Stefanie Rummel is a singer and show producer who is bringing her show Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me – A musical Cabaret about France to Adelaide Fringe 2023. We had a chat to her about the show, French chanson and her experiences living in France. Read on for the interview.
Stefanie, you are bringing your show Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me – A musical Cabaret about France to Adelaide Fringe 2023.
Yes, Chansons will be in Australia next month (February through March). While I’m virtual at APAP in NYC this week, I’m live and in person – all the way from Germany – for this. I’m flying in to tell stories and sing French songs. I am very excited to do this. My sincerest thanks to The Garage International at Town Hall and Adelaide Fringe 2023.
Can you please tell us a little about the show?
Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me is a 60-minute one-woman cabaret-style performance of storytelling and songs about France and life. You will listen to stunning interpretations of Jacques Brel classics including ‘Ne me quitte pas‘ and mesmerizing takes on Edith Piaf’s ‘Padam, Padam‘ and ‘Milord.’ It really is my one-woman show about about French life, music, culture, food, haute de couture… and of course, love, using songs, stories, dancing, props and even audience participation. Imagine a night in France … with a German accent.
“Chansons” – when translated – means “songs.” Those “chansons” tell passionate stories.
What can audiences expect to experience in your show?
Imagine a night in France – without the jetlag! I share songs that will touch your heart, make you think, and bring us together through their universal themes. Some recognizable, some obscure, some you had no idea were even French, but all soaring and lovely! I connect each song with a story – some quite personal. I’ll leave it at that.
A lovely woman wrote me a review after seeing my show, which I perform all over the world:
“From the minute the lights went down, Stefanie Rummel created an atmosphere so moving, so nostalgic and electric, we were all spellbound. Not many performers make me cry, or smile through those tears, (I hate feeling like I am being manipulated, and no, I did NOT cry at Love Story) but this show was exquisitely masterful and genuine. Go see it. ”
Is this a one-woman-show or are you joined on stage by others? If so, who?
Me, only me. I am solo artist and raconteur – sometimes with a pianist, sometimes with recorded music. In Adelaide, I offer a – what is the word – hybrid. I will be using a recording of some of finest pianists I know, including Tom Schlueter from Germany, Bogdan Pieleanu from Rumania, and Bob Egan from America.
What inspired you to create the show?
Theatre owners who heard me singing in a trio show, inspired me to create the show. They loved my interpretation of a French chanson so much that they asked me after the show if I’d be willing to do a full show of French chansons. My heart jumped and I said, “Quelle question! Oui Bien sur!”
It felt like the most natural thing in the world. I had met so many hundreds of fantastic French people and built up long-lasting friendships. I got to know and love the French culture with its exquisite food, connection to art and its music, haute de couture and joie de vivre. I created Chansons out of that joie de vivre. So many stories I had to tell and French music literature to sing. And I’ve found when audiences in any country see the show, they often find the stories mirror their own in some way.
The French coined the expression “joie de vivre” which roughly translates to “the joy of living.” Is it correct to say that your show celebrates the French love for life?
DEFINITELY! A part of my show Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me is about the love for life – that “joie de vivre.” It is important we celebrate those small precious moments in our lives. We must take time to realize how beautiful those moments are. Moments like spending time together, eating different kinds of food together, enjoying nice clothes or a creative environment, learning from each other’s cultures, laughing together… The important part is to be together!
I share personal French moments of joy through music and storytelling. Which impact does that have on the audience? Watching the show may help you find answers such as: Am I aware of those joyful moments in life? How can I enhance those moments?
For example, one spectator got deeply impacted by my show. He thanked me in front of the audience, said that it was so beautiful and he gave me a present.
In Germany there is a saying: “Eat to work.” I’ve heard French say instead: “Work to eat.” Just this turn of a phrase can have a deep effect on our love of life.
What speaks to you about French music and French lifestyle?
I have listened to French music since I was a child. This music has become a part of me. There is a certain melancholy, humour, expressiveness in this music. I love to listen to Lara Fabian, Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, and many more.
The chansons françaises are lyric-driven songs and have been known since the Medieval times. I focus on the poetic and political chanson which developed in the 19th century. I love to tell the stories behind the songs.
As to the French life style I have different impressions in my mind.
I see a French street during summer time. The French buzz of people talking with each other. I listen to outdoor musical performances full of passion, melancholy, joy and with some coquette moments.
