The upcoming 12th edition of the annual classical music festival of a different kind takes a bow to art as a non-negotiable part of life.

Hollywood film music, David Bowie, Radiohead, Paco de Lucia, Gospel, and Mendelssohn. When you see an eclectic mix of music like these appear in the same sentence, you know it’s that time of the year again: C’est Pas Classique, Nice’s much-beloved annual festival of classical music, showcases its versatility and its relevance to modern music. From 4th to 6th November, over 50 concerts at the Acropolis – all of them free! – allow listeners to discover classical music in all its rich facets, and gives artists and orchestras the chance to dive into a different genre.

A very special sponsor headlines this year’s edition: Nice-born Hollywood composer Francis Lai whose ample body of work has not only earned him worldwide recognition, but also an Oscar for his music for “Love Story” and an Oscar nomination for “A Man and a Woman”. Together with the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra and André Ceccarelli’s Quintet Electrique, he opens the three day musical extravaganza on Friday, 4th November at 20h30, revisiting some of the hundreds of film scores he wrote over his 50 year career.

David Bowie

The highlight on Saturday, 5 November at 21 h, without question: the Orchestre Régional de Cannes’ homage to the late, great David Bowie. Under the direction of Paul-Emmanuel Thomas – who is also the artistic director of the annual Menton Classical Music Festival – and with the reinforcement of four singers, the orchestra presents an original program featuring the defining eras of the immortal British superstar’s life and music, from his sci-fi persona to pop crooner and dance floor artist.

A change of pace on Sunday, 6th November at 15h00, when one of the most celebrated contemporary classical musician features his extracurricular skills: Ara Malikian, hailed for the virtuosity of his violin and his talent to compose and rearrange classical repertory, is a declared aficionado of world music and loves mixing it up. He invites you on an eclectic musical journey from Cairo to Latin countries, meeting Paco de Lucia, Radiohead, and Bach en route. No artist represents the spirit of this festival more than Ara, who effortlessly jumps between genres and cultures and brings a rare joie de vivre to his play.

Ara Malikian in Nice

If you are more in the mood for traditional classical music and interested in discovering two emerging superstars, Renaud Capuçon (violin) and Khatia Buniatishvili (piano) are performing for you on Sunday, 6th November at 18h30, supported by the Cannes Orchestra. This closing concert of the C’est pas Classique festival presents three of the most venerable composers of their era, Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, whose works receive a contemporary makeover here.

These four concerts are the highlights out of over 50, and they all have a mission: to honour the lives lost in the senseless terror attacks of Nice, Paris, and other places the world over, and remind people that music, and the arts in general, will not bow to terror and fear. Eric Ciotti, President of the Alpes-Maritimes département, lances a fervent appeal: “Because we must not give in to obscurantism, because we must be proud of our culture and values, because we want life to be stronger than death, I urge you to come and enjoy artists who offer us moments of nostalgia, emotion, humour, and life.”

The festival is complemented by three comedy shows, several concerts by local talent and performers, conferences, and specific events initiating the young audience to music. Visit the Ville de Nice C’est Pas Classique website for the full schedule. All shows are free but online reservations through the same website are required.

True, there are moments in history, moments like the ones we are experiencing at this time, when the very thing which gives man the hope he desperately needs, that which gives him the strength to believe and to live on, needs a hideaway, a refuge itself. That refuge, sometimes, can simply be a song, a poem, a book.

— Romain Gary, writer and essayist, Nice, 1945


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All images courtesy C’est Pas Classique!


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