Marciac, a unique jazz festival
Every August the village of Marciac hosts one of the world’s finest jazz festivals. Nestled in the green countryside of Gers, in Southwestern France, it is a relaxed and friendly place where you can also enjoy delicacies such as foie gras or duck confit and sample excellent wines from the appellations Saint-Mont and Madiran.
One of the great summer jazz festivals in Europe, “Jazz in Marciac” is unique. Indeed, it takes place in a village of 1 200 inhabitants situated in the heart of the Gers, away from any big town, from any railway station and any airport. Auch, the prefecture of the department, is 50 km away, Tarbes 40 km away and Pau 65 km away. In spite of this relative remoteness, every year 200 000 people come from all over the world to attend this festival held late July - early August and that lasts for about two weeks.
[ Practical ]
- By road
765 km from Paris on autoroutes A10, A71 and A20 till Montauban then on D928, N124 and D943 till Marciac.
- By train
TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Agen, then TER bus till Auch. Journey takes approximately 6 hours. From Auch taxi or rental car till Marciac.
TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Tarbes. Duration of the journey : approximately 6 hours.
Night train from Paris Austerlitz to Tarbes. Duration of the journey: 9 hours.
From Tarbes taxi or rental car till Marciac.
- By plane
Hop ! Air France has two flights per day between Paris Orly and Tarbes and five per day between Paris Orly and Pau.
Taxi or rental car from Pau or Tarbes to Marciac.
Les Comtes de Pardiac
Résidence Pierre et Vacances
- Bed and breakfast
Le Petit Château
La Maison aux 5 Sapins
La Patite Auberge
Le Monde à l’Envers
Jazz in Marciac
2018 edition from July 27th to August 15th.
- Gers Tourist Office
Tel : 0562059595
- Marciac Tourist Office
Tel : 0562082660
Great jazz names
Launched in 1977 and first exclusively devoted to traditional jazz, it broadened its scope bit by bit with blues, rhythm’n’blues, soul music, gospel, latin jazz and free jazz. A evolution that was aimed to fullfill the expectation of a public every year larger. Over the years “Jazz in Marciac” thus welcomed the greatest jazz names such as Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis, Gilberto Gil, Lucky Peterson, the Sensational Nightingales, Maceo Parker, Tito Puente, Ornette Coleman,… Most of them even came several times and some of them have become regulars. In particular American trumpeter Wynton Marsalis who has been coming for more than twenty years, leads master classes during the festival and has been seen playing basketball with local kids. All these artists, and the public as well, like the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of this festival as well as the hearty welcome they get from Marciac. A community that comes alive with the rhythms of jazz throughout two weeks.
Many inhabitants turn their house in bed and breakfast to accommodate musicians and visitors. Young bands perform in bars and restaurants. Lined with ancient houses and medieval arcades, the main square is occupied by a marquee where bands give free late morning and afternoon concerts as well as late night jams within the frame of the Festival Bis. And all around there are kiosks selling crafts and local specialties. Negro spirituals and gospels songs are performed in the church that boasts an 87 meters high bell tower, the department tallest one. In the arena, the public can attend traditional jazz, salsa, blues and brass band concerts and sometimes watch bull fighting. Lastly the heart of the festival beats in l'Astrada, the new concert hall, and on the rugby pitch where a 6 000 seats giant marquee hosts every evening one or two performances. That’s where the most renowned bands and singers are staged.
Artists and festival-goers can also enjoy the Gers gastronomy, its foie gras, its duck confit and its duck magret as well as the local wines, the Madiran and the Saint-Mont.
A new vineyard
About to disappear in the 60s, the latter was revived by Producteurs Plaimont, a wine cooperative that was Jazz in Marciac’ first sponsor. It is still one of the main ones and during the festival it organizes guided tours of its cellar in Plaisance, 15 km away. Beret-laden winegrowers also run tasting areas located in the village square and next to the main marquee. That’s the perfect place to discover the red, white and rosé wines of the Saint Mont vineyard that now covers 1 200 ha. They are also available in all the restaurants and bars.
In 1999 Producteurs Plaimont purchased twenty hectares of fallow land on a slope overlooking the lake of Marciac.
It planted six hectares of vines, to replace the ones that had disappeared in the 60s -70s and 200 of the rows are patronized by musicians who played in the festival. Lionel Hampton is one of them and, once, proudly boasted about his vineyard in Gers to Jimmy Carter, then President of the United States.
Events all year round
Each year spectators attending the festival are also invited to become patrons of a vine stock. More than 6 000 people already did it and if they wish they can come to harvest it in October. That’s one of the events held in Marciac outside the festival period. Jazz concerts featuring famous musicians are staged once a month from October to June. On this occasion at weekend workshops are offered for amateurs who want to improve their skills with experienced jazz musicians. In 1993 the secondary school of Marciac opened a Jazz Music course running over four years and kids following it are given the opportunity to perform in public within the frame of “Jazz in Marciac”. There also a museum called “Les Territoires du Jazz” that focuses on the story of jazz. Lastly, it’s possible to do various water sports on the lake.
April 15, 2018