France’s most major festival of sacred music, La Chaise-Dieu takes place predominantly in the wonderful Benedictine abbey of Saint-Robert, built in the Middle Ages. The 54th edition of the event was canceled in 2020 thanks to the global health crisis, but has been rescheduled to August 19-29, 2021.
The Saint-Robert Abbey is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in France. Famous for its vast representation of the Dance Macabre across a series of 12 tapestries, and for its curious ‘Hall of the Echoes,' it’s played host to this celebration of sacred music since 1966, founded by pianist Georges Cziffra.
2020 edition canceled
Originally scheduled to be held from August 20 to 30, 2020, the 54th edition was canceled due to the health crisis, as the organizers could not guarentee the security "of the approximately 1,000 guest artists, the 20,000 spectators expected from France and the world over, as well as the 150 organizers."
In addition, "[the event]'s artistic line mainly dedicated to symphonic and sacred music in large numbers, did not allow for a reconfiguration respecting the barrier measures or a postponement to the fall."
However, the dates of the next edition are already announced: it will take place in Auvergne from August 19 to 29, 2021 and will be largely inspired by the 2020 edition. The Festival will also send its public a series of summer "postcards," composed of interviews, reports and concert recordings in order to preserve the spirit that has animated this event since its beginnings.
Flashback to the 2019 edition
As a prelude to its 53rd edition, in 2019 the festival was held in the magnificent collegiate church of Saint-Bonnet-le-Château in the Loire for the first time, a vast building in flamboyant Gothic style dominating the Forez plain. The splendid musical angels adorning the walls of its lower chapel were echoed by the twelve male voices of the prestigious American choir Chanticleer.
The abbey's program for the 2019 edition: Beethoven's La Ninth, Scarlatti's Santa Teodosia, Vivaldi's Sacred Tunes, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, A German Requiem by Brahms, A Cello Concerto by Haydn, The Piano Concerto by Grieg or La 40e Symphonie by Mozart, and more.
Other concert venues for this 2019 La Chaise-Dieu festival: Notre-Dame du Puy-en-Velay cathedral hosted Les Larmes de la Vierge; the Stabat Mater de Pergolèse was given in the Saint-Julien Basilica in Brioude; An afternoon with Berlioz was held at the Cziffra Auditorium in La Chaise-Dieu.