💡 Each month, Forbes France introduces you to a personality from the world of music. From those who bring out talents. We invite you to meet Hélène Paillette, “La Lumineuse”. Interview conducted by Florence Petros
➡ Hélène Paillette is a repeat offender of the musical adventure. A cheerful serial entrepreneur, happy in advance for the unsuspected sharing that she allows. Our laughing Norman, whose open-mindedness had led her to deepen her management skills as far as Germany, likes nothing more than launching new adventures, off the beaten track. At the head of two production companies, ” Les Minutes Heureuses ” and ” Contraste Productions “, which she created, she built many projects, often around children, regularly with the man of his life. They both succeed in bringing classical music out of its ghetto. Hélène moves the lines by reflex, whether it is a question of mixing classical music with jazz and tango or of bringing together scholarly music and popular music, as in ” Schubert in love ”. Such an activity still leaves him time to listen to all new ideas, with relish, a knowing smile in his eyes.
Comment Was your passion for music born and the desire to make it your profession?
Hélène Paillette: In 77, I arrived as a child with my parents and my brothers as the very first inhabitant of the city news from Val-de-Reuil in Eure. This new city was a formidable field of experiments of all kinds, including the creation of a music school, open to all. I had my first musical experiences there: piano, flute, choir and chamber music. It was my piano teacher, a wonderful and passionate woman who made me feel my first artistic emotions. For my parents who were teachers, going to places of culture was a habit: this is how music has been part of my life … After a major business school in France, I specialized in cultural management at the university from Bayreuth at a time when it was “not fashionable” among young entrepreneurs. I already wanted to be part of this show business. It took a timely meeting at the piano manufacturer Steingraber & Söhne where I had a student job to start my professional life in Dresden in the service of two regional orchestras of the Land of Saxony. Living and working in East Germany as a young Frenchwoman, so soon after reunification, was an extraordinary experience. Back in France to take care of the development of the Orchester National des Pays de Loire, I quickly decided to create my first cultural company: an artist and concert production agency …
How do we achieve this tour de force, in this very special period, of continuing to create projects and bring together artists and the public?
Hélène Paillette: Thanks to an enthusiasm that is renewed every day, a character that is undoubtedly passionate, and above all a deep conviction: that music is essential to our mental and physical balance and that it must be accessible to everyone, whatever their social origin, age, or living situation.
Even if even today, the public may seem more cautious to (re) take the path of concert halls, we obviously continue to imagine new productions, to convince programmers, patrons and institutions of the interest of our musical projects.
It was difficult to see the artists that I produce, in particular those of the Ensemble Contraste, finding themselves totally destitute during the health crisis. Without the possibility of meeting to give concerts, or even to rehearse together, their intrinsic condition of performer was questioned, and nothing had prepared them for that!
Beside that, it was frightening to observe the overconsumption of music recorded by everyone, bought on a monthly basis on the platforms and to hear about the “nonessentiality” of culture.
So I fought with my colleagues from the Federation of Specialized Vocal and Instrumental Ensembles (FEVIS), of which I am the general secretary, with by Jacques Toubon so that our cultural world does not collapse.
Alongside my artists, I had to redefine the projects, maintain what could be, but also create differently and infuse optimism.
I also had the chance last summer to produce alongside the cellist Gautier Capuçon and the group Société Générale the traveling festival “Un été en France”: 16 concerts in villages and towns of France on 20 days and thus be able to allow 26 young instrumentalists and dancers to perform in the first part of these concerts.
Even if Even today, the public may seem more cautious to (re) take the path of concert halls, we obviously continue to imagine new productions, to convince programmers, patrons and institutions of the interest of our musical projects. And above all, with the Ensemble Contraste, we continue to bring music to the youngest through participatory artistic projects as we have been doing in Pas-de-Calais for several years, or with children in care or suffering from mental disorders through ad hoc musical workshops.
Music, its listening, its practice and its sharing are a formidable engine of emotions and that is what gives me wings !
Each year, with the association All my dreams sing, we allow hundreds of children to participate in participatory artistic and cultural programs, whether in Calais , Boulogne-sur-Mer, Château-Thierry, Arpajon…
Bring together artists from different universes (classical, jazz, lyric, songs) has always been the strength of Contraste Productions. How do you manage to carry out these transversal projects?
Hélène Paillette: I work through dialogue , listening and exchanges, both with the artists and my team… These sometimes informal conversations give birth to great promises. My challenge is to manage to make them possible with the team around me and to convince the partners: funders, programmers, influencers …
Sometimes it is enough to dare, to see further and to work until the achievement of the objective set collectively.
My responsibility is therefore to feel in advance the beautiful ideas that could hatch. I then do everything in my power to structure them, finance them, organize them… I advise, I guide, I referee.
What are you ultimately proudest in your achievements?
Hélène Paillette: On a professional level, I am happy to have succeeded in giving a real social dimension to my professional career: thanks to the television program Tous en cœur that I ‘ve produced in 2013 for France 2 and the musical tale Georgia all my dreams are singing appeared in 2013, for example I contributed with my musician husband Arnaud Thorette to promote the tremendous work of the SOS Children’s Villages association with abused children. Since then, I have continued in this momentum: initiating projects for people in vulnerable situations fills me with joy. Every year, with the association All my dreams sing , we allow hundreds of children to participate in programs participatory artistic and cultural, whether in Calais, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Château-Thierry, Arpajon…
Finally, I try to transmit values to my two children of humanity and openness to difference. For example, as a family, I participate in the action of the association Quartier Partagé which distributes breakfasts to people without fixed domicile in the Parisian district in which I live.
Of course, music is always present at home and we play it as a family.
You are very sensitive to young people and you have produced several book-disc projects for children in partnership with associations and designers. The last “Siam, over the water” was a great success. Do you have other plans for 2022?
Hélène Paillette : Siam – over the water was an adventure all the more powerful because it is a containment project: despite the crisis, we were able to record, and the album was released the day before of 2 e confinement! Despite this, it met with a tremendous reception from the public, we obtained the Charles Cros prize for young audiences and the association Le Rire Médecin has been put forward thanks to this project. We give the 12 December a stage version at the Théâtre de Coulomniers (77) and we lead around this tale with 3 conservatories and 8 media libraries of the Heart agglomeration d’Essonne a participatory project. This is what is magic: we can bring the musical tale to life beyond its publication thanks to our work in the field and we are thus going to meet our young readers!
For 2016, we are indeed working on another story, but one that I will keep secret for the moment !
What were your discoveries this year and your favorites?
Hélène Paillette: I am a great reader: I was particularly touched by Davide Enia’s “The Law of the Sea”, a moving story about the tragedy of migrants. I also discovered the book “Before she leaves ” by Maïa Kanaan-Macaux, the poignant story of a cosmopolitan family torn apart by the violence of the world. I recently saw Botticelli’s Spring at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which I find quite simply striking. In a more contemporary style, I discovered the abstract and colorful work of the painter Fabienne Verdier who speaks to me a lot.
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