In the morning of November 19th 2019, with the 2019 class in Performing Arts Practices and Management, part of the MACAM (MBA in Arts and Cultural Management) curriculum of the IESA, Paris, we met with composer, pianist and organiser Frédéric Blondy, who gave us a tour of the Eglise Saint-Merry, next to the Centre Pompidou, where for a decade now Frédéric organises a very special series of contemporary music concerts, the Rendez-vous Contemporains de Saint-Merry.

SoundBlog PAPAM entries:

(2020, november 10) - Zingaro, equestrian theatre (papam18_5)
(2019, december 22) - Rendez-vous Contemporains de Saint-Merry (papam19_2)
(2019, october 11) - STEIM, Amsterdam (papam19_1)
(2018, may 05) - La Gaîté Lyrique (papam18-4)
(2018, april 30) - IRCAM (papam18-3)
(2018, april 20) - Sonic Protest Festival (papam18-2)
(2018, april 10) - La Générale Nord_Est (papam18-1)

40 min read 🤓

Rendez-vous Contemporains de Saint-Merry

december 22, 2019

[hs] « I had the pleasure to perform in one of the very early editions of Frédéric's concert series, here at the Saint-Merry church. That was in the spring of 2010, when we interpreted one of the 'intuitive music' pieces, that the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote in May 1968: Richtige Dauern (Right Durations). That performance was part of sort of a 'sub-series' of the rendez-vous contemporains, called Erratum Musical (after one of Marcel Duchamp's very few sound pieces) and curated by Emmanuel Ferrand, a series that, if I remember well, included still other quite unusual performances, like a rendition of American composer Alvin Lucier's Music for solo performer (in which the brain waves of the 'solo performer', sitting quietly on a chair are triggering the sounding of instruments). These sort of things all happen in this church, and Frédéric is going to tell us all about this, about the music, and about the functioning of the church, in Paris, and in this neighborhood. »
[fb] « Yes. So, I am mainly a musician, I'm a piano player, and a composer, and also I am an orchestra conductor, all of it dedicated to new musics and experimental music. I am mostly involved in the improvised and experimental eh styles of music. And the orchestra is an orchestra made of 35 musicians, musicians that are very creative on their instruments, the all develop very special sounds. So this is a kind of project working on, based on the, on what the musicians are doing on their instruments and to create new orchestra music. And we started eeehhhh this concert series in 2010, so Harold was one of the first musicians to play here in this series... and eh, we will talk more about all the organisation and what we are doing inside the church. But now, just to introduce the builing... This church was built in the 16th century, early 16th century. And it is quite famous in Paris in many aspects. This main entrance is kind of a copy of some entrance of Notre Dame, eh, on one side, and in some architectural aspect is a small version of the cathedral. Also, it's quite famous in a strange way for many people... You can find some blogs on internet that say that this church is dedicated to the devil. It is purely speculation, but somehow we have some fun, and some people see in the concerts that I organise the expression of this eh devil dedication [laughs]... »
[hs] « The devil likes experimental music ... »
[fb] « Haha. Yes. But one of the reasons of this eh purpose, you can see on the top of the eh sculptures area ...

saint-merry // baphomet

There's a little devil. He's called Baphomet. Sitting there on the top of the church entrance. [ ( * ) ] And another reason is, as we will see inside, that one of the windows is with a pentagon star. But it's on the other side, it's reversed, and normally this is the sign of the devil also. So people are speculating about it, but this is pure catholic traditional church ... »
[hs] « ... and which actually is still functioning as one. »
[fb] « Absolutely! And there never happens anything weird. I have been here for ten years, and it's very usual for a church... [laughs]... Some people are quite disappointed when they come, and had expected something more weird. And then I say: "Ah sorry... we are doing our best, but it's still a very traditional church... We go inside? »
[hs] « Yes, let's go inside! »