There is a French market, a marché: with beautiful art work, the love details and courageous designs, all the smells of different kinds of food, street musicians singing passionately and playing the accordion, people eating a crêpe or drinking a cidre at la crêperie, a pancake restaurant.
I hear the French language with its specific sounds and melody. I see typical facial expressions and gestures. When I speak French, some of this becomes part of me…
There is something special about spending time with my French friends, sharing an apéritif, a drink, enjoying long evenings with lots of delicious high-quality food and the humour which is used. Some of those impressions I share in my show.
You’ve lived in France, Germany, and the US. Are you tri-lingual?
Yes, I speak fluent French, German and English, but also have some fluency in Italian and Spanish. I love languages. They open the door to other cultures.
I love to travel and experience life in other countries. I learn about myself by observing how people of different cultures interact with each other and navigate their environments. The best of those experiences I try to intersperse in my songs and stories.
In my musical show Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me I do sing French, English, some German, and even two songs in other languages.
Is it challenging singing in French when it’s not your mother tongue?
French is a beautiful melodic language, which I love to speak and when I sing it creates a very special sound.
As to the articulation, some can be challenging if you do not know them or especially when they are spoken quickly. For example: “Je vous en” is spoken in only 2 and not 3 syllables and all is connected even though the words are written separately. You speak it like this instead: “Jvou-sen”. Some consonants I might emphasize more or less in French than I would in my native tongue.
Many German singers have sung French songs like Marlene Dietrich La Vie en Rose….
Since my show is about intercultural exchange, my German accent gives a special international flair to this intimate musical cabaret.
How long have you been singing and what made you decide to pursue it as a career?
I have sung all my life.
Since my childhood I sang in a children choir, at camps, concert choirs and in a band. After my musical theatre education program, I performed in musical theatre and toured. I was part of several musical Nunsense casts for about 11 years one of which was the longest running show in the world.
For many years I also created my own shows which allowed me to perform in an even more personal way. Online, I performed throughout the pandemic. This connected me even more across borders to the world.
At age of twelve I saw Cats, Les Misérables and Anything Goes. This mix of singing, acting, dancing, connecting to the audience enthralled me. I started a musical theatre education program to learn what impressed me so much.
I am all in when a full auditorium started singing along and clapping to the rhythm of my songs. When people honestly reflected what they just heard more deeply. Humorous comments, smiles, giggles, wiping away tears. (My own, as well.)
Next to this singing gives me freedom. Soft songs have a meditative effect on me. Songs allow me to express feelings which are born in the moment, in a way I could not transfer otherwise.
My love singing, acting and dancing, – of connecting to people, travelling and creating special moments through songs and storytelling are reflected in my profession as a singer. It is such a pleasure when I perform for audiences in Europe, North America or Australia. I connect to people who enjoy art and music. From large theatres to intimate café theatres, at conferences, variety shows, on cruise ships, at events and cabarets… I get the chance to create moments that are joyful, interactive and memorable.
How long did you live in France and where? Did you live there for work, study or something else?
I lived in France for work, study, exchange and for vacation many times. Since my childhood until now I spend regularly my vacation in France and I see my French friends. La Provence and L’Alsace have been visited by me the most. As a teenager I met an étudiant en échange, an exchange student, next to Paris in order to practice my French.
Later on, I worked for some projects in Avignon, Lyon, Nancy, Metz and Strassburg. All these experiences of being connected to France have formed me. I love the French food, the design, the Haute de Couture. The way how French families spend time together has influenced me. The French music accompanied me wherever I went. Many nuances of the French way of living in the South of France have become part of me.
You’ve taken the show to the Reykjavik Fringe Festival, Lathi Fringe Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Living Records Festival and Sydney Fringe. How do you convey the meaning of the French language songs to non-French speaking audiences?
Performing internationally means for me that I adjust my show whenever I can to the audiences’ needs. I try to speak the language the majority of the audience will speak. Performing in English, French and German opens the doors to a broad audience.
For my English speaking audiences I do sing several songs in English and French to transfer the content even more. If I sing a song totally in French I mostly explain before, what the song is all about. I received the feedback that the different languages did not matter. My audience was touched by the music, my expressions and the subtle different sounds of my voice. Chansons communicate beyond words.
Who is your favourite French singer and what is your favourite French song?
