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Poetic License In A Paris Street

Yesterday afternoon, busily typing away on the keyboard, I heard music coming from the street. It wasn’t the usual organ-grinder, who strolls down rue de Saintonge every now and then, but a Dixieland type band — blasting on trumpets, clarinets and tubas.

We ran to the windows and peered out. Down on the street were several men with instruments and while they strolled, they played. The street is narrow and the sidewalks barely enough for one, so they straddled both sides of the street all the while managing to keep their tunes going. A few more heads popped out of windows and when the musicians saw us ogling them, they lifted their cups for our donations.

Beverly tossed down a few coins…and oops, some landed in the stagnant water in the gutter. Oh well; she tried.

Usually, musicians are stationed in a spot on the street where they can gather a crowd. The Pont Saint-Louis (the tiny connecting bridge between the Ile de la Cité and the Ile Saint-Louis) almost always has street performers there, but I’d never seen wandering minstrels quite like this.

It’s quite common to have musicians on the Métro. For years when an accordionist would pop onto the Métro and start to play “Those Were the Days,” or some other sentimental tune, I’d get choked up and think how silly I was behaving.

In typical French fashion, putting esthetics above all other needs, not only must Métro performers be licensed, but they must also be accredited by l’Espace Métro Accords (EMA). Since 1997, the EMA selects the artists and musicians authorized to perform in the corridors of the subway. Twice per year, there are more than 1000 who audition in front of a jury made up of agents of the RATP, which in turn grants approximately 350 accreditations. This selection is insurance for the travellers to enjoy the highest of musical quality!

Naturally, these musicians are immigrants from all over the world — so they offer a broad repertory: medieval songs, symphonics, songs of North Africa, jazz and blues…and the corridors of the Métro resound in musical colors. The troubadours are not only musicians, but you can also encounter clowns, storytellers or poets. Would we call that true poetic license?

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. A special welcome to Beverly Teche who comes from Nebraska to intern this fall at the IL Paris Office. And on another note, if you’re here in France, do not forget to set your clocks back Saturday night one hour to revert from Daylight Savings Time.

* * *

* Further resources:

* There are just a few seats left for the Grand Tour Sunday afternoon.

* Mark your calendar for Tuesday’s Parler Paris Après Midi.

* Finding your dream pied-à-terre just got easier.

* Parisians do it and you can do it, too — have a great three course meal with wine and coffee in Paris for less than $25 including tax and tip!


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