Music to Celebrate Summer’s Arrival

By Justin Swanson, Special to the Independent


Kids kick up their heels to The Budrows with vocalist Macarena Rivera and harmonica player Jesse Bodin. Accompanying them is guitar maker and player Jason Farthing, not pictured. Photo by Andrea Adelson

Both amateur and professional musicians took to the streets of Laguna Beach this past Saturday, June 16, to celebrate the coming summer solstice as a part of the fifth annual Fête de la Musique, an internationally adopted tradition presented by the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association.

Throughout the town, musical acts – groups and solo artists – set up shop in 28 distinct locations, performing for roughly two hours to the passerby.  Reverberating sounds carried from one stop to another, ranging from acoustic folk to jazz to mariachi to solo flute. Everywhere was something different, disparate tastes of earnest musical performance.

Part-time resident, Bryan Lee and his fiancé Leni, “had no idea” the festival was going on.  “We heard music while we were eating lunch and we just had to stay to listen to the whole thing,” said Lee, among one of the larger crowds appreciating The Budrows, in the alcove of the Chico store on Forest Avenue.

Tucson visitors Pat Youngdahl and Michal McKenzie were enjoying their second Fête de la Musique., “There is nothing going on but the music; today is just the music, and if people play flat notes no one cares because they are putting themselves out there, and that brings out the best, uninhibited joy,” Youngdahl raved. “There’s nothing like that.”

Locally the event coincides with one held in Laguna’s sister city of Menton, France, coastally located on the French-Italian border.

Six years ago, Karyn Phillipsen, president of the sister cities group, she and other members ventured to France where they learned about the summer solstice festival and were subsequently consumed with transplanting the tradition to Laguna Beach.

“The main criteria,” Phillipsen expounds, “are that musicians must donate their time.  There is also many different kinds of music that go on, creating an international flair, that of cultural diversity.”

“It’s a lovely way to say, ‘summer’s here’,” added board member Nancy Beverage.

Phillipsen and Beverage credited Chic McDaniel with managing the volunteer corps and gathering the lineup of 34 musical acts.

France’s consul representative Terri Gans helped to measure the differences and similarities between the French and Laguna celebrations, explaining, “They [the French] start early in the morning and it lasts all day. There is just music everywhere, all at once, and there is such a wide range of [musical styles].”

A veteran group, Duo JAK, comprised of Andrea Ketcham and Justiss and featuring Bella V, participated in Laguna’s festival this year.  This was Ketcham’s 23rd in a Fête de la Musique, having played in France as well as Pasadena. She believes that the half-decade tradition in Laguna has the promise to grow further and already surpasses Pasadena for its level of intimacy.

Phillipsen discloses her desire to see the future festivals include restaurants that would add French food and wine to treat roaming audiences to a greater slice of French culture.

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