Report of our Program by Lydia Stux

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September 15-17, 2017 - Paris

What happens when a dozen professional and amateur singers, lovers of cabaret singing, meet their French counterparts for a three-day symposium in Paris, the birthplace of the cabaret? Lots of camaraderie, singing, dancing, eating, drinking, singing, sightseeing, coaching, reviving high school French, and more singing. Plus, singing while eating, drinking, and making friends!

That was the first official CHICAGO-PARIS-CABARET-CONNEXION, September 15-17, 2017, a three-day, whirlwind symposium for Chicago and French singers.

We started in Montmartre, the birthplace of French cabaret, with a guided tour of the Musée de Montmartre and the Renoir Gardens on the hill above Sacré Coeur. During its heyday, the museum building was a residence and meeting place for painters, theatre artists, singers, writers and intellectuals. We admired the collection and took turns taking pictures on the garden swing, imitating Auguste Renoir's The Swing. The original hangs in the Musée d'Orsay museum.

Off to the underground room of the Brasserie La Bohème du Tertre to hear Kat Victoria's session, A History of Black Singers in Paris. Kat gave us lots of great songs by, and history about, Josephine Baker, Bricktop, Lena Horne and Eartha Kitt. While there, we had the honor of an impromptu contribution by Michèle Barbier who had been Josephine Baker's personal secretary from 1969-71. Michèle also joined us upstairs for our first jam session. While still in Montmartre, we had an evening at the famous cabaret Au Lapin Agile for an evening of "songs, humor and poetry."

The highlight for all the participants was two days of master classes with Claudia Hommel and Nathalie Joly, and accompanists Elizabeth Doyle and Jean-Claude Orfali at the Atelier du Chant in the Latin Quarter. What a variety of song genres, language and presentation style! Crowded around the keyboard, with an occasional guitar or accordion for accompaniment, we worked on the songs we had brought, in preparation for our final performance at the end of the conference.

When we were not workshopping our songs, we attended roundtables and jam sessions. It was equally surprising that the French singers know every word of American folk and rock songs, as it is when American singers chose Autumn Leaves and other Edith Piaf favorites to perform. We discovered this at piano bars and restaurants (La Bohème du Tertre, the Café Universel, the Relais de la Huchette) and on the rue Mouffetard, where there is street singing with Christian Bassoul in the middle of the market every Sunday morning.

Author Michel Trihoreau gave a very informative lecture, "The History of la Chanson de Proximité - Songs Up Close". The next day, Yves Bertrand led "Four Songs of Marcel Legay." Legay flourished as singer-songwriter at the turn of the 20th century. Mr. Bertrand is the grandnephew of Marcel Legay so it was also a personal reflection.

At the first roundtable on "The Cabaret Situation Today and New Perspectives" we heard well-established performers Anne Sylvestre, Xavier Lacouture, Gilbert Laffaille, Marie-Thérèse Orain, Claudia Hommel, venue director Gilles Tcherniak and journalist Martin Pénet speak their mind on this issue. There were a number of perspectives on the art and future of cabaret. There are those who think "cabaret is dead!" It gave us a lot to think and argue about for the rest of the symposium!

We spent Saturday night attending a performance by the principals, hearing Marie-Thérèse Orain, Elizabeth Doyle, Claudia Hommel, Nathalie Joly, Kat Victoria, Mylène Launay and Christian Stalla perform (while Christian Bassoul greeted our audience of 140 fans at the Studio Raspail with songs on the accordion). What talent and inspiration!

In our "spare" time before and after the conference, we had a dinner cruise down the Seine on the houseboat of singer-songwriter Eric Vincent and his wife and chef Marie-Claude Barbin; took a guided tour of the Musée d'Orsay with art historian Dennis Broe, and a trip to Giverny to visit Monet's house and garden, the Musée des impressionnismes, and a picnic by the Seine.

Now we are looking forward to hosting our French counterparts here in Chicago in late 2018 or early 2019! I am looking forward to my next CHICAGO-PARIS-CABARET-CONNEXION trip to Paris with Claudia.