saint-merry // baphomet

[fb] « So we go this way ... This is one of the chapels of the church. We call it... historically, the chapel where the communions were doing, eh... were done. And now we call it the chapel of exhibitions [laughs]... because there are may exhibitions happening in this part, also because there is a very nice light coming from the top. It's a perfect place for eh exposing art. »
[hs] « What kind of expositions are this? And who is organising? »
[fb] « So it's mainly eh contemporary art. It can be paintings, it an be installation... So the church has been involved in art for many years now. Ehhh ... in many different aspects. I must say, the quality was not always eh as high [laughs] as it can be, actually, or in some periods. It's a strange thing, but you must know that this area of Paris had a big change in the 1970s. Because this area was the marketplace, the biggest market of Paris. The train station, Châtelet-Les Halles, was a huge market, where all people were coming to buy food, and all the restaurants and all the organisations. Now this area is out of Paris, this market, this international market is completely outside of the city, but historically it was here. And in the 1970s they decided to stop this market, to put it out, and to completely renew this area, quite central to Paris. And they decided also to build the Pompidou museum, which is really just very close to here, just outside the church. And also the IRCAM, this center for musical research. So what happened for this church at this period, knowing that the area was having a big change, the Paris bishop and the priest of this church, they decided to experiment a new way to have a, to manage this kind of building in Paris, and then they decided to give two kind of main purpose for this church. One of them was to be active on solidarity. Also because this area, as it was a market, it was, many people living in the street in this neighbourhood, and also there was a lot of prostitution in this area. So they decided to, to take care of all these people and in the same time, as the museum was opening and the music department was opening also, they decided to dedicate the, one of the activity to art and ehm more specifically to contemporary art. Of course most of the people who managed these activities were completely benevole ... »
[hs] « ... volunteer... »
[fb] « Volunteer, they were completely volunteer. So not everybody has the capacity to make a real program for music or... »
[hs] « So it was not so that the bishop and the priest were looking for collaborationb with the official institutions that were opening next door? They wanted to be on the side. »
[fb] « Yes, on the side. Because, for the people in charge of the churches, the realtion of the church with the neighbourhood is quite important. They want to, and... Of course it's not very easy, especially now because in the center of Paris, became quite touristic also. And there are less and less people living in the neighbourhood. I was recently reading some statistics about the area and eh almost 30% of the apartments around are not anymore with people in it. They are dedicated to AirBnBot this kind of platforms. People can not live anymore in Paris and eh 60% of the population of this neighbourhood are people living alone in the apartments, they are not families anymore. »
[hs] « And many of the apartments are owned by foreigners ... »
[fb] « Absolutely. So it's a, also another big change actually about the center of Paris. It's always changing, of course, big cities are always in mouvements, but eh, here, sometimes we are a little worried that it became just a museum and not anymore a place for life. It's important...»
[student] « Do the a»rt exhibitions have anything to do with the catholic church or... »
[fb] « Basically no. They try to find a way to think about it, how it is important in the church. So, I'm not an expert of it, I'm absolutely not involved in eh catholic aspects ... [laughs]... I know more than ten years ago, I have a lot of relations with eh all the people from the church but I'm into this religious aspect just because of the musical activity but eh it 's very interesting because for sure it's eh a very important aspect for them and eh so sometimes it's a, what it is possible to do in a church, in a religious building, or what it is not possible, is very interesting. Where is the limit of eh what can be standing there. And I must that is not always easy, because ... en, this concert series and this eh nex program of the exhibition started ten years ago, in relation with the priest who was here when I... ten years ago. [ ( ** ) ] And we worked together for... four or five years, at least. And he was an incredible character, an amazing intellectual. He was himself doing experimental theatre, he had an incredible knowledge about music, art and he was involved in dance, he was involved in music, he had worked in the past with people like Steve Lacey, for example. He has a very special way to think about religious, and for him, for example, things that can be seen by people like a blasphema, for him it was something good to happen, because he said: "The catholics need some blasphema to go ahead". So it was eh... very unusual. The priest that came after him were not as much involved into it, but eh they were quite eh interested in what we were doing and they were very supportive. Actually though, at the moment we do have some difficulty. We do not know if we will be able to make it for... in the future. We know for sure we will continue for one year, but after that we do not know if we will be able to, to maintain the activity here. »
