Do You Hear the People Sing?

Bastille Day celebrations in New Orleans


You don’t need to have a French surname to celebrate Bastille Day, or le quatorze juillet as it is known in France, especially if you are in New Orleans. We have a long tradition of celebrating our French culture, claiming it even if we just moved here from Iowa three months ago. It is only fitting that we don our red, white and blue again this weekend to fête democracy from across the pond.

Friday, July 12, start the festivities at 5 p.m. at New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) with their French Fête. Regular museum admission covers the cost of this indoor party that offers live music, children’s activities, art tours and a film screening, as well as food trucks easily accessible in front of the museum.

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The music, in the Great Hall from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., will transport you to 1920s Paris. Reed player Susanne Ortner and her Ambiance Française will feature music by Sidney Bechet, Edit Piaf and Josephine Baker. Ortner will be joined by pianist Jeff Lashway and singer Corinne Saunders.

Art on the Spot is a drop-in activity table for hands-on creativity, and the Porta-Puppet Players will be on parade for the kid in all of us from 6:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Two art tours, Happy Birthday Edgar Degas! and Modern French Art, will be led by docents Diane Foster and Deb Houghton, respectively.

For film buffs, a screening of “Haute Cuisine” begins at 7:15 p.m. in the Stern Auditorium. The 2012 French film (with English subtitles) is a “dramedy” starring Catherine Frot. Inspired by a true story, she plays a famous chef who is hired by the French President to be his personal chef at the Élysée Palace.

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The fête also launches the Artful Palate series for its eighth go-round. Chef Chris Montero, culinary curator at Café NOMA and executive chef of Napoleon House, will lead a cooking demonstration at 6 p.m. in Stern Auditorium. His menu will include classic French sauces and modern variations.

On Saturday, July 13, if the weather cooperates, spend the evening at the 13th annual Faubourg St. John Bastille Day Block Party. The free outdoor event runs from 4:45 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. at the 3100 block of Ponce de Leon, located between North Lopez and Esplanade. It will have live music, food vendors, an art market and a costume contest for the best Marie Antoinette or Napoleon.

The music schedule is decidedly quirky, with “New Orleans’ Loudest Singer-Songwriter” Jamie Lynn Vessels playing from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Her rock band will be followed by French gypsy swing band Harmonouche with Rapheal Bas at 7:35 p.m.

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The Block Party participants include neighborhood merchants and local organizations such as 1000 Figs, Cafe Degas, Catty Shack, Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, French American Chamber of Commerce Gulf Coast Chapter, Liuzza’s by the Track, Nonna Mia, Lola’s, Pal’s Lounge, Santa Fe, Swirl Wines and Toast Cafe.


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