You can find out more about the rooster as the symbol for France here, and as a Christian symbol, according to this famous source, the crowing of the rooster “at the dawning of each new morning made it a symbol of the daily victory of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil.” But Parisian friends like to say that the rooster is our symbol because it’s the only bird that keeps singing, even when its feet are in the merde.
Last Friday, November 13th, I should have been singing. Local artist Marcello was holding one of his sing-a-long concert evenings, the Marcello Sound System, in a café in the 12th district. Marcello plays his guitar and leads the singing, and everyone in the café sings along with him, using the printed lyric books he brings along to every concert.
A few weeks ago, my man and I were invited to Marcello’s wedding, held at the town hall of the 20th district, just a block from our apartment. As we stepped out onto the parvis, or plaza, in front of the town hall, Marcello’s musician friends had gathered to join the crowd of fifty-some wedding-goers.
An incredible sound
The group was a motley crew of musicians with drums, saxophones, and a handsome singer whose voice sounded out of the megaphone he was holding to his mouth. He sang everything from Be-bop-A-Lula to the haunting music from Time of the Gypsies, Yugoslav director Emir Kusturica’s best movie.
As our group threatened to overshadow other couples leaving the town hall after their own weddings – which are programmed about every half-hour on Saturdays – something incredible happened. Another wedding party had brought its own musicians, and suddenly the jangling and thudding of what looked like enormous tambourines began resonating throughout the plaza.
Men in long white djellabas and fez hats blasted long Moroccan trumpets towards the sky. “Our” musicians, still playing their tzigane, or gypsy music, approached the others, slowly at first. And then everyone began playing in earnest, not competing, but rather the sounds of both groups intermingling harmoniously, almost as if they’d planned to play together. For a short time, there was a beautiful melding of cultures right in front of our town hall. And during that brief moment, I actually felt that all was well in the world.
Tossed but not sunk
Right now, as the French rooster has its feet deeply planted in merde, and as I hear police sirens all day long, I’ve been feeling enormous sadness, rage, confusion, and yes, some fear. On television Saturday night, politicians repeated the message “Nous ne reculons pas devant la peur” or “We will not back down in the face of fear.” The key word, repeated many times, was détermination.
During these difficult days, the other words I’m seeing a lot are Fluctuat nec mergitur – “tossed but not sunk” – the motto of Paris since 1358, written on the Paris coat of arms. Even though it will not be smooth sailing, like Marcello on his guitar-boat below, we will stay afloat. And like Marcello and the Gallic rooster both, we will keep singing.
My thoughts are with the families and friends of those people who perished in the November 13th terrorist attacks.