I must admit that before the afternoon of Sunday, September 25 I had never heard the music of guitarist, singer, orchestra leader, and composer Goran Bregovic. This is also an admission that I have not seen the award-winning movies Time of the Gypsies (1988) and Arizona Dream (1993) for which he composed the musical scores.
The concert that I attended on Sunday changed all that.
The event was held at the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione, a building that looks like a circus tent located in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Bregovic performed in the arena with his Orchestre des Mariages et des Enterrements (Marriage and Funeral Orchestra), a group consisting of a women’s choir (two Bulgarian singers), a men’s choir (six Slavic singers), a brass section, a string ensemble, and a drummer (who also sang). Altogether there were about twenty performers on stage!
They began the concert with a slow piece, somewhat dreary, which belied the kind of explosive music that they were capable of. All of a sudden they stopped and broke into pulse-pounding fanfare of what sounded to me like raucous gypsy music. This brought screams of delight from the audience, whose enthusiasm demonstrated that they were already quite familiar with the music that Bregovic would perform that afternoon. For the rest of the roughly two-and-one-half-hour concert Bregovic and his orchestra played music that provoked emotions ranging from high excitement to sober reflection, oftentimes all in the same piece!
To my ear, the sometimes strident and volatile brass pieces resembled mariachi music of Mexico; the temperate and restrained singing of the Bulgarian women’s choir resembled music from Arabia. For the longest time, Bregovic was a guitarist in a popular Yugoslav rock band. The music that his orchestra performed on Sunday reflected not only the influence of hard rock, but also polyphony from Bulgaria and gypsy fanfare. What a fantastic combination!
The people at Festival d’Ile-de-France deserve commendation for bringing this marvelous group to Paris to perform. Click here to learn about its program.
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