Music Festivals in Carcassonne, Caunes-Minervois and Lagrasse
One of the things I have always loved to do when on holiday is catch a local concert if possible. I love to mingle with locals and visitors and grab some of the magical atmosphere these events produce. Now I’m a local in Languedoc I always look forward to the annual music concerts held in my three favourite places. If you miss them this year I hope you will try to catch at least one of them next time you visit Languedoc.
Festival de Carcassonne – July 6th to 30th 2021
This annual summer event is one of the biggest in France welcoming crowds of over 200,000 who are drawn here to enjoy music of all types in one of the most exceptional locations. Over the course of the month over 120 shows are performed by artists ranging from opera, theatre, dance, classical and rock music.
In past years I have enjoyed a few excellent operas in La Cité plus I have seen many famous artists such as Bob Dylan, Simple Minds, Sting, Moby, Massive Attack and the Black Eyed Peas. This year James Blunt and Deep Purple are on the program and I must say I am tempted to see both.
Festival de Caunes – August 24th to 29th 2021
Close to Carcassonne and in the Minervois is the medieval village of Caunes-Minervois. At the heart of the village is former Benedictine abbey of Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul de Caunes-Minervois and its here that the Festival de Caunes will take place.
The concerts are organized by a local group who belong to an association called Les Arts Liberent and this year they are launching the Festival de Caunes, a week of musical events held in the awe-inspiring surroundings of the Abbey of Caunes Minervois.
Two nights of jazz kick off the Festival in the company of The Eric Seva Quintet on the 24th of August followed by Thomas Savy, joined by special guest, and renowned French ‘Jazzman’, Louis Sclavis on the 25th – both these concerts will take place in the newly reopened amphitheatre. On the 26th of August, the concerts move to the Abbey cloisters, and Ballaké Sissoko, globally reputed as one of the premier players of the kora, takes centre stage for a solo concert.
On the 27th, 28th and 29th, the Concert series takes a turn towards the Classical. The beautiful and talented pianist, Vanessa Benelli Mosell and the Ellipse String Quartet take centre stage on the 27th, playing not only a specially commissioned piece by composer Bechara El-Khoury, but also pieces by Chopin and Debussy. On the 28th, the piano and the pianist is once again the star of the show, as French pianist Philippe Bianconi plays Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy.
The Festival closes with a trio of stars, Philippe Bianconi returns, alongside him, Patrick Messina on clarinet, and Astrig Siranossian on cello. Together they will play pieces by Schumann and Brahms.
En Blanc et Noir Piano Festival – 10th to 14th July 2021 in Lagrasse
In the wild and rugged hills of the Corbières is the beautiful village of Lagrasse and held here every year is the Robert Turnbull International Piano Festival known as En Blanc et Noir.
English born Robert Turnbull was a solo pianist and accompanist and a freelance journalist specializing in opera and classical music. In his later life he lived In Lagrasse and it was here in 2012 that he created En Blanc et Noir, a unique summer festival for young pianists. Sadly, Robert died of lymphoma in 2018 but thanks to the association he created and the wonderful people who continue the work within it, the concerts continue. But what is absolutely amazing is that each performance is free for anyone to attend. They are held in the beautiful ancient covered market in the centre of the village where locals and visitors gather and listen to the amazingly talented artists who come here each year.
Right now excitement is gathering because the 9th edition of this fabulous festival begins in a couple of weeks. The artists are thronging to Lagrasse where local people offer them a room and a bed so that they can give their best musical performances for us. A grand piano will be positioned in La Place de la Halle and very soon live piano music will be resonating through the village performed by some great musicians from Europe and beyond.
If you miss it in 2021 there is always next year…