A double bass guitar strums next to a trumpet player in the corner of a smoke filled café and a swank girl with a raspy voice belts out a jazzy tune. A typical French cabaret is where Audrey Hepburn in the movie Funny Face would dance with wild abandonment. She is so quirky and kooky in this sequence but somehow it works with the unpredictable jittery mellow harmonies playing. Even Audrey’s white socks in the old movie look French to me and as a child this left quite an impression.
When we received an email from the Communications Councillor for the Capestang Mairie to come for an aperitif and listen to musicians stopping in town, I thought it was a one time event. Oh contraire, this has been going on in Capestang at regular intervals while the rest of us are chugging beer at the square.
They started four years ago when the Kindergarten teacher asked her class if their parents could help put on a performance for Carnival. The parents realized they had a large number of musicians living in the village, so they pooled their talents and from there the first show began. Since, mothers Caroline and Camille, they have been the orchestrating minds behind the concept of CAC34, and now four years later they have mastered the routine and showcased many talented people passed through our village.
From tasteful decorations, strong venues, homemade local foods paired with local wines; you can go out for dinner and enjoy the arts in many forms. Performing artists, actors, painters and musicians, many of whom many come out to share their talents. Some just to sing a song or put on an improvisation and others lead the main stage for the duration of a full concert.
I was surprised to see members of our community get up from their seats during their dinner to do a number or two and then go back into the audience to continue enjoying the evening with their friends. A few recognisable local musicians played classic French tunes and others volunteered with the food and beverages.
This time they moved the food into the community hall form the Salle des Douches, something the organization has been trying to do for some time. One of the first things our new mayor Pierre POLARD did for his village, was to allow the food and the entertainment to be in one location, making it much easier to serve the guests while the music is playing. Tables lined the walls and every chair was full. The dimly lit hall gave a chilled, cool atmosphere and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
Couples sit on tiny chairs at their tiny circular tables, scarves stylishly thrown over their shoulder, as they reach for their glass of wine. A very trendy man who talks in cryptic French code asks a wafer-thin lady with her hair slicked back who sat at a table next to the bar, ‘Would you like to dance?’ They put on quite a show, and I don’t think they were together just a random moment of fun. I thought how cool both were so willing to embrace the moment as if no one else was in the room. Later I saw the lady sitting with her friends in the front row watching the group Humm. She was still smiling. It was like watching an old movie about Paris, and the two finally meet by chance in the smoke-filled café, perhaps the beginning of a love story, perhaps the beginning of a tragic love story, perhaps just a dance.
The volunteers dressed in pretty handmade aprons, served homemade quiche and soup, and they darted between the patrons with such ease they could have been in their own homes. The entire hall felt like a cabaret; flickering candles, long shadows on the walls casting their red glow. Being an expat, have I stumbled upon the best kept secret in our village? Is this where the French neighbours come to play, relax and have fun.
Alfonz and I brought the children, and we were not alone. In the alley behind Salle du Peuples a group of children scooted, rode their bikes and played in a little wolf pack. Most were the volunteer’s kids and they were well versed in how to occupy themselves as their parents worked the event.
A plate of food 4€, a glass of wine 1€, and a bowl of soup 1.5€. It is a inexpensive outing with great entertainment.
CAC34 is the abbreviation for Collectif d’Artiste Capestang, and 34 represents our district of Herault; created as a non-profit association they publicise venues for musicians during the low season when many musicians are out of work. In turn, they feed the musical vein and artistic manifestation year round. France is good like that. Musicians are appreciated as an art form, part of the elite, cherished for their abilities and supported in their little communities throughout France.