That the Fête de la Musique is happening at all this month ought to be considered some kind of miracle. Think about it: a free-form street party, an expulsion of urban drudgery, a musical manifestation of the power of community – all of it accepted, encouraged even, only in this city. The challenge, of course, is moving all that online.
When I first moved to Berlin, some days after unpacking my meagre selection of ill-fitting jumpers onto the floor of an unfurnished room, I saw my flatmates rushing out the door with a viola, a trombone and several kilos of limes. “What are you doing?” I asked. “It’s the Fête, come!” The door slammed closed, limes hit the deck, and – bewildered, if not a little excited – I stumbled into my first experience of live music in Berlin. My flatmates, while accomplished musicians, were there to flog mojitos, get drunk and play some music in the streets – in that order. Of course, not all the musicians, venues and institutions taking part that day had such a laissez-faire attitude to liquor licensing laws, but all of them agreed: summer is unthinkable without the Fête de la Musique.
When I first moved to Berlin, I saw my flatmates rushing out the door with a viola, a trombone and several kilos of limes.
So of all the events to be struck by pandemia, this was the hardest to take. This year, just like the last, the event moves online through a series of partner venues, from the world-renowned Friedrichstadt-Palast and the Deutsche Oper to Kiez initiatives like Unpluggedival Pankow and the charming Wendenschloss lido.
Community is at the core of everything the Fête does. In 2021, the festival partners with Marzharn-Hellersdorf, and in doing so, drags its infectious influence to an under-loved part of our city. Björn Döring, curator of Fête de la Musique, says, “We launched the concept of the partner district three years ago to show what’s happening in districts that are not usually the centre of attention when it comes to music.
Marzahn-Hellersdorf will present itself as a musically diverse and surprisingly green district with music at 13 different venues. The Fête will be live-streaming from these locations, with plans to host balcony concerts in the courtyards of housing estates and bring live music to the Schlosspark Biesdorf, Marzahner Bockwindmühle and the Gärten der Welt.
While it might enjoy the reputation of being a carnival free-for-all (which it is), the Fête’s organic appearance is down to an exceptional amount of hard work and political wrangling. The motto of this year’s celebration is “making music possible”. That applies not only to the exceptional live-streaming technology built to accommodate more than 50 channels and hundreds of live-streamed concerts simultaneously; but also to the swaths of musicians, music lovers and concert houses that have signed up to ensure that this is no Fête de la Musique-light.
This is a fully-fledged and fabulous event whose existence can be seen as one of the pioneering achievements of the live-stream concert era, which has only improved and become more dynamic as these last two years have gone by. It is by far the most ambitious and diverse music-streaming festival in the city, if not the world. And that aspiration is vital because the Fête has always been a space of joyous encounter. Not just for sounds, but for cultures and now for a metropolis in crisis. When people must stay locked inside, paranoia slowly creeps as solidarity wanes. Today, the global happening that is the Fête de la Musique feels more important than ever.
Fête de la Musique | June 21, online at fetedelamusique.de