This past Monday, conductor Philippe Fournier directed one of the most amazing benefit events for the Playing For Change Foundation in Lyon, France. In front of an audience of 2,700, a symphony orchestra of over 100 musicians united with Playing For Change musicians as well as an incredible diversity of other artists, dancers and singers, through the universal language of music.
The concert is about to start. Outside the venue, a musician is playing guitar, busking in the cold. Hardly anyone notices him; they came to see a concert, a real concert. A few minutes pass and everyone is now sitting in a comfortable seat. When the curtain opens, the same seemingly invisible musician who was busking outside is now on stage with his guitar. A video appears on a wide screen behind him. There he is again, on the screen, playing in the subway! He and his virtual self begin playing Les Yeux Noirs together. After a minute or so of this virtual jam, a double bass player and a drummer show up on stage to join the party. Behind them, the symphony orchestra adds to the mixture of sounds. 130 musicians are now playing together with one man in the subway while 2,700 people remain captivated by the awesome sight and sound. The effect is powerful and the message quite clear: with music, barriers between us can only last for so long before powerful connection arises.
Philippe Fournier, director of the show and conductor of the orchestra, has been removing barriers between people for over 25 years, working with superstars, classical musicians, and street musicians all over the globe. A few months ago, he contacted us to share his idea for this incredible project and his hope for Playing For Change to be involved in it. Just a few months later, Philippe transformed his vision into a reality!!
Resulting in an especially compelling portion of the night, the orchestra played live with PFC videos “Stand By Me” and “United,” displayed on a screen behind them. During this performance, PFC Band musicians Clarence Bekker and Tula joined the orchestra on stage to sing their parts and improvise with the videos and the rest of the musicians.. The show ended with “United,” a Song Around The World composed by PFC Music Producer Enzo Buono and produced for the United Nation’s 7 Billion Campaign. In the middle of the song, a choir of 100 people emerged, hidden amongst the audience, and began to sing along. They made their way up to the stage, joining the 150 musicians on stage for an indescribable moment of connection and harmony.
It was truly impressive to see how one man, armed with a great deal of talent, passion and inspiration, was able to put together such an incredible show in support of the PFC Foundation’s work to create positive change through music education. He not only directed over 200 musicians on stage with power and ease and inspired an audience of 2,700, but he also raised a great deal of awareness for the work of the Playing For Change Movement. We are greatly proud to have been part of this, and we hope that this show will take place again in the near future.