Making difference easy (facile) at the Philharmonie de Paris
Depending on the context “There is a first time for everything” has different connotations. Most “firsts” are a mix of anticipation and anxiety. The premiere Fa-Si- La-différence concert at the Philharmonie de Paris is an example. On Sunday November 27, 2016 a handful of people with various disabilities were among the audience in the 2500+ seat Grand Salle Pierre Boulez for their very first time to hear excerpts from Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 thanks to the latest initiative of Ciné-ma différence in collaboration with the Philharmonie de Paris.
The first Fa-Si–La-différence concert was the fruit of a partnership between the association Ciné-ma différence and the accessibility department at the Philharmonie de Paris that began before the latter’s opening in January 2015. Three events were planned for the 2016-17 programming of the Philharmonie de Paris’ concerts en famille, family friendly concerts lasting approximately one hour. Fa Si- La différence concerts are designed to create a performing arts experience that is welcoming to families with differently-abled children of all ages. These inclusive performances permit audiences without a handicap to discover that they share more in common, such as a love of music, than they previously may have thought. See “practical information” at the bottom of this article and click on the logo for a complete schedule.
Concerts en famille at the Philharmonie introduce young audiences to the pleasure of a live music performance. It is the first time, for many school-aged children going to a classical music concert. There are also workshops offered on the weekend just before the performance. These experiences will teach them what to listen for and to appreciate what they hear while becoming familiar with the social rules of a concert venue. Click on the trumpet to see what this season offers. It made good sense to choose this type of concert for the Fa-Si-La initiative. While recent inclusion policies are taking effect, schools in France are still largely segregated. Students without a handicap may not have the occasion to encounter students with intellectual or developmental disabilities. This concert may have been a first for them in that respect too.
These concerts create awareness that hopefully will lead to acceptance and more inclusion. Volunteers wearing the association’s signature yellow vests ensure that that families with a handicap feel welcome. The large building which houses the Grand Salle auditorium can be overwhelming with its multiple levels and entrances. Volunteers are positioned throughout the exterior to guide people to the entrance of the concert venue. Inside, they accompany the transition from security, to picking up tickets, pass ticket control, the restrooms if necessary, until everyone is seated. Ideally, each person may enjoy the performance in his own manner and express himself with his own means without fear of reprimand or judgement. In the hall, volunteers are on hand for those who need to leave the concert hall during the performance for whatever reason and afterwards as well.
There were no adaptations to the concert itself or the venue as one might expect at an autism friendly or sensory friendly concert such as the Kennedy Center. Nonetheless, the atmosphere is always more relaxed at a concert en famille and I have always found the staff at Philharmonie de Paris warm and accommodating whenever I have been there with my son. The accessibility department of the Philharmonie de Paris simplified the reservation process for the Fa Si-La différence events and apply the 8€ reduced price. The reserved seats were thoughtfully chosen in the parterre (orchestra level) as the upper levels can give some a sensation of vertigo. A short announcement before the performance and a page insert in the program helped promote awareness among the entire audience. Inspired by the Kennedy Center’s “previsit story”, I created a visual narrative with input from the staff of Philharmonie. Like a social story, the “guide “explains the steps before during and after the concert to help prepare for the event. If you would like a printed copy contact me .
There were 50 seats set aside for this performance which quickly sold out but some on the waitlist were able to attend due to cancellations. Two more Concerts Fa Si- La différence planned for this season.
Sunday January 29, 2017 at 7pm Paris en Fete is a choral concert celebrating French composers (Bizet, Offenbach..) of the Romantic era. The audience is invited to sing along to excerpts from Carmen, La Vie Parisienne and more. Videos to prepare to participate along with the words are here. For the complete program or click on the right.
Saturday March 11, 2017 at 3pm there is a change of venue for Mariage Secret. In the Salle Lyrique at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris (CNSMDP) Conservatory students will perform excerpts from Cimarosa’s opera
Reservations: It is essential to reserve in advance by email email@example.com A email confirmation will be sent with the reservation number and payment instructions. The numero is needed to pay for tickets which must be purchased at least 10 days in advance.
Restrooms: There are toilettes located on each level but depending on where you are seated the closest restroom may be on a different floor but accessible by elevator. I recommend using the facilities beforehand as there are usually long lines with children after a family concert. Another option, are the ones located on the ground level. There are accessible stalls in all restrooms but there are no “family restrooms” or designated handicap accessible restrooms which are gender neutral. This surprised me because the building is so new.
The Grand Salle Pierre Boulez is on level 3 of Philharmonie de Paris building. It is next to the Cité de Musique (also under the auspices of the Philharmonie) and across from the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris (CNSMDP). All are on avenue Jean-Jaurès (see plan below) near the Parc de la Villette in the 19th arrondisement of Paris.
Metro: Line 5 Porte de Pantin
Take the exit Parc de la Villette. Follow the paved path that leads to the Philharmonie entrance. Either the escalators or the elevators will take you to the 3rd level entrance to the Grand Salle. You may also enter the building at the ground level and take the indoor elevator to level 3.
Tramway: Line 3b Porte de Pantin
Cross the street (avenue Jean-Jaurès) to either take the ramp that leads directly to the level 3 entrance or follow the path on the left to the ground level entrance. As stated above, take escalator or lifts to level 3.
By Car: 221, avenue Jean-Jaurès 75019 Paris
There is a private parking, Q-Park, at 185 boulevard Sérrurier, 75019 Paris. The elevators “sortie SUD” go directly to the level 3 entrance. It is also possible to be dropped off at the taxi stand on Avenue Jean Jaures about 200 meters from the entrance.
In any case, it will take about 10 minutes to arrive at the entrance to the Grande Salle.