[hs] « And that is because of the relation with the church officials? »
[fb] « Because, yes, the new priest and the new bishop they are not so much into art, they are eh more into eh more into sacral activities. So... we are discussing actually, we are of course not eh letting that go. You will see in your life, you have many aspects of organising events, let's say. Exibitions, concertds and ehmm of course in some area of eh of arts it is harder than others. I must say, as soon as you are trying to do different things, things that are not very commercial or are eh not very supported by big instituttions eh who are in France mainly the very classical or academic music from one side and the things who are really very popular on the other side... to organise things it is quite a fight. But it's a good fight. When tou fight for things you believe in, things that you want they happen, it's quite important. And I must say that most of the things that we are doing here, if we stop the activity, if we don't do anymore, this thing will not happen anymore. That is one important aspect, because we are the unique place where they can happen. If we don't do it, a part of the heart of this project will disappear, and somehow, it's a little sad. »
[hs] « Could you try to define what the project is, and what the sort of music is that you program, and how that works? »
[fb] « Hmmm, in France, historically, music is quite divided in departments, as I have just been saying before. And ehh... and... this in relation to the classical music and especially because of a very famous French character with the name, eh, called Pierre Boulez. I don't know if you heard about this composer. Pierre Boulez is a, was a composer, but mainly a very famous conductor, orchestra conductor. And eh, so he was conducting... he had his main career in New York, he was the conductor of the New York Philharmony and eh he was conducting a lot at the Carnegie Hall, but somehow France asked him to came back, and he say: "OK, I'm coming back, but I want this, this, this and this..." And somehow it was very dynamic for contemporary music. They created ICAM thanks to him, and also the new Philharmonie, he contributed a lot to the building of this new Philharmonie. But somehow, the fact is that this was a huge focus on just one way to make music, who is the academic way... writing music on paper and thinking exactly like traditional way of writing music ... There is one part of the music which is interested on the notes and the rhtyhms, and another part of the music which is more interested into the sound itself. And so all the music from the radio experimentation in the fifties and from the sixties was quite involved into the sound aspect, and Boulez and IRCAM actually are more into the written notes and rhtythm aspects. And it's stupid to split, because many of the musics are completely mixing everything ... [laughs] ... and so, I must say that for me, eh, I don't like very much to split in departments the music, I listen everything, from popular music to academic music, to very experimental music, to eh jazz and eh I really loce to listen every kind of music, from... eh music is like food and I like not to eat the same dish every day. I like to experiment, every day new thing, and it's one of the best and nicest thing of when we travel, we can just discover new, new, new... food. And for me the music is the same. It would be nightmare to listen everyday the same music. And also it gives you many different kind of emotional or intellectual eh experiments, experiences and eh so for me it's eh... So what we try to do with this series is to mix all kind of eh, I mean, we don't cae about how the music is produced, we just care about music being creative. So people can be very creative doing rock or experimental things, they can be very creative doing eh working with tapes like we were doing at the radio, working with electronic systems... they can be very creative playing the trumpet... I don't care, it is more... So the idea was to mix, just to look what, to give the opportunity for some project, what we think they're really creating something new eh and to give them the opportunity to have a place to play. And so sometimes specially we organize a festival in September and eh during the festival e really in the same evening we mix things who are really very, very different, like some, we can have sometimes some traditional Indonesian music mixed with eh a very European composer and after with eh kind of video and eh laser or music show. We can mix a lot of things. And the idea is really to... because I think the pople who are involkved in music and art they are really curious and they want to discover many things, but for the audience it is more complex, because it is many information, to know what's happening, who's doing what and eh... so it's nice also that you create a place where people if they come, sometime they will not know what they will listen but they know that at this place they will listen something new and eh it's also to create an identity in relation with eh a place, is good. And this place is quite amazing, also because of course... we... it's beautiful [laughs] ... it's very easy to access. It's very central in Paris, we have all the metro lines and the train lines are some way crossing through this area. So it's a very easy place to come. »
[hs] « And it has a very special acoustics. »
[fb] « And it has a very special acoustics... We can go to the main eh ... »

