Ellie James talks to us about her cine-concert Lumières!

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Ellie James will perform her cine-concert Lumieres! at the Adelaide French Festival. She has written a soundtrack for several short films, which she will perform live at this show. She sings in English and in French. 

We spoke to Ellie James about her show and her music.



Lumières! is a cine-concert in which you will play the soundtrack live while several short films are screened. Did you create the show? 

It’s the Travelling festival, a film festival in Rennes, that contacted me via Armada Production for the creation of a cine-concert for a young audience in 2016. I didn’t really know much about this type of show, and I had never appeared alone on stage before (I had played in a number of groups), so I hesitated a little before accepting as I didn’t know if I was capable. But they always believed in me and supported me for the creation of Lumières!, which I wrote solo.


How did you choose the short films? Did you already have music in mind? 

I watched a lot of films, on DVDs lent to me by Travelling festival and I searched a lot on the internet, on sites for animation schools and on vimeo. The films needed to be coherent between them and able to be adapted for children from 3 years old. And they also needed to inspire me of course! I tried to watch films without the sound, to not be influenced by the original soundtrack. I already had a few compositions laying about on my computer, that I tried to adapt to follow the image, but for the most part, I wrote music after having chosen the films. Going from the image so that the rhythm was respected.


Lumières! is your first cine-concert for a young audience. Have you already done shows for young audiences?

It’s my first cine-concert.  I play in a number of groups (Mermonte, Bumpkin Island) which are more so groups for adults.


Where did the idea for Lumières! come from? 

I needed to find a common theme for both the films and narration in my lyrics. I found 4 films which speak about day, night, the sun and bulbs. It spoke to me. I like the idea of the cycles of day and night and of the stars and the sky. Even more, for the set design, I have two massive vintage bulbs on stage in keeping with the theme!


The soundtrack for Lumières! is inspired by the music of Sufjan Stevens and The Beatles. Do these artists influence your music in general? 

Yes, I listen to a lot of pop music. I like the voice harmonies, so I love The Beach Boys and The Beatles! I have a loop recorder on stage, which allows me to record my voice at the same time. I like Steve Reich and Philip Glass’s repetitive music. The loop recorder adds a repetitive dimension to my music. I have a keyboard, a hangdrum, a kooldrum, and an Indian harmonium on stage to accompany my voice.


What is your background? Did you study music? 

I come from a family of musicians, so I have always listened to and played music. I started by singing and then I studied a bit of piano at the School of Music. But I especially learned alone. I don’t really know how to read music, I have the basics of music theory but that’s quite limited.


What style of music do you sing? 

Pop? It’s difficult to define.


How is the creative process for Lumières! different to the creative process when you are making music without film as inspiration or direction? 

For a cine-concert, the aim is for the music to accompany the image, to make the story understood. So you have to adapt to the rhythm of the narration, and to search for the right sounds and the right instruments. There are no verses or refrains, it’s a lot less “songs” and much more so ambient music.


You’ve got two British parents. How did you come to be in Rennes? 

My parents moved to Brittany before I was born, to get a change of air. I grew up in France and I have never lived in England, I feel very French. But I learned to speak English with my family, so I am bilingual. There are songs in French and others in English in this show.


What are the challenges in singing in a language which isn’t your maternal language? 

I’ve always found that songs sung in English sound better than sung in French. I tried to choose a few words in French that sound good, that I could use like I could in English.


Anything else to add?

Come see the show!! Thank you so much! See you in January!


You can see Lumières! this weekend at the Adelaide French Festival: at 1:30pm on both Saturday 12 January and Sunday 13 January. Children’s tickets cost 15 and adult tickets are $25. There is also a family ticket (two adults and two children) for $65. You can buy your tickets here.


What’s your favourite film soundtrack?

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