Performances: Barrière raises the curtain

Is entertainment too serious a business to entrust to casinos? No, says the Barrière group, which stages projects and proposals by actors, musicians and dancers across its 33 establishments. A round of applause please...

Put voices to music. That was the decision made, and which gave rise to the concept of jazz vocals on stage in Enghien, twenty minutes outside of Paris. Living raw material. Getting the word out and sharing it required choosing the road less travelled and a two-decade adaptation process before this bountiful festival was born. The result, a good many years later: 40,000 people over 5 days, escaping to the town for an elegant medley of magical notes!

Opening and creating. Among many other things, that’s the job of Blandine Harmelin, head of artistic direction for the Barrière group. Under her careful watch since 1999, the Enghien open-air festival has become a fertile breeding ground. Jazz vocals have been reborn and thrived here year after year. It’s where Barrière revives the spirit of artistic expression on which it was founded: a sense of achieving the impossible. With one goal: success. Wonderful musicians and singers such as Diana Crawl and Norah Jones, now established names etched into sound and grooves around the world. Jazz – theirs, ours – is about choice, curiosity, revolution: funk, soul, reggae with a touch of James Brown. Daring and determined at the same time. But for Barrière, it’s not just about jazz. The Group stages almost three thousand shows and events each year in France. Not just because the law requires that casinos contribute to the cultural and community development in the towns where they’re based, it’s also because back in the 1920s group founder François André made a commitment to performance in all its forms and to promoting artists and enabling them to express themselves through singing, ballet and theatre.

There are no restrictions here. A simple hug, a connection, learning from each other: that’s theatre. A living performance? "It’s not about pretending. It’s about invention. Taking part in the parade of shows from one venue to another. Making our dreams concrete and creating that spark,” says Blandine Harmelin. Who adds: "We are the orchestra. The conductor? That’s the audience’s job.”