saint-merry // inside

[fb] « So the next one will be in December, on the 16th and 17th. It will be a sort of 'meta-rock', but the concert, the two evenings are full, already. And we will not do concerts until middle, end of March. Because, as you can see, in the church it's cold, already. And it will be colder and colder. And it is very hard to heat. So we make a break during the winter period, where we do not organise concerts. And it's also good for us, because the team can eh relax a little ... [laughs] ... »
[student] « Do you pse the event information under the name of the church or under your own? »
[fb] « We put it under the name of Rendez-vous Contemporains, the 'contemporary meetings'. And eh, but if you if you type the name of the church on internet and if you type concerts you will find ... »
[hs] « You find Accueil Musical ... »
[fb] « Yes. So Accueil Musical is a very old organisation who organised —and that you can see— every Saturday evening and every Sunday afternoon, you have classical or kind of classical music, and this concept really exists from for, for forty years now. »
[hs] « But the Rendez-vous Contemporains are not part of the Accueil Musical, are they? »
[fb] « No. They are different, and historically eh, my wife was working for this other organisation, the Accueil Musical. But eh we decided to create a new department because eh it was really, we cannot keep the same organisation espaecially with the way to, to economically work is very different. The Accueil Musical, the musician are working for free. They don't get any money for performing, and all the money is going to the church. And with the Rendez-vous Contemporains we didn't want to do that. We say that 30% of the money is going to the church, and with the rest we want to pay the musician and the organisation. »
[hs] « So how does the organisation work? You say there is a team? »
[fb] « The organisation is eh... We are now 6 people working and eh, the economical aspect is interesting and quite special [laughs] ... because eh the organisation is a french association, a non profit organisation as we call it. »
[hs] « C'est une association loi 1901... »
[fb] « Yes, a very French oganisation. It has many interesting aspects like, eh, being a non-profit organisation, you don't have to pay taxes, for example, and ehhhh of course to enter the aspect of non-profit, you have to, to respect some rules, but it is quite good, as we do not manage a lot of money it's quite good. SO we have one organisation who, and this organisation is supporting eh managing the concert series, the festical we do in September, and also the orchestra that I was talking before. And the organisation is selling many projects eh out. Because e organises also tours, musical tours, not eh [laughs] touristical tours ehhmmm... and so the organisation is mainly living thanks to the eh orchestra. Because the orchestra is very well supported by the government and ehhh and the concert series is... we are... the main entrance of money is coming from the orchestra. »
[hs] « Could you mention the name of the orchestra? »
[fb] « The orchestra is the Orchestre de Nouvelles Créations, Expérimentations et Improvisations Musicales, the Onceim, like 'we love' —on s'aime—, but it's not the same way to orthographe it. It's the main orchestra for new creation, experimentation and improvisation in music. »
[student] « Do you hold auditions? »
[fb] « You want to audit? »
[student] « I play the violin! »
[fb] « Oh, that's nice, very nice. But actually, we are completely, not making new audition to enter new people, but eh, it is nice to know! »
[hs] « You can go and listen when they perform! »
[fb] « And eh it's already a 35 musician band and it's quite eh it's quite crazy already to manage 35 people [laughs]. So ehhmm and so one of the difficulties of the concert series, I must say that the city of Paris is eh supporting the concert series but in a very low level of money. Ehhhmm... of course we are very attentive eh because what we are proposing is very unique in terms of musical programamtion. But also ehh the problem of Paris is that there are many, many things happening and Paris is already involving a lot of money in many different cultural activities and it is hard to get new money for, for it. And other public supports is eh would be to have the... la région ehh so Paris is the main city of a bigger area, called Ile de France. Normally in France, when you live in a place you have ehh three different eehh administrative area. The first is the city, the second is the department, and the third is called the region. So a city is a small part of it, the department is already bigger and the région is a huge, huge part. And these three ehh organisations or administrations have their own eh money and their own eh way to work. And to the, normally, not in Paris, but if you are in a city, you can support from the city, you can get support from the department, and you can get some money also from the region area. In Paris there is no department. So, eh, because the city as itself, they are consider it as a department. So the city and the department are just one thing. And after you have the region and the region is eh so ... is ... Paris, but they go all around to the airport, and it's a big, big area, and for sure in terms of cultural activities for this eh administration, as there are already happening many things in Paris, Paris is not a priority to involve money in it. They prefer to put money in things happening all around Paris, where people live also, so it's very important that they put money. But this is one of the reasons for why it is quite difficult to get money from this eh administration also to, to ehhm to support this series. But as they are all very attentive of this big unique place and also with a very special eh musical and eh cultural program ehhmm they try also to help us in a way. »
[hs] « So the performances take place... here? »
[fb] « Absolutely. So it depends on the volume of the audience expected and eh the vent is... because eh historically we were able to welcome 1000 people in the church in a eh standing situation. With a chair we can welcome around 450 people. Actually because of the, last year, with the unfortunate terrorist events, the security has increased and now we have a, we cannot welcome, more than 650 people, this is a maximal... »
[hs] « Standing... »
[fb] « Yeah, well, we don't care, but the building is not authorised to welcome more than 650 people. Which is already a good audience, anyway. So normally a concert can welcome a this full amount of people. I must say, but maybe the less people we had was 100 people for an evening, or 80 people with more small... So normally when we have kind of chamber music with small audience, the concert will mainly appear in this area, and of course for big events, like big festivals, we will built the stage under the organ, or on this part of the church, called la croisée de transepts ( *** ).

