So Piaf is a pretty familiar are of music. We’ve all heard Je Ne Regrette Rien at some point. It’s part of the landscape. And there have been many people singing the stuff at the Ed. Festival over the years. For me this was special for a number of reasons. One the Famous Speigel Tent. I love this venue. It’s an antique being built in the 20s. It has travelled the world and has the atmosphere of that experience. It’s just perfect for cabaret and I was utterly honoured to be there for our show. Additionally Christine Bovill is a lovely singer and so easy to work with, plus I had a good grand piano that was in tune and sales were high. And then something extra special came along. I’m going to paste in a review now which was more of an account of the tuesday night, but it expresses the events well:
It’s not often you see something happen during a performance that turns it from being the merely spectacular into the unforgettable, but Tuesday night’s audience at the Spiegeltent in George Street for PIAF witnessed something quite extraordinary. We had already heard impeccably phrased songs, gorgeously accompanied by piano, interspersed with understated stories about the legend that is Edith Piaf. The expressive and deliciously evocative voice of Christine Bovill was not that of an imitator or a ‘tribute’ singer – this was a startling recreation of the experience of listening to Edith Piaf. Bovill moved us through a delightful repertoire that covered some of Piaf’s most iconic songs, and the heart-tugging tragedy that was the background to so many produced many an emotional lump in the throat amongst the appreciative full house. The hour was drawing to a close, and we’d heard mention of Piaf’s signature song, ‘No regrets’ and assumed it would probably be the finale. But then an extraordinary thing happened. Bovill, visibly excited and nervous, breathlessly announced that the composer of ‘No regrets’ Charles Dumont, was in the Spiegeltent. It was as if a bolt of lightning had struck, and the audience burst into spontaneous applause. Here, in the same venue that Piaf’s friend Marlene Dietrich had first made famous when she performed in Edinburgh, Dumont, a smiling, dapper and modest figure, made his way to the piano. And he sang to us. He sang ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’ in a proud and sonorous tone, his fingers on the piano effortlessly recreating the song he’d written for Piaf 56 years ago. The applause that followed was thunderous, and the entire audience was on its feet, shouting, whistling, stamping its feet, smiling, and wiping tears from their eyes. Grown men wept, including the 83-year-old Dumont, visibly moved by the occasion and the ecstatic reaction of the Edinburgh crowd. “This is too much” he protested, grinning from ear to ear. And then Dumont asked if Bovill would perform ‘No regrets’, and he retired to the background of the stage to listen. As her velvet voice sent shivers through the audience, he moved slowly closer towards her presence, grasping the shoulders of Bovill’s accompanying pianist and double bassist, tears welling in his eyes, with a beatific smile across his face. It was more than a moment of musical history – it was as if Piaf had been alive again for a few moments with us as she performed the song that was the first of over 30 written by Dumont for Piaf. This was the most extraordinary, unexpected, touching and emotional musical performance I have ever seen, and I, like every other person in that beautiful tent will hold the memory of it inside me forever. As this goes to press, this show only runs for four more nights in Edinburgh. If you love music, and you want to experience something extraordinary, then run, fly, race to book your ticket immediately. To even be hearing echoes of this evening from the street outside would be a huge pleasure, but being in that beautiful, mirrored, circular space, hearing that voice, is a delirious experience you’ll carry within you for a very, very long time. Bovill’s stage presence and voice are exquisite, and the simplicity of the accompaniment and staging adds to the dramatic effect. This is indeed five star entertainment.
What more can I say? It was a great moment for me and we had packed houses most nights and a standing ovation because of M. Dumont’s endorsement. I had been a been jittery on the daytime of the tuesday but when I got to the tent I remembered what my pal David Mills would say… ‘bring it!” So I did my best to ‘bring it’ and got focussed on the playing.
As you can imagine I was intrepid about playing the composers song again directly after him. As it turned out we played his song in quite different styles. Mine was heavier and grander to his lighter bouncier style so the two complimented. Phew.
We had a super week and I tweeted this recording of Christine and myself to celebrate: