimes thematic, sometimes not, and many of them are hard to find until one actually arrives in a place for a holiday. Generally speaking, concerts organised in this manner are friendly and convivial events, sometimes followed by a free glass of wine and a chance to chat with the performers. Performers at these events cover the whole range, from internationally acclaimed professionals to talented local amateur groups; and while full orchestral events are rare, many such venues propose concerts of chamber music, soloists, piano recitals, small choral groups or ad-hoc ensembles.

   One area that has made an effort to provide a programme of concerts is the High valley of the Allier, in Auvergne, an "Art and history heritage area". The 2016 season offered a programme of over 40 concerts between late June and late August, most of them in the area's historic churches and abbeys .
   Another example is the south of the Jura mountains,  in eastern France, which each year proposes a programme of organ recitals in local churches.
   For piano enthusiasts, the Roque d'Anthéron international piano festival, in rural Provence, is a locally organised festival offering a programme of piano concerts over a four-week period from late July to late August 
   There is also the annual International Chopin Festival,  with a week-long series of concerts at the château de Nohant, home of the 19th century novelist George Sand, in the Centre region of France, in late July.
   Music-lovers planning a week in France in October should note the Fayence string quartet festival, taking place in villages and small towns in the hills above the French Riviera.
   And for a musical break at Easter, the seaside resort of Deauville, in Normandy,  puts on each year the Deauville Easter Festival of classical music, lasting two weeks.


Some other festivals 

France offers plenty more festivals of other types of music: jazz festivals, rock festivals, techno festivals, and more. Here is a list of selected  major festivals.

Jazz: Festival de Marciac, near Toulouse.
Country: Country music festival, Craponne sur Arzon, Auvergne.
Folk: Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Brittany. Major "Celtic" folk festival.
Rock: Festival des Vieilles Charrues, Brittany. France's major rock restival
Rock: les Eurockéennes, Belfort, Franche-Comté. France's other major rock festival.


 

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