saint-merry // organ

As you see, a church is made of two buildings, one is this part, which we call the nave. And then after we have the transept, which is making the other part of the crossing. So we can build the stage here or sometimes in the choir of the church we can also set up eh ... »
[hs] « So all the things that are necessary for a concert are set up for that particular occasion? »
[fb] « Yes. »
[hs] « I remember that we played with a very beautiful grand piano. »
[fb] « The grand piano is full time here! But it is hiden. It's hiden [sic], on the side there, but it is full time here... »
[hs] « And also the organ can be used? »
[fb] « Alors, they are still using it for the celebrations, but it is in a very, very bad shape. So they are, the city voted this year the renovation of the organ. It 's quite a huge budget. It is around 3 million euro to restore it. Yes, because they will of course, it's quite interesting to see this in terms of money, because of course it's nice to have all these beautiful buildings but eh Paris has more than 50 cbhurches from this period, I mean, and for example, to renew just one of these beautiful windows, the budget for one renovation is around eeehhh 250,000 euro, and the organ, the musical aspect of the organ itself, the budget is around one million dot five, but, of course they will put all the tubes out, and they wioll make a modernisation of all the action and all the mechanism inside, and they will renew completely the wood structure of where is the organ, and they will also renew ehhmm for sure all the four, eh these two windows here they will be renewed and also this one ehh because they, when they renew a window, it's making a lot of dust, and this is all bad for the organ, so they say, if the rene the organ, they first will renew these befor they put the organ back to his place, to avoid any kind of problems. »
[hs] « But apart from that it looks to be in a good shape, the church... »
[fb] « Yes, but eh, it has, it is always in work ... we can do a walk ... »
[hs] « Yes, you should show us the devil, eh, the devil window... »

