Musician Catherine Lara meets the MSc in Creative Business & Social Innovation class of 2019
In the late afternoon of 17 April 2019, the large amphitheatre on EDHEC’s campus in Lille looked more like a small, intimate concert hall. The stage was set and the lighting showcased the musical numbers performed by EDHEC students in their patron’s honour.
As well as being a celebration of their EDHEC journey, meeting Catherine Lara was a rare opportunity for those MSc students looking to work in the creative industries and manage enterprises in the arts, culture, creative business or social business sectors ‒ or perhaps even follow in the footsteps of Ms. Lara’s producer, Florian Blache, a class of 2010 EDHEC graduate. Ms. Lara credits Mr. Blache with turning around her approach to the music business.
"I worked for a communication agency that wanted to put together one of her shows,” Mr Blache said. “This could not be done for various reasons. But Catherine contacted me again later for another musical project. She had the concept of a musical and needed my help to put it together."
A long and inspiring career
Catherine Lara, born Catherine Bodet, started playing the violin at the age of five, winning numerous awards during her teenage years. Her first professional foray was into classical music. In the 1960s, she founded her chamber orchestra, which became known for accompanying renowned French singers.
This experience led her to write songs for others and, eventually, for herself. In 1972, she released her first album. By the 1980s, she featured regularly in the French charts, with songs including her greatest hit, Nuit magique (Magical night), for which she will receive a ‘best female performer’ French music award.
Though she continues to produce records, Ms Lara has branched out in recent years. She has worked on musicals, released an instrumental album of world music and is on the board of directors of a theatre company. In 2018, she came up with an idea for a musical comedy called Bô Le voyage musical, which went on to be written and directed by famed choreographer Guiliano Peparini, in collaboration with rap musician MC Solaar.
The composer talked to the students about her venture into musical theatre, which she termed "a hymn to tolerance, respect and love" and which won Best Show at the 2018 French Musical Comedy Awards. "I always liked mixing worlds; I wanted to unite music and dance," she said.
“Jazz, folk, pop, world music... My life is rich in all kinds of music. I thank life for having taught me to love them all,” Ms. Lara continued. “Classical music has nourished my life, but I have touched extremely different worlds.”
When asked about her motivating for getting involved with certain charities – primarily related to hunger and aids – the musician was hesitant to go into great detail and played down her work.
"I've had my battles, but we don't publicise what we want to support,” she said. “The 25 years spent with the Restos du Cœur [a charity that helps break the cycle of poverty by distributing food] have been fantastic. We were there to feed the hungry, something that remains unacceptable today. There is nothing extraordinary in taking the time to go and make music for others and get some money to feed or help people. It's part of our lives, it's just normal."
The students were clearly impressed.
"Meeting Catherine Lara and having the privilege to ask her questions not only on her career but on the performing arts industry, in general, was a really enriching experience,” said Lucie Laymonerie, a French MSc in Creative Business & Social Innovation student. “Either on stage in Bô Le voyage musical or in the halls of EDHEC, Ms. Lara appeared profoundly human and it is an honour to be able to have her as our class patron.”