The ancients celebrated summer solstice — the longest day of the year — with spiritual rituals that honored the sun, fire and other natural elements. Many groups still do. But these days, countless celebrants also mark June 21 by making and listening to music, a tradition largely attributed to a collaboration between French Minister of Culture Jack Lang and his director of music and dance, Maurice Fleuret, in 1982.

The two envisioned their new Fete de la Musique as a public celebration in the country’s streets, parks, community centers, backyards and porches — an inclusive, free-to-all music festival that would bring performers and audiences together across cultural and other divides. The event became hugely-popular in France and abroad, and music lovers in 1,000-plus locales around the globe now celebrate what has evolved as World Music Day every June 21.

Not only professionals or music students, either. As imagined by Lang and Fleuret, participants include just about anybody.  Professionals, amateurs, choirs, all ages, all ability levels. Got a tin ear but enjoy singing?  You, too.

Locally, Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library, 1001 Powell St., has scheduled ongoing events to mark World Music Day 2024, including a performance geared to pre-schoolers at 11 a.m., a drum workshop with Tony Flagiello at noon, “Max on Trumpet” at 1:45 p.m. and the Fricknadorable acoustic duo at 2 p.m.

A variety of other acoustic acts will perform at Recycle, Read, Repeat Bookstore, 208 Cherry St., from 5 to 8 p.m.

Expressive Path Creative Arts Center, 857 Cherry St., will host several EPCAC students and teachers as well as community performers — everything from individual singer-songwriters, duos and trios to poets — from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

“There will be an open mic forum in which Expressive Path students, their families and the community will take turns in the spotlight,” says Pamela Martin, EPCAC’s founder and executive director. “All ages and abilities are encouraged to perform…singers, poets, dancers and skits as long as music is involved.”

At 7 p.m., participants can catch Jonathan Haggard on the organ at All Saints Church, 835 Haws Ave., and, at 8:30 p.m., enjoy an old-fashioned campfire sing-along and s’mores at Reformed Church of the Ascension, 1700 W. Main St.

Therapists laud music’s positive effect on mood and mental health in general. Reggae great Bob Marley put it more poetically when he said music “gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. Where words fail, music speaks.”

As Expressive Path’s Martin sees it, “Make Music Day promotes connections in our community and exposes people to a wide variety of musical genres and cultures.”

“This special day spreads joy, positive energy…and encourages people of all abilities to try something new,” she says.

Jeanne Cove, MC-NPL’s head of teen-adult programming and outreach, says Upper Perkiomen Valley’s annual Make Music Upper Perk helped inspire the Norristown library’s World Music Day program.

“They’ve been doing something in Upper Perk for years,” Cove says. “I used to work at the library there, and it became a wonderful community tradition. I thought Norristown has so many wonderful things happening under the radar, why don’t we celebrate what’s good about the town?

“Music is something that crosses all cultures. The Church of the Ascension on West Main Street was interested in doing something, so we thought, OK, let’s get this going. It’s celebrated all around the world…160 different countries … and our thought was, why not here in Norristown. So, we’ve been plugging away at it.  It’s still pretty small, but we hope to make it a Norristown tradition.”

A tradition that “allows you to interact with people you wouldn’t normally interact with,” Cove says.

“People often associate Norristown with hardship and struggle and crime, but there are a lot of wonderful people who live in this town,” she adds. “This is a chance for us to show off some of the town’s positive aspects.

“I think this could become a really neat community tradition. It’s very grassroots. Everything is free, and nobody’s getting paid. In fact, we’re encouraging people to even just play or sing on their porches with their neighbors. Of course, we’d love it if people would come out to see the performers here and at (other participating venues). They’re a real mix.  Some are professional. Some have never performed in public before.  It’s a real range.  All levels, all abilities, all genres. And…all are welcome.”

Additional World Music Day events throughout Pennsylvania are posted at https://makemusicday.org.



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