|Hymne a Piaf | Caroline Nin|
|Written by Eliza Eggler|
|Tuesday, 04 September 2012 11:58|
Whilst Parramatta may be the oldest inland European settlement in Australia, it is probably not a place one would associate with charm and romance, the likes of which you may find in a city such as Paris. And yet on Saturday night last in the Lennox theatre at Parramatta's 'Riverside', I was taken on a romantic journey to the streets of this very place and transported to another time by nostalgic melodies and stories of love. Caroline Nin, French jazz singer and chanteuse presented her Hymne a Piaf, a selection of Edith Piaf's most memorable songs, alongside musicians Greg Coffin on piano and Jonathan Zwartz on double bass.
The Lennox theatre is a meagre space that lends itself to the intimacy of cabaret; it was wonderful to see and hear each nuance of expression from the musicians. The music and narrative flowed seamlessly from one section to the next, with Nin preceding each precious song with interesting details about Piaf's life at the time - she then also recited the text in impeccable English. Her first songs ranged in subject matter from a lover's suicide to a song about a woman waiting endlessly for her lover to arrive, and Nin's singing was stunningly heartfelt. Each phrase she sang with her thick, deep, mezzo voice helped form a clear image of the subject matter, carrying us along on a wave of sound that didn't imitate Piaf's voice yet captured its essence. From city streets to a lonely apartment, and to images of beautiful young men, the singer and musicians held the audience captive for nearly two hours.
Whilst it is difficult not to remember Piaf's voice when listening to these songs, and hence difficult not to compare anyone who sings them to her, Nin's approach as a cabaret performer soon leads you away from such thoughts. Not only is she a wonderfully expressive vocalist, she is also a born storyteller and comedienne. Interwoven with her anecdotes and histories about Piaf's life was an abundance of humour regarding Nin's experiences in Australia, with more than one crack at the Aussie accent and our unromantic view of life. She compared at some length the stark difference between the French word for prostitute: 'La fille du joie' (the girl of joy) and the English term 'sex worker' (I couldn't help thinking this is like comparing Paris and Parramatta!). This comparison led into the song 'Milord' which she sang directly to a startled male in the audience and also managed to get us clapping and singing along with her.
The second half of the program focussed on Piaf's life from 1949 to her untimely death in 1963 at the age of forty-seven. Nin sang Piaf's 'Hymne a l'amour' - a poignant song written for Piaf's forbidden lover Marcel who died tragically in a plane crash, and two of her most famous songs: 'Non, je ne regrette rien' and 'Padam'. Whilst being immediately recognisable, these songs managed to be original and fresh thanks to the jazzy musical accompaniment of the piano and double bass and Nin's insightful approach to the text. Greg Coffin's piano playing was wonderfully delicate and at times mesmerising, and the sonorous tones of Jonathan Zwartz's double bass added just the right balance to voice and piano.
Caroline Nin created some magic last Saturday evening at the Riverside, and it was touching to see such wonderful musicians paying homage to the incomparable Edith Piaf. Piaf's life was full of struggle and tragedy and Nin's respect for this great singer was evident from the first note to the last. It is such a shame though that this performance was a one-off and that more people won't have the opportunity to take this wonderful and nostalgic musical journey.
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