Le temps des cathédrales

Here is this week’s song for a Saturday. Voici ma chanson pour un samedi.

The year was 1998. The musical ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’ had just opened in Paris and this song was among the many taking France by storm. Powerful, dramatic, it seemed to somehow capture the spirit of Victor Hugo’s novel.

With music written by Richard Cocciante and lyrics by Luc Plamandon, the musical had all the ingredients of a major international success. It had the most successful first year of any musical ever according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It was translated into 8 languages and went on to have long runs around the world.

There are many more beautiful and deeply moving pieces of classical music being played in honour of Notre-Dame de Paris this week. Yet this is the song that stands out in my memory as that which epitomizes the drama and magic of the place.

Bon weekend!

En rouge et noir

Here is my song for a Saturday. Voici ma chanson pour un samedi.

The year was 1986. Haircuts were punk and shoulders were wide when I first landed in Paris. The music on the radio that year included this hit from the lovely Jeanne Mas.

How I admired her elfin look! She had something edgy but very feminine that was probably born of her Spanish and Italian origins.

Jeanne Mas wasn’t exactly a one-hit wonder but her fame faded out in the 90s. Still, this song from 1986 will always be associated with my first year in France.

What’s your favourite 80’s song?

Emmenez-moi

My mother loved Charles Aznavour. She had a soft spot for small men with big voices and a story to sing. The French-Armenian crooner did it with heart and soul.

When I saw him on TV last Friday night – 94 years of age and promoting his next concert tour – I thought: Wow. Imagine seeing him live in concert? So the next morning I went online and booked tickets for a concert to take place in Zurich just a few days before Christmas.

But then a strange thing happened. I realized once the credit card information had been entered, and the fees doubled the face value of the tickets, that I’d been had. Fooled by a very slick website that is nothing more than legalized scalpers. By then it was too late to get out of the transaction. So I spent quite a bit of time over the weekend (closing the barn door after the horse has bolted) researching a company called Viagogo.

Turns out I should have done that first (Yes, I found myself thinking, but hey, this guy is old. Surely I could be forgiven for wanting to hurry up and book while he was still around?). It seems that Viagogo is in legally murky waters all over the world as various governments from France to Australia have asked them to make their transactions more transparent (I’m not the only one who was fooled into paying twice the price). Ed Sheeran ran afoul of them when his promoter refused to honour concert tickets sold through Viagogo.

What made matters worse was that I then discovered the concert date in Zurich had already been cancelled. I contacted the promoters, the venue, various ticket sellers and read several articles online: they all seemed to agree that the date was cancelled. So why was Viagogo still selling tickets? When I contacted them, the company claimed the concert date was still valid. In the meantime, I lodged a complaint with Google over its misleading ad.

All of this became nothing more than a sad joke when the news came on Monday afternoon that Charles Aznavour had passed away. I could hardly believe it, texting my husband, who, with typical dark humour replied that at least we could now be sure the concert was cancelled.

Sudden death from a heart attack at 94 can hardly be considered surprising. And yet…he struck me as someone who was not done with life. He had even pledged to celebrate his 100th birthday on stage. During his final appearance on the talk show C à vous, Aznavour talked about his need to perform. On stage, he said, was where he felt most alive.

The stage had been Aznavour’s home ever since he first came to fame in 1946. A protegé of Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour had a special talent for bringing stories to life in song, that very particular sung-spoken style of la chanson française.

But he wasn’t just a consummate performer. He was also a talented songwriter who wrote or contributed to over 1,000 songs. I was amazed to discover that he wrote the song, ‘Yesterday when I was young’, Hier Encore in French.

Funnily enough, he said that his favourite song was La Boheme, one of the few whose music he did not compose.

Such talent. So many memories. It has been an emotional ride.

This one’s for you, Mom. Et pour toi, Nicole!