Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Devoted and strenuous effort - 21st May 2016


Boulevard du Jazz avec les Swing Ladies, who were playing traditional jazz from New Orleans, blues and Charleston dance music outside Les Deux Magots, as part of this year's Festival à Saint-Germain-des-Près on 20th May.
Square Jehan-Rictus, Place des Abbesses, Paris
I'd arrived slightly earlier than usual in an attempt to avoid the onslaught of booming bands who invariably invade this place of a weekend, but as soon as I began folk fiddling, a bespectacled guy drew up with his double bass perched on wheels, then one by one the rest of his band followed. A little boy who was with them beat a pair of drumsticks on the bench where they'd stationed themselves for the best part of ten minutes, and I felt myself slowly going insane with irritation.
My new 'A' string unraveled from its tuning peg; a musician with a guitar bag on his back stopped to listen, then left, and a brown-eyed French lady who was doing something next to me gave me one euro. All the time I was longing for a chance musical encounter akin to the one I'd had with Norwegian guitarist, Eirik, who I met on this very spot about six years ago. This had led to the formation of a jazz and folk trio with our violinist friend, Peter which proved very popular on the terraces of Montmartre.
A bearded hipster musician asked how long I'd be playing for, and I told him an hour being as I'd only just got here. He replied, "One o'clock, then?" which was in fact, only 30 minutes away. Fed up with this whole scenario, I gathered up my violin case and went to play underneath my favourite tree by La Prairie de Coquelicot Pâtisserie-Boulangerie, where a middle-aged man with dark features leant on a post behind me, and frowned.
Terrace of Le Saint Jean, 16 rue des Abbesses, Paris
Intent on making more money, I plucked up the courage to ask a waiter at Le Saint Jean café if I could play some folk fiddle tunes on the terrace for a mixed audience of locals and tourists who were snacking, smoking, drinking and chatting at the round tables. He said yes, so long as I didn't play too loudly.
I was delighted to recieve a warm reception, plus in excess of three or four 'two euro' coins in my hat: A British man who I mistook for an American made a generous donation and told me that he and his female companion were in Paris for the weekend. He recognized the Irish lilt in my performance, and another chap commented that my playing was "very beautiful" and not to stop.

One of many hands that populate a wall on rue Bichat in the 10ème, Paris, in honour of the victims of massacres at nearby bars that occurred on 13th November 2015. 
Terrace of Le Carrousel, 8 rue Trois Frères, Paris
Taking my violinist friend, Peter and I's familiar route along rue Yvonne Le Tac, Montmartre, I made my way to Le Carrousel bar, which he and I'd played jazz standards and Scottish folk songs outside (with me on double bass), many times back in 2012 before he died.
I'd felt strengthened by the positive vibes that'd come my way at Le Saint Jean, and the patrons on the terrace of Le Carrousel made me feel equally welcome. My 'A' string dramatically unwound itself again, however, which delayed the start of my little performance.
People were all smiles when I introduced myself but nobody tipped me after I'd finished, save for a couple who'd initially declined to give me any change, but then obviously thought better of it and dropped a euro into my hat just before I departed. It'd been easier to shake off this type of humiliation with Peter around, and I missed him.
Terrace of L'Été en Pente Douce, 23 rue Muller, Paris
Here I was instructed by a waiter to go ahead after I'd asked permission to perform on my fiddle for the terrace, but as soon as my bow touched the strings, another waiter told me that no playing is allowed on the place because the staff want the tips from customers for themselves - but he made an exception for me just this once.
A family opposite gave me a few rounds of applause and the kids 'folk' danced dangerously near my case. They handed me good money, but everyone else - mainly locals, I think, were very dismissive.
I was proud of myself for having given this performing on the terraces a go again, though, and as a result managed to pay for my food for the day (which always tastes better when I know it's been paid for with proceeds from my music).

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