I have many favourite singers to choose from: Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel, Barbara, Juiliette Greco, Lara Fabian, ZAZ, …
I love to sing many of the French songs – Padam, Milord and L’Accordeoniste from Edith Piaf, Comme ils dissent in the style of Lara Fabian or Charles Aznavour, Ne me quitte pas and Amsterdam from Jacques Brel, or Je veux from ZAZ. There is a certain “musical way” of the French chanson, which passionately tells stories about life and touches the heart.
Do you have a favourite song to perform and conversely do you have a song that you dislike performing?
There are many songs I love to perform as a mezzo soprano. My favourite songs have to tell stories. They have often a dramaturgical arch or some more meaningful message. The songs which are in my show are my favourite songs. Stylistically I love songs from all different kind of genres: plain chanson, jazz, pop, rock, classic, musical theatre…
Heavy metal is probably my least favourite music style, mainly because it is quite loud. On the other hand, I heard some orchestral versions of some of those songs which were wonderful.
Writing my own songs feels like magic. Suddenly the music is there, created by me.
As for the American songs – I love songs Barbara Streisand sings – starting from Yentl to The way we were. I adore interpretations from Liza Minnelli or Idina Menzel As for German songs – I love Kurt Weill, Georg Kreisler, Friedrich Hollaender and Cross over Songs.
I love to make texts musically alive, to create comical moments, to surprise, to let us dream. In my show Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me I sing my favourite French songs that travelled the world as I mentioned above.
Who is this show for? Can non-francophiles or non-francophones still appreciate this show?
In Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me I tell stories about life from different perspectives. For any type of audience this can be enriching and enjoyable. English speaking audiences and even non-francophiles audiences loved Chansons. Here is some feedback I got from my international audience:
‘An award-winning German chanteuse performing French songs and narrating in English- Stefanie Rummel brings an evening of joie de vivre straight to your heart.’ – Bob Zaslow (Children book author)
‘As a concert performance your delivery is wonderful. I wish you were on tour (virtual or actual) to all the French language and festival groups in North America. This cultural joy needs doing.‘
‘Quality, legendary songs with the deep meanings attached, give gift of genuine benefit. As an educational music tour…anywhere.‘
‘Stefanie Rummel is an outstanding performer with talent and personality. I have seen Chansons three times. During each experience, I have been mesmerized by Stefanie’s ability to tell stories, sing, and dance. She entices her audience to watch the show and we are hooked. I applaud Stefanie Rummel for creating Chansons – 5 stars!‘- Elaine Davida Sklar (Writer of musicals – former theatre owner)
‘I was captivated, as was the audience—there is a true joie de vivre throughout her entire show. I loved how she draws in the audience with her intimate stories—she is equally adept as both an actor and singer. And the singalong with the audience was one of many highlights for me, too. Bravo, Stefanie!‘ – Valerie David (Actress)
Why should audiences come to see Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me at Adelaide Fringe 2023?
Adelaide with its multicultural heritage will love Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me. I relate to inspiring stories and songs about German, French, European and international perspectives and cultures. At the same time, I weave alluring tales of France and describe facets of “the French way.” You will be in France for an hour without a jetlag. My songs and stories touch universal moments. Audiences in Germany, France, Iceland, Malta, Luxemburg, the United Kingdom, Finland, and the United States enjoyed, Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me and some described it as a ‘heart-connecting experience’.
Anything to add?
Mais oui! At the Adelaide Town Hall I will perform in person my musical cabaret: Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me. I am looking forward to meet you there. From 17th of February 2023 until the 1st of March you are welcome to be part of a musical journey about France and about the little moments in life which are precious. Have a look at the dates and the ticket link and tell your friends about. A Bientôt!
KEY INFO FOR CHANSONS: PIAF, BREL & ME: A MUSICAL CABARET ABOUT FRANCE
WHAT: Chansons: Piaf, Brel & Me: a musical cabaret about France
WHEN: The show is on at the following dates and times:
- 6pm, 17, 20 & 22 Feb
- 4:30pm 18,& 19 Feb
- 4:20pm 25 & 26 Feb
- 8:30pm 28 Feb & 1 Mar
WHERE: The Garage International @ Adelaide Town Hall, Entrance via Pirie St or Paul Kelly Lane.
HOW: Purchase your tickets via this link: https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/chansons-piaf-brel-me-musical-cabaret-about-france-af2023
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices are as follows:
- Full Price: $40.00
- Concession: $35.00
- Schools: $25.00
- BankSA Cardholder: $30.00
- Double Your Applause: Admits 1: $80.00
- Companion Card: Free
What’s your favourite French chanson?