All That Jazz

Marciac is a small town in the South-West of France. It is a sunny spot not far away from Toulouse, where, every summer, jazz reigns over. The town, with around 1,000 inhabitants – and  three times more geese and cows than people – live for the sake of music.

It’s during the festival season called ‘Jazz in Marciac’ that the town fully blossoms. If you don’t like or even don’t know jazz, it doesn’t matter. You will be charmed by this lovely medieval town and by its warm inhabitants bathing in the beat of jazz.

The music festival ‘Jazz in Marciac’ takes place every year for about three weeks, from the last week of July to the second week of August. This renowned festival is always a success, and it celebrated its 36th edition this year. It was created in 1978 by Jean-Louis Guilhaumon, then Mayor of the town, and his musician friends.

What started as a little ‘jazz party’, now welcomes more and more music-lovers each year. Nearly 250,000 people were there in the summer of 2012. It has become one of the most important jazz festivals in the world.

‘Jazz in Marciac’ has seen a great number of prestigious artists performing on stage, such as Ray Charles, Dizzie Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Bill Coleman, Wynton Marsalis, Keith Jarrett, Paco de Lucia. But it is not only on stage that jazz can be heard; music is everywhere on the streets of Marciac, being played day and night. Concerts and jam sessions of jazz, and also of blues, rock, psychedelic and African music. The town livens up as people dance and drink celebrating music and summer. On top of those gigs, there are exhibitions, shows, arts and crafts stalls everywhere.

people dance and drink celebrating music and summer.

The best way to fully enjoy the festival is by being a volunteer. It offers the opportunity to catch a behind-the-scene glimpse of the festival. Nearly 900 volunteers – students, people in their forties, retired and general music fanatics – helped this summer. Volunteers can work in many different sectors. Catering, logistics, welcoming musicians or for the festival newspaper ‘Jazz au Coeur’ are just a few options.

Volunteers work a couple of hours per day in exchange for food and free-access to concerts. Being a volunteer is not only a way to save money (concerts can be expensive) but also a way to meet a massive number of people.

The party does not end when gigs are over. The fun really starts when the official concerts finish. Most of the volunteers then wander about the village and the surrounding fields. Amongst tents and around one or two campfires, epicurean volunteers gather all night long, sharing rosé, beer and their love for music.

volunteers gather all night long, sharing rosé, beer and their love for music

Marciac is not only a place for jazz, it is also a place of authenticity. The festival takes place in a typical village surrounded by southern landscapes and delightful culinary specialities like foie gras, olive bread, wine and armagnac. Clint Eastwood, himself a great jazz lover, said: “Jazz is a music for meeting people”. Marciac proves him right.

Sophie Douce 

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Image by via Flickr


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