saint-merry, pentagram in stained glass window

[fb] « So eh, this is the famous window where some people... they see here the, the devil's mouth, pushing fire out... and you can see at the top of the window the pentagon star with eh not in the good side ( **** )... »
[hs] « And this window dates from the earliest times of the church? »
[fb] « No, so this is one of the aspects that they say that this church was not dedicated to, they say this appears eh I don't exactly know it for this window, but, for example, the Baphomet is not there since the beginning of the church. He appears in the eh in the middle of the eh 19th century, or the 18th. We know, because it is a very funny work of investigation... people were working on historical aspects of the building, because sometimes, for example, for the Baphomet, eh, it is thanks to some writer, who, once the church was renewed, he came through and eh he wrote in his book, 'ah, it's crazy what they put on the churches now, they put a Baphomet on the main door of the Saint-Merry!' And so little by little they discover so more information in books and somewhere's and it's he, it's quite funny... You can see from this door here how close we are from the Pompidou ... »
[hs] « Yes, you can almost jump into the Pompidou center. »
[fb] « The concert hall of the IRCAM is just here [Frédéric points down outside], is just below... »
[hs] « Could you tell us a little bit on how you go about programming? »
[fb] « So for the programming, we have different aspects of it, I mean, way to join the program of concerts, ehh, one of them is contacting me. So many people are contacting me to ask if they can come here ehh I propose to many musicians to came to play here eh and also we try to develop a lot of relations with other people, because, as I was saying before, the field of music is very large, and I am a guy very curious, but it is impossible to know everything in all kind of fields. So I must say, I'm very good about all experimental and improvised music and quite good in academical music too, but for everything that is coming more from noise music, from pop music, from rock music, I'm not an expert, and so we made a lot of partnerships with other eh organisations, like the Sonic Protest Festival, we are collaborating for, I think, 6 years now. So there are different organisations that we welcome, and so we discuss together what they will program, and eh, so this is a, one, the main aspect, to collaborate. Also because ehm unfortunately the level of economy we are does not authorise me for example to call a guy from Vietnam and to say 'please come next year to perform at the church', because I cannot pay the transportation. So what we do also is eh... many people are eh... in contact with me in relation with the tour they are doing. So eh and this is a good opportunity to have eh foreigners project because for sure ehm for a musician who is living in Paris to come to play here for eh a low amount of money it's okay, but ehm when you have a lot of expenses already just to come here is eh a little more complex. »
[student1] « How about the ticketing if you invite like artists to come here and play, can they have part of the ticketing or is? »
[fb] « Yes, they get 70% of the ticketing. »
[student2] « And do they need to pay location? »
[fb] « No, they don't pay, we welcome them, and we give them 70% of the ticket entrance. So of course many people are coming, they are already supported eh by many, can be eh national supports from each countries, can be ... we are now in a very big network with eh most international relations, thanks to the French institut also, who is helping us a lot from the beginning and ehm most of the time people contact us and say 'we will be in France this period and we don't already have a concert in Paris, may we play at the church?'. Of course if they accept the condition we can propose [laughs] we are very happy to welcome them, most of the time. So, because, it's a shame we can not propose as much people from outside as we would like, because of this budget aspect. But with this IU think whatever budget you have to manage, somehow you always have some limits you have to deal with ... [laughs] ... you can not always do what you want, you have to manage a kind of reality of the economy. »
[hs] « But for many years you have managed to continue to organise a fascinating ... »
[fb] « Yes, we organise something like 30 concerts a year, I mean, 30 evenings, not concerts, because each evening can have 3 or 4 concerts sometimes, so we are, have something like maybe eh I would say around eh 60 to 100 concerts a year which take place on something around 30 evenings. And as I was saying before, because we make a big break, from November to March, the Spring and the early September is quite intense. »
[hs] « Which means that with your concerts and the other concerts, there is a lot of music in this church. »
[fb] « Absolutely. So this was another point of contestation from the catholic aspect, actually, that there are maybe too much concerts. »
[hs] « In Paris in other churches there are occasionally concerts, but not on the scale on which it is happening here. »
[fb] « Many churches, when their organ is in good shape, they have organ concerts, quite regularly. Saint Eustache, who is a big church nearby, is probably —I think it is the highest church of Paris, it is higher than the Notre Dame— is eh... and they welcome music too.
