Chantier Musical festival

chantierfestival.jpgLe Chantier, Paris
5-6-7-8 mai 2006

Last week the first Chantier Musical festival took place in Paris. The people of Gae Bolg, in collaboration with the Cynfeirdd label, organized the event. In advance the line-up already looked impressive, with many acts I never saw live. Le Chantier Musical proved indeed to be a unique experience, which I will not forget quickly.

Rabbits at Le ChantierThe location was already somewhat ‘different’ than usual: Le Chantier is a religious youth centre, where normally culture, sports and other educational activities for children are organized. On the first floor was the reception, a small chapell and a bar, where a traditional Crêperie (pancakes were an important part of our daily diet) and an outdoor terrace with rabbits (!) formed popular attractions. One floor below was another bar, type ‘billiard room’, were also a selection of cd stands was available, where quite some money disappeared from my wallet miraculously. Another floor further down was the multifunctional concert hall, also in use as sports hall. On arrival we were welcomed and shown the way by the very friendly volunteers of the centre. I did wonder sometimes what they thought of all the alternative looking visitors and musicians of the festival…

Der FreischützThe first night (Friday) was already extraordinary: we were treated to a full opera (Carl Maria von Webers “Der Freischütz”). Eric Roger of Gae Bolg conducted a big orchestra, choir and some solo singers. Though opera is not a taste I fully acquired yet, it was nevertheless an impressive experience. Most visitors of the festival had not arrived yet; the hall was mainly filled by other interested (older) people, probably from the neighbourhood.

Simon Finn and Julie WoodThe next days the festival started in the early afternoon, which gave us a few hours to see some spots of the city we didn’t know yet. On Saturday the concerts started with a considerable delay, which would repeat itself throughout the festival. The organisation was a bit chaotic now and then, but due to the relaxed atmosphere no one seemed to really mind.
Karl BlakeIt was not crowded: I guess there were around 100 people each day. The organisation had deserved more visitors for their hard work, but the advantage was that it was a small, intimate festival where you quickly made contacts with visitors and musicians.

work of Richard Moult performed in the chapellIn three days we saw over 25 acts, so it’s impossible to describe them all into detail. The musical spectrum of the festival was certainly varied: folk, classical, experimental, heavy rock were all on the menu. Many of the musicians knew each other, for instance through their collaborations in acts like Current 93 and Sol Invictus, so they were all playing along. I think Karl Blake must have been on stage during half of the sets!

'D.P.I.T.Like I said before, the music was pretty mixed. There was interesting ambient/improvised music by the likes of Arkkon, The Amal Gamal Ensemble and Der Bekannte Post-Industrielle Trompeter.

PiloriThere was heavy rock by Two Worlds Collide, Leisur Hives, Evil Twin, Babel 17 and bombastic sounds by Hekate (without female singer due to her recent pregnancy) and Gae Bolg. Furthermore you could listen to (neo-) folk by acts like Seven Pines, Oraison, Hide & Seek, Pilori, Simon Finn and David Mellor.

Sally Doherty and the SumacsSally Doherty and her Sumacs, Joolie Wood, and Maja Elliott created moody folk/classical sounds, while classical compositions of Richard Moult were performed in the chapell.
And there was much more, like the spoken word of Danielle Dax (for the first time on stage for over 15 years), the flamenco sounds of Von Magnet or the colourful harpist Baby Dee.

Danielle DaxOverall the musical quality of the festival was very high. Almost every act was good, promising or at least interesting. There were some definitive highlights for me. I found Seven Pines surprisingly good. Far removed from the bombastic madness of Gae Bolg, they played a tranquil and moving acoustic set. Danielle Dax proved to be still a charismatic character on stage, with a wonderful voice for declamating her poetic texts.
Clair ObscurClair Obscur was really special. First they performed together with an orchestra some classical/theatrical pieces like ‘Blume’, followed by some uptempo electronic classics like ‘Smurf in the Gulag’. The acoustic set of the legendary Shock Headed Peters was absolutely wonderful. Karl Blake has a beautiful voice (if the chooses to use it) and the songs gave me goosebumps.

Gae Bolg with orchestraThe most spectacular hammer was without a doubt the performance of Gae Bolg’s music by a complete orchestra, choir + opera singers. About 100 people on stage, and it sounded amazing! Eric Rogers really is a musical centipede.
Baby DeeCompletely opposite in scale was the final performance of the festival, by Baby Dee. For the 20 remaining die-hard fans she dragged her harp from the stage, asked us to sit around her in a circle and treated us to the ultimate intimate performance. A fitting end to a festival which was remarkable in all aspects. Thanks to all the people involved for their Herculean efforts!