Merci tout le monde. C'était incroyable!

Lydia Stux


    FRIDAY 15
  • Noon — Meet and Greet with a short history of the birth of cabaret in Montmartre at the Musée de Montmartre, 12, rue Cortot, Paris 18ème
  • 12:45 — 90-minute guided tour of the museum; an hour viewing of the sheet music collection
  • 3:30 PM —Move to Brasserie La Bohème du Tertre, 2 place du Tertre, 75018 Paris
  • 3:45 PM — A presentation by Kat Victoria of Black female singers in Paris: from Bricktop and Josephine Baker to Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne
  • 5 PM — Jam session for singers and auditors
  • 7 PM — Dinner all together at Le Refuge, 72, rue Lamarck (included in the conference fee)
  • 9 PM — Evening show at the historic Cabaret Lapin Agile, 22, rue des Saules, until midnight or so (show continues to 2 AM!)
  • 10 AM — Master class at the l'Atelier du Chant in the Latin Quarter, 12 bis, rue Domat Paris 5ème
  • Noon — Lunch break
  • 1:30 PM — Master class continues to 5:30 PM
  • Move to Studio Raspail, 216 bd Raspail, Paris 14ème.

    RSVP now for your seat at the evening events

  • 6:15 PM — Illustrated lecture by author of La chanson de proximité , Michel Trihoreau reviews history and current state of cabaret in France, with singer-guitarist Michel Grange
  • 7:15 PM — Round Table discussion on the current state of Cabaret, led by Gilles Tcherniack, director of Forum Léo Ferré and son of the owners of the former cabaret « Le cheval d'or », along with Martin Penet, journalist and historian of French chanson.
  • 8:30 PM — Intermission and a light buffet is offered for 5 Euros per person.
  • 9 PM — Evening concert by Marie-Thérèse Orain, Elizabeth Doyle, Claudia Hommel, Nathalie Joly, Kat Victoria, and the participation of Mylène Launay and Christian Stalla, until 10:30 PM.
    SUNDAY 17
  • 11 AM — Petit Bal Musette , the weekly neighborhood sing-along at the base of rue Mouffetard, hosted by Christian Basoul and our Mylène Launay
  • Noon — Lunch break
  • 2 PM — Master class continues at the Atelier du Chant
  • Move to l'Espace le Scribe-l'Harmattan, 24, rue des Ecoles, Paris 5ème

    RSVP now for your seat at the evening events

  • 7 PM — Presentation by Yves Bertrand on the singer-songwriter Marcel Legay (1856-1915)
  • 7:30 PM - Light buffet (at 10 Euros per person), followed by Round Table on the future of Cabaret
  • 9 PM — Evening concert by singer-participants.
  • 11 PM — Jam session at nearby piano bar for all participants, auditors included.
Time to be determined: a meeting among organizers to begin planning the 2018 exchange to Chicago

Leading the Chicago delegation will be singer-pianist-composer Elizabeth Doyle, actress-singers Claudia Hommel and Kat Victoria. Claudia and Elizabeth will lead the Chicago component of our master classes, joined by Jean-Claude Orfali at the piano.

Leading the Paris delegation are singer-actor Mylène Launay, singer-actor Nathalie Joly, singer-editor Christian Stalla (who will join us on Sunday), and author Michel Trihoreau.

The "master class among equals" will explore song interpretation and performance skills. A maximum of 8 US and 8 French singers will bring their repertoire to the workshop, as we explore from different perspectives the variations of intimate singing, truth-telling and story in song. The sessions are open to singers and auditors of any age, professionals and amateurs alike.

At each dinner, we are inviting special guests to lead a discussion on the business of cabaret (le métier). We'll compare notes: Paris has many cabaret venues, while Chicago has few. Chicago has an association of cabaret artists, but Paris does not yet have a formal network. US artists are used to hustling individually for financial support, while French artists are reeling from cuts in state subsidies to the arts. How can we help each other?

Correspondante à Paris
Mylène Launay : 06 71 83 70 65
Correspondent in Chicago
Claudia Hommel : 1-773-509-9360

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