I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m going to deviate from rock ‘n roll one more time. Will you bear with me? Thanks, I appreciate that you are continuing to read. Because I don’t know what you did on International Jazz Day, but I was up to having some good European fun.
This time I’m going back a few thousand years, with a modern Euro twist and some American music thrown in. Say what? Well, hold on. I was just in Lyon, France, and we wanted to check out the city’s famous Roman ruins. I wasn’t aware of the fact that Lyon was known as Lugdunum during the Roman empire, and was the most important Roman city in Gaul. But if you believe the signs in Lyon, that is the case.
And Lyon does have a couple of excellent Roman ruins which would attest to the fact that this was no backwater. Rather, right there on a hilltop with a spectacular view of modern Lyon stands a large theater that could hold about 10,000 people, and a smaller Odeon that held about 3,000. The Odeon was used for music, and has the most wonderful stage floor made up of beautiful marbles from all over the Roman Empire. At least the Romans had it right – music shouldn’t take place in venues that hold tens of thousands because a large venue takes away from the intimacy necessary for a great performance.
There is a small but excellent museum in Lyon that “overlooks” the ruins. In reality, the museum is buried in the ground and has two glass viewing areas of the area – unobtrusive from the ruins, and thus very well done. If you’ve been to France and seen their more recent architectural offerings (yup, I’m talking to you La Corbusier fans), you’ll understand that this is really saying something. Anyway, the museum is small, well designed, and contains some really interesting archeological finds from the Lyon area.
Included in the museum are some great bronze statues (one was found in the Saone River – can you imagine dredging that up?), wonderful mosaic floors in amazing condition, an ingenious water pump, a bronze plaque containing the speech that convinced the Roman senate to open citizenship to non-Romans, many grave stellas, and the usual assortment of earthenware, coins, small figurines, etc. it’s all very good, easily accessible, and not so large as to lead to museum fatigue.
So what does all this have to do with American music and International Jazz Day? Well, we just so happened to be visiting on April 30, which is International Jazz Day. The French love jazz, and I guess they love it so much that they decided to take this very much American musical art form and have a concert right there in the heart of the Roman artifact museum. So we are strolling around, listening to jazz, checking out 2000 year old artifacts, catching glimpses of fantastic ruins, and pretty much having a grand time.
But here’s the cool or horrific part, depending upon your sensibilities. When we finally got to the area where the musicians were playing, we noticed that the crowd was assembled, folding chairs and all, right on top of a 2d century Roman mosaic floor. Check out the picture above, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
This use of the mosaic floor is consistent with the Roman ruins in Lyon as a whole, because the Lyonnais still use the theaters for live performances during the summer. So as you are strolling around the theaters outside, there are big metal scaffold structures for holding modern lighting and sound equipment. I guess if you have thousands of years of history just lying around, you don’t turn these areas into “thou shalt not use” dead zones, but keep them alive and a vibrant part of everyday life. I don’t know where you come out on the spectrum of opinions about whether or not the ruins should be used, or whether mosaic floors that lasted 2000 years should be sacrosanct, but I think it’s cool that the dead aren’t ruling the living, and that the living incorporate aged objects into the fabric of life today.
I did capture some photos of the jazz musicians (and as the subway signs attest, these were shot on the iPhone 6). The performers were quite good, and really into it, and the small crowd was appreciative. And let it be said that live music is great to stumble on wherever you find yourself in this big world, as I found out in the Roman museum in Lyon. And if you’re ever in central France, Lyon is worth a few days – check out the pics of a street in Vieux Lyon and of a front approaching over the Saone River. Cool, huh?
Veni, vidi, vici? No, I’m not Caesar and I didn’t conquer anything. Maybe et ego vidi et venit aestus? Google tells me this means “I came, I saw, I rocked.” Yup, let’s go with it until some egghead out there corrects my Latin. Hey, didn’t Dewey Finn teach Latin, twice, in “School of Rock?” I think that’s true. Thanks for reading and have a great day!
Here are the additional photos of the band, and those of Lyon.
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My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.