Today is the 14th July, La Fête Nationale, the French national holiday which is celebrated on this day each year. In France, it is more commonly called le quatorze juillet. The British usually refer to it, although the French never do, as Bastille Day which is not surprising since it commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789. A défilé, a parade, is held on the morning of 14th July, on the Champs-Élysées in Paris with the President de la Republic taking the salute.
Today, the parade included the usual representatives from all branches of the French armed forces from the cadets of the military academy of Saint-Cyr together with their navy and air force cousins to the seasoned representatives of the French Foreign Legion who as usual stole the show with their beards, axes, brown aprons and funereal paced marching. The civilian services were also represented by the Police Nationale, the Gendarmerie and the Fire service. If the Foreign Legion stole the show on the ground the Patrouille de France stole the show in the air. Led this year for the first time by a woman, Virginie Guyot, the Patrouille de France today put on an immaculate display of formation flying directly over my apartment and along the Champs-Élysées. A fly past of other military aircraft and helicopters followed. In recent times, it has become customary to invite units from France’s allies to the parade; in 2004 during the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, British troops (the band of the Royal Marines, the Household Cavalry, the Grenadier Guards and the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery) led the défilé for the first time, with the Red Arrows flying overhead. I was there and I saw it with, I admit, a tear in my eye. In 2007 the German 26th Airborne Brigade led the march followed by British Royal Marines. This year it was the turn of representatives from France’s former African colonies to share the parade and they brought a unique splash of colour to the proceedings.
Usually the weather is very kind for le quatorze juillet and the sun is guaranteed to shine on the parade, but not today. As the défilé began the heavens opened and the rain came down with a vengeance and most of those marching down the Champs-Élysées looked very much as though they wished they were somewhere else.
Still, the weather didn’t prevent the fly-past much to my delight. The fly-past of the aircraft happened at just after 10.30 this morning and the helicopters came along almost an hour later. I had my sound recorder and microphone set up on my balcony in good time. Today I was using my new Nagra LB recorder and an Audio-Technica 8022 X-Y stereo microphone. As a back-up I used my Zoom H4N Handy recorder with a Rode NT-4 X-Y stereo microphone. At 10.20 I switched both recorders on ready to record. I then came inside to watch the progress of the défilé on the TV and as soon as they showed the Patrouille emerging over La Défense I went back out to the balcony and switched to record. Thirty seconds later they were directly overhead with red, white and blue smoke streaming behind them. They were followed by further waves of jet aircraft with the propeller aircraft bringing up the rear. At five minutes into the fly-past the rain came down even harder as you can hear as the last few aircraft come over.
You can listen to the aircraft fly-past here:
An hour later it was the turn of the helicopters and by this time the weather was so appalling that I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had given up and gone home. The sky was so grey and dark that the TV cameras didn’t pick up the helicopters at La Défense at first but I was prepared anyway. I turned the recorders on and presently heard the distinctive sound of very large helicopters approaching. The helicopter fly-past was shorter than usual, presumably some of the smaller aircraft were pulled at the last-minute for safety’s sake.
You can listen to the helicopter fly-past here:
And finally …
During the afternoon of le quatorze juillet, the President de la Republic used to give an interview to the press, discussing the situation of the country, recent events and projects for the future. The current President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has chosen not to do that. It was also customary for the President to hold a garden party at the Palais de l’Elysée, but not this year. President Sarkozy’s government is mired in financial scandal, including l’affaire Bettancourt, as well as a minister claiming €12,000 in expenses for cigars and another minister spending €116,500 on a private jet flight to an aid conference on Haiti. Last year’s garden party cost €730,000 so, against this background and given that his popularity is at its lowest ever, President Sarkozy has forsaken the garden party this year.
Article 17 of the French Constitution gives the President the authority to pardon criminals, and since 1991 the President has pardoned many petty offenders (mainly for traffic offences) on 14th July. The former President, Jaques Chirac had an absolute field day with this particular piece of executive privilege. In 2007, President Sarkozy declined to continue the practice.
And very finally …
The rain has stopped, the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful evening which bodes well for the firework displays later.
Note: These recordings were made in BWF and compressed to MP3 for this post.
This entry into my blog combines two of my interests, sound recording and aircraft.
The 14th July is a major occassion in France, a national holiday, La Fête National. In Paris this is marked by a large parade in the Champs Elysée together with a fly-past by the French Air Force, l’Armée de l’Air. On the way to the Champs Elysée each aircraft joins the fly-past formation overhead La Défense and then they fly overhead the Avenue Charles de Gaulle and on to the Champs Elysée. In doing so they fly directly over my apartment, a perfect opportunity for me to capture the sound of the fly-past. The fly-past is lead by La Patrouille de France, the French aerobatic display team. An assortment of jet engined aircraft then follow and the slower, propeller aircraft bring up the rear.
A recording of the Patrouille fly-past is included here. Fly-Past by La Patrouille 2009
This is an extract from the recording I made of the whole fly-past from my apartment balcony. The recording was made using a Sound Devices 722 recorder and a Rode NT4 X-Y stereo microphone.
La Patrouille consists of seven Apha Jets commanded since November 2009 by Virginie Guyot, the first woman not only to fly with La Patrouille but also to command it.
Virginie Guyot began flying at the age of 12. Having decided to join l’Armée de l’Air, her first choice was to be a helicopter pilot but she was turned down on medical grounds! She subsequently joined L’Ecole de l’Air in 1997 and qualified as a fighter pilot. She has served in Darfour, Tadjikistan, Tchad and Afghanistan mainly flying the Mirage F1-CR. In 2009, Virginie joined La Patrouille de France and became the leader in November 2009.
For more information about La Patrouille de France go to: www.patrouilledefrance.net
For more aircraft sounds I recommend: www.field-recording.org.uk