Have you heard of these concerts? Aube means dawn in French, and they are held daily during summer – come rain or come shine – at the Bains des Pâquis, in the middle of the lake in Geneva, from 6.00 to 7.00 every morning. Free, with even coffee thrown in – gratuit till 6.15!
You may think it’s an ungodly hour, but it is also a magical moment. If you make the effort to roll out of bed, pull something on, brush the old teeth and scurry over to partake of the amazing variety of international musicians that have been assembled for us – truly privileged citizens of Geneva – you’ll be in a mellow mood for the rest of the day.
My very first time there, I was blown away by the music – a wonderfully young and enthusiastic Flamenco ensemble from Madrid – and the ambience. The beauty of nature mixed with the generosity of the Bains Association makes for both a peaceful and exhilarating cocktail of early morning bliss. The gentleness of the water lapping at the pebbled beach, the swans and ducks sharing their space with us, the energy of the music, all create a special atmosphere.
And then there are the people – the organizers, the “regulars” and the wide-eyed newcomers. According to long-time Bains aficionado, Julien Brulhart, who is responsible for collecting funds and taking care of the financial logistics, it all started in 2007 with just a germ of an idea, to wake up to music. He says the event is supported by one third with donations from the likes of Ville de Genève and the Loterie Romande, the rest being covered by the Bains Association and its Buvette/Restaurant. With this it can pay its performers decently. And with the help of five other fellows – Leon, Marc, Pascal, Patrick and Philippe – who take care of the sound equipment (Marc), or the finding and programming of the musicians (Pascal), it has been growing steadily, to almost mythical proportions. Check out this year’s programme on its website, or pick up a leaflet at the tourist office, the Grütli or on the Bains, itself.
And there are the regulars – the ones who come almost every day. Like birds gathering together. There’s the striking Myriam “Cake”, so named because she sells her tasty cakes (made from bio vegetables, she proudly insists) around the events. She knows everybody, all the organizers, and introduced me to a delicate little woman, Denise, who turned out to be quite the alternative artist. After the concert, they took me to her apartment around the corner where Denise showed me her whimsical works of art – massive pieces made of discarded objects such as strips of tyres, hangers, wires, mens’ ties, and wonderful clouds of cotton wool above her bed. If only she had the right agent to make her famous. The great Brazilian artist Vik Muniz would love Denise, and the self-aggrandizing Damien Hirst would be ashamed. On the way there, they showed me the Arbre habillé on Place de la Navigation (another super project emanating from the Bains), and a strange and imposing homeless man with a coordinated military-green bike who wanted two francs if I took his photo, which I did. One could say these are the down-to-earth, real characters of alternative Geneva. What a morning!
This first concert was a revelation for me. Try it, you’ll like it. Check their programme well, for it offers music for every taste, from jazz, world fusion and medieval music to rock, klezmer and Indian rhythms. We are blessed here, in so many ways.