Piaf & Brel: the impossible concert is a new show to appear at Adelaide Fringe 2020 and even though it was the first I’ve seen for the season, it is guaranteed to be a highlight of the French music performances at this year’s Fringe.
Canadian Melanie Gall, discovered by Emma Knights, who is putting on a number of shows at the Adelaide Fringe, while performing in Edinburgh last year, performs songs of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel in this charming one hour performance. Melanie Gall encourages audience participation by way of sing-along right from the start. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her passion for singing these songs of Piaf and Brel but also for performing generally is evident.
Why is the concert impossible you might ask? Well of course it’s not possible in today’s times as both Piaf and Brel have long passed but even at the time that they were alive, it was impossible because Piaf and Brel never sung together. In fact, they did not even meet.
Dressed in a sparkly dress, a bargain which Melanie tells us she loves but is having her at times coughing on sequins, Melanie opens the show with the well known Piaf song “Milord”. Having opened with. A Piaf song that is well known Melanie then moves into a lesser known, but equally enjoyable, Piaf song “Parasoles”.
Melanie is humorous. Telling us about Brel’s poor luck trying to break it into the singing world. Telling us that he entered the equivalent of Belgium idol, for example where he reached 27th place out of a total of 28 contestants.
Brel songs featured in performance include his famous “Ne Me Quitte Pas” along with songs showing his Belgian roots “Bruxelles” and his amusing “Valse a Mille Pas”, an extremely fast song which Melanie performed perfectly – I was wondering when she would need to take a breath!.
Melanie punctuated songs with stories either about the artists or about herself, including that she was opera trained, that she had five opera degrees and that she completed the last of those five degrees just before the GFC hit which led to many many of the opera companies closing down!
Melanie Gall told us that she has performed the show Piaf and Brel the impossible concert all over the world including in Edinburgh where she was found and hand-picked by Emma to come to Adelaide, for the Prince of Cambodia and at a nudist resort.
Melanie Hall’s stage presence was one characterised by enthusiasm, humour, audience interaction and a powerful voice – her opera training was quite evident when she reached high soprano like notes and held them for a significant period of time. Perhaps the only fault to find would be that such a strong voice, perhaps did not need the microphone at all times. Unfortunately, in the intimate space of the Jade, it at times felt that Melanie was screaming into the microphone rather than her voice being showcased in the best possible way.
Melanie correctly points out that the songs of Piaf and Brel do not always accurately reflect their lives. Brel, for example sings love songs. One would assume therefore that perhaps he had been in love and had stayed faithful. Not the case. One of his most famous songs “Ne me quitte pas” was written not for his wife, but for his mistress.
Similarly Brel sings of old lovers. But having died at the age of 49. He never got to be old. Piaf died aged 48 and a half. Neither she nor Brel saw out there 50th birthday.
Piaf and Brel: the impossible concert is a charming ode to the songs that are known by many. It also allows the audience to discover some songs that they previously did not know. Some lesser known songs by the artists.
We have Melanie’s opera training, yes, to thank for her love of singing and her singing talents. But it was her desire to have a free meal in the Port of Spain, Trinidad to thank for her finding the songs of Piaf and Brel, with which she has continued to this day. As a result, we thank that French restaurant in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and a hungry Melanie Gall for Piaf & Brel: the impossible concert.
As a side note it is interesting that Melanie pronounces her French perfectly but tells us that while she is Canadian, she is not Francophone Canadian even though she went to a French immersion school.
Piaf and Brel: the impossible concert is a fabulous opportunity to see an international artist performing well-known French songs and to also find some lesser-known songs.
🥐🥐🥐🥐 4 CROISSANTS
Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Fringe
You can see Piaf & Brel: the impossible concert at The Jade at 8:30pm Monday 24 February and at 3:30pm on Tuesday 3 to Thursday 5 March.
Tickets cost between $20 and $29 depending on which performance date you attend and can be purchased at:
What’s your favourite Edith Piaf or Jacques Brel song?