[student2] « And what about the subject of the music If it's not friendly for... catholic... it's okay too, but...?... I'm just asking... »
[fb] « So what is not friendly for catholics? No, no, that's a good question !... »
[student2] « Death rock, or thing like that, or maybe the content of the lyrics that is not good for the church... »
[fb] « Yes, but for instance if you sing the devil's praise in Chines, nobody will take care, maybe, I don't know, but... [laughs] ... We can do death metal but not from France... [laughs] ... No, we had this question, we have been questioning this a few times. »
[student2] « As long as you don't understand what they're talking about it's good. »
[fb] « No, I must say, I try to take care of this aspect, for example, I avoid to have any kind of pornographic images. Also because I'm not, I think in general aspect pornography does not need to be supported... [laughs] ... by any place, it's already has a lot of place on internet and everywhere, wo we don't need to help it... [laughs] ... »
[hs] « It may be part of an artwork... »
[fb] « Yes. But being part of an, so sometimes for is a, what I must say is just ehmm... until now we had a very good support from the church institutions, the priest of the church and the bishop were never shocked by anything. Sometimes they was like surprised by the people who were coming to the church. The catholics can be shocked by eh some concert or by images. So of course sometimes it is creating tensions, because people are coming to the church for the religious aspect and the cultural activities. So we try to take care to avoid these kind of conflicts, avoid what could be provocative images or... yet the limit is not easy to find, because for some people who are coming here, who are 70, 80 years old, who were coming here forever, and then there is a lot of noise in the church, with a hugs, strong concert and so it's like 'ah, what are you doing ?!'. And also very special things... But we were able to do until now, and I don't know what for the next year will happen, but we are selling alcohol, during the concerts, also, we are selling beer and wine, and eh... It was never a problem for the priests, but for some people it was a big, it was a shock to see people drinking beer in the building, so... Of course it is always a discussion. I can understand it is shocking for some people ehh... »
[student1] « A blasphemy... »
[fb] « But it's always what we know about this kind of buildings. Because, historically, in the middle age this building were also used of course for the religious celebrations, but they were used for markets, they were used for dancing, they were used for any kind of activity. And eh, now it became more and more, I mean not now but in the past centuries, it became more and more focused on the religious aspect and some part were eh, so I.. and aujourd'hui it's like 'oh, we can not enter the...' »
[hs] « What happened to the priest who was originally here and who was such a big eh »
[fb] « So now he is at another church, the Saint-Eustache. But he is not in charge of the building, he is just one of the priests, he is not anymore the main eh... They, it's a principle for the catholic that the priests have to be, he cannot stay in the same place more than 9 to 12 years. SO he has to move...»
[hs] « Ah, I didn't know that. That's interesting... But then —I hope it will not happen, but— if you would need to leave here, would you look for another church? »
[fb] « I eh, maybe I... I already involved ten years of my life in organising concerts, I am doing many other things and I must say that maybe I would stop myself to organise concerts, because I... I gave already a lot, and it's sometimes a little... too hard. It's good to do it, I think it is very important to create places where art can appear, especially things that will not appear anywhere else. But we also have to take care of ... So if the situation is good, and a nice relation, we will continue... And we will also fight for that a little, but not... »
[hs] « Not make a war... »
[student] « During the concerts, the religious services are available? »
[fb] « Eh, they are not appearing at the same time, of course... [everybody laughs] ... but, yeah, during the, the church is doing a service every day at midday, and this service is happening whatever happens in the evening. So sometimes we have a big stages and eh, so we stop any noise and they do... The people from the church, the priests, are very nice and they are okay to celebrate anywhere. But eh... of course we don't do the concert at the same time. They were asking at some point... we never make it happen, some priests were asking about the... do we work together on one celebration, on the Sunday morning celebration. »
[student] « During concerts, the church is open for Christians to.. »
[fb] « No it's eh, I mean eh, the series we organise there is a ticket to enter, you have to pay to enter. It's not anymore, by night it's not considered as a sacred area, we, we... it's not... I mean, it's... if we were not opening for the concert, the church would be closed. So it's a private evening, you could say. »
[student] « And another question, for example, right now there is the red light, it's on. That means that Christ is here... »
[fb] « Yes! »
[student] « And eh, during concerts that not can happen. »
[fb] « No, during the concerts it will not be this, but it will be... so more many lightings on the concert, we will use all this architecture and the sculptures and the eh we reduce all the traditional aspect of the eh religious aspect of this building. Of course I think the sacraments are not anymore in the... »
