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Organ grinder festivals in France: a description

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In every country where people are interested in mechanical music, there are meetings of "aficionados".
The best known of these meetings are the annual conventions of the collector's associations (MBSI, MBSGB, GSM, AAIMM, etc.).

Organ grinders meetings are particularly interesting, because they mix amateurs and professionals,
who play not only for themselves, but too for the general public, who sometimes discovers with these meetings the very existence of mechanical music.

If you go to France this summer, it would be worth _and not too difficult - to attend one of these, as we have now 20 "festivals d'orgue de Barbarie" each year !

Festival of Castelmoron-sur-Lot, 1991

Many festivals take place only once every two years.

Actually, each festival is not unlike the others:
organ grinders come from many parts of France and abroad (Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, and Great Britain);
all are dressed up in a way actual XIXth century organ grinders were never dressed up:
something similar to evening dresses or suits for an Austrian provincial ballroom evening in the XIXth century, with top hats for men and flower hats and a lot of couloured ribbons for the

You may see (and hear) a large variety of portable organs:
old and new, cylinder or books (and even chips sometimes), small and large, pipes or reeds, with some unusual instruments (automatic accordions, etc.).
There are often some large organs too (Limonaires, old and new, and one or two Dutch street

Remember French organ grinders very often sing while playing their instruments.

They usually play in the streets during the day (some tunes are so popular that you may listen to them on several organs at the same times, and at different stages of the music),
and meet at night for a good meal and sometimes some professionnal singing or music hall on a stage (be prepared to quite a lot of noise).

Very often, on Sunday, there is a religious service with religious music played by a barrel organ.

Some festivals are very large (well over 100 organ grinders in Les Gets), others are almost family meetings (15 organ grinders)

It is very common that the whole organization is managed by the Tourist Office or the City administration of the premises, as it is good publicity, and it is not rare than tenths of thousands of tourists come for such events...
(so don't be agoraphobic).

You have understood:
the main interest of the thing is to get fun together, with collectors and lovers of mechanical music meeting together, and exchanging news, feelings upon new organs or book music
- and gossip.

Remember we have now for years several very good mechanical organ makers and noteurs in France.

Of course, you will find some similar festivals in other european countries, with a very enjoyable "ambiance".
But in France, we have the food too, and the wine...

The AAIMM journal gives of course in due time a report on these festivals, with photos.

Copyrights: Musica Mecanica. PhR - màj/update