Noria Letts, is a French-Australian singer who performs French songs in Melbourne and Sydney. She will be performing a tribute to Edith Piaf in Melbourne this week. Read our interview with her below.
Noria Letts, you are a French singer based in Melbourne, I believe? Is that right?
Yes, that’s right. I’m based in Melbourne.
How long have you been in Australia? Where are you from in France?
I arrived in Australia 24 years ago now. I am a Burgundian from Saône et Loire, from a small town called Châtenoy le Royal, although my family has been living in Perpignan for 30 years. The Burgundian winters were far too cold.
How long have you been singing?
Good question! I think I have always sung, since I was a little girl, especially with my sisters. Our family is very musical and I used to play the flute and the sax. In fact, we used to spend our time singing and especially working on harmonies on gospel songs.
Who are your muses?
I discovered jazz at a very young age through Billie Holiday when I was 13. Then I started listening to Sarah Vaughn and of course Ella Fitzgerald. After I started playing jazz, I quickly exchanged the sax for a microphone. I sang ‘American’ jazz for many years and was inspired by the great musicians as well as the vocalists.
You do concerts of French songs a few times a month and this week you will present a concert called Piaf, A tribute. What can the audience expect from this concert?
I tell the story of Edith Piaf by incorporating songs that document her joys and sorrows while respecting the authenticity of her story. Indeed I perform songs that are rarely sung such L’accordéoniste, Bravo pour le clown, La goualante du pauvre Jean, Mon Dieu, Mon Manège A Moi, Les Trois Cloches and many others…
Which other musicians are on stage with you?
I am extremely fortunate to have in the band pianist extraordinaire Steve Sedergreen, Mark Elton who is fortunately not touring Europe at the moment, Dave Evans on accordion who is excellent, and Phill Collings on drums. They are all very well known jazz musicians here and we all play together in my jazz/gypsy jazz band which performs regularly in Melbourne and now Sydney.
How long have you been performing this show?
In fact, 8 April will be the premiere and the show has already sold out.
Where did the idea come from?
I love Frnch music and I have always been a big fan of Edith Piaf but I finally felt ready to do it during COVID lockdown. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Life has changed for all of us and I feel a huge sense of nostalgia and happiness when I sing her songs. I started incorporating classics like Milord or Non, je ne regrette rien in my repertoire before COVID and the response from the audience was always very positive, in fact I was asked to sing more and often received standing ovations to thank me as the Australian public is very responsive to her songs.
What’s your favourite Edith Piaf song?
This is a difficult question but I think the answer is L’accordéoniste. What a song!!! Edith loved it but unfortunately could no longer perform it as it became too hard physically and vocally in the last 10 years of her life when she had finally achieved enormous success abroad and especially in the USA.
What can the public expect from your concerts at Birds Basement next month, and at Foundry 616 in June and on Bastille Day in July?
The Birds Basement concert starts with an opening performance by well-known Australian singer and actor Axel Whitehead. He will be playing American jazz. I really like his style. Then we will play a French jazz set.
I perform such standards as Ménilmontant, Seule ce soir (Je suis seul ce soir), Le jazz et la java, Vesoul, Madeleine, Jolie môme and and many others in jazz/gypsy jazz versions. We have a lot of fun because it’s very up-tempo. I like to add one or two Piaf classics because I love them. Maestro Steve Sedergreen is on piano as well as Dave Evans on accordion, Mark Elton on bass and Phill Collings on drums. This is the same band and show for ‘the Foundry 616 in Sydney.
As you will be singing at the Paris Cat for Bastille Day in July, what is your favourite Francophone celebration song to play or to listen to, or both?
Ah, for me July 14th has a taste of musette. Every time I close my eyes and see the 14th of July of my childhood again, I hear Mon amant de St Jean, Mon manège à moi, La java bleue…. If I had to choose only one song, I would choose Mon amant se St Jean. I don’t know if you recmember the lyrics:
Je ne sais pourquoi j’allais danser
À Saint Jean, aux musettes‘…
But I like all the songs I sing and many others. I love French music deeply and it gives me such pleasure to share it.
Are there any other things that you would like to tell us about?
I hope to tour several cities in Australia eventually with this show and share it with all those who love Edith Piaf.
I’d like to let you know that we’ll be at the Birds Basement in Melbourne on the 11th of May, the Foundry 616 Sydney on the 3rd of June, and we’ll be celebrating the 14th of July at the Paris Cat Melbourne with a party.
We thank Noria Letts for this interview
KEY INFO FOR NORIA LETTS’ CONCERTS
Piaf, A tribute – Paris Cat Melbourne, 8 April – SOLD OUT
Noria Letts with Axle Whitehead – Birds Basement in Melbourne, 11 May
Foundry 616 Sydney 3 June- not yet on sale
Paris Cat Melbourne, 14 July for a Bastille Day party – not yet on sale
Discover events with links to French culture and language, and the Francophonie in our What’s on in April article.