[student] « Okay! »
[fb] « And also we try not not use, we try not anymore to use this part, for different aspects, of course the choir is the more sacred part of the church and also eh another more practical aspect is that the marble they used for the floor of this area is eh not very strong, so is not very good to welcome a lot of people on it... »
[hs] « It is of course well known that church going, the number of people actually celebrating in catholic churches has decreased dramatically over the past decades »
[fb] « Eh, everyday at midday will be around 10 persons, but on the Sunday morning they have between 100 to 200 people, because this church is also historically very left, let's say, for example, women are very welcome to make interpretation of the bible, eh, but not very welcome in other churches... eh, they, I'm not a specialist, but they make eh the celebration quite eh modern, in some terms, quite openminded, and eh so the people are talking a lot during the celebration, not the priest, the priest is just here doing some part of it and also the moment where they give the sacraments they, eh, it's, women can give it and eh it's not only the priest who are doing it and eh so it's they and... so, these people are very involved in the activity out of the church, like eh in social activities, they work a lot on immigration, on finding lodging for very poor people, on giving food to people, they are, in very strong organisations they are also involved and eh, so they are in a very humanist eh vision of the church and eh so they create a kind of community who is getting quite old now and eh... so these people were like three to four hundred in the past, they are less now, but eh it was a big community, from people who are not living in the area, they are coming sometimes from far away just because they think this is the place they want to be. Because they have the same way to live the religious aspect of their life. And eh so this is of course one of an argument for us. Because this building is of course dedicated to religious services. But for sure if we compare during the year the frequentation of the building, who is owned by the govern- by the state, I mean this building is public. »
[hs] « It's not owned by the catholic church? »
[fb] « No, in France there is a split in the, in the early twentieth century, and they, they, the church and the state split completely and eh all these buildings, historical buildings is, they are public buildings, they are from the state. And then, I think, so all the buildings which were built before the 20th century are from the state and the more recent buildings are owned by the catholics, by the church. But the fact is, of course it's a good deal for the catholics, because to maintain this building in good shape is an incredible budget as you could see... »
[hs] « Yes, but the state lends the buildings to the church? They do not rent them? »
[fb] « So no, the state is eh giving for free the building to the catholics. It's not a rental of course. But this is one of the arguments for us now, also, to discuss with the state to make pressure on the catholics... »
[hs] « Ja, because you make the building live... »
[fb] « ... and thanks to us the building has a much more frequentation, a much higher frequentation than just with the religious aspects... And of course they involve a lot of money to renew it, for the city and the government will be very sad to... that 80% of the people who are actually using this building will not come anymore because we stop the activity. And also, there is no argument in terms of eh conflict between those activities because we worked together very well for ten years now, because we are very respectful from the beginning and also it's quite amazing to see, watching that people can drink during the concerts, it's amazing because after the concert you never find a glass in the building. People let the building very clean. They are very respectful. And we don't have to say it so much because, everybody is going back to put his glass to the bar and eh... so it's somehow it imposes some respect... »
[student] « What is the demographic of the people that attend these concerts, so, are they young, old...? »
[fb] « It's a big range of ages. Actually we have more and more young people aropund 20 to less than 30 ehmmm I must say the biggest part is probably from 25 years old to 45, and after we have of course lot of people a little older, but eh yeah it's a ... I must say the biggest part of the audience will be between 25 to 50 years old... »
[hs] « That's a nice age group... »
[fb] « Yes, and it's a very nice group of people to work with ... »

notes __ ::
(*) Photos from pariszigzag.fr and (devil close up) Valéry Hugotte. [ ^ ]
(**) Frédéric here refers to Jacques Mérienne, the priest of the diocese of Paris, who, from 2004 to 2015, was pastor of Saint-Merry and responsible for the CPHB (Centre Pastoral Halles-Beaubourg, in the Saint-Merry church). Jacques Mérienne is currently resident vicar in the church Saint Eustache, near Les Halles in Paris. [ ^ ]
(***) In English the croisée du transept is simply called the crossing. It is the junction of the four arms of a cruciform, a cross-shaped, church. [ ^ ]

tags: pamp, papam, Saint-Merry

# .493.

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