„Angie, oh Angie, Where do we go to from here?” heartfelt words from Barry on piano to our Landlady – but with a wink? Well, no reason to cry as Clapton might have sung -the answer had already been announced – up the road a little to ‘Haus Müllestumpe’. There was still a little lump in the throat though, and a feeling of nostalgia for all good things that must pass as I left the ‘Gaststätte zum Schutzenhaus’ afterwards. Above all I was thankful that in Brigitt Annessy’s beautiful Chansons Bonn Folk Club here had a high to finish on.
As John Harrison so perfectly put it when he took the stage following rapturous applause for Brigitt’ Annessy and pianist (Maestro) Hans-Peter Kempkes – “I had high expectations of this evening, but I am pleased to say you exceeded them tonight”. And so it was that Bonn Folk Club closed its doors for the last time at this venue. But let’s go back in time first – back even beyond the 7pm start, because this evening was filled with historical melodies that I knew, but having given up on French in first grade, could not quite place.
It started at least in a linguistically plain and simple way – with John Harrison’s rendition of the english traditional ‘Derby Ram’. A ‘jolly’ song about butchering a ram:
‘The butcher that stuck this tup sir, was up to his neck in the blood. And the boy that held the pail sir, was washed away in the flood’.
Ah yes, ‘tup?’ the first word of the evening I didn’t know – and by evenings end there would be so many! Before I could chew that one over, John was performing a moving self composition – ‘Flan’ – the true story of a school colleague whose errant ways ended abruptly at fifteen when he was found hung from a tree. John’s final number of the set, the Missippi John Hurt classic ‘Stackolee’ about violent goings on after a card fight, didn’t lighten the lyrical load much either.
After so much blood and death the round and cheerful face of Theo, our first floor-spot, was a welcome sight. His affable smile had everyone instantly on his side as did his smiling and joking. Lyrically though we were back on the heavy stuff with ‘Plaisir d’Amour’ whose English chorus translates as:
“The pleasure of love lasts only a moment
The pain of love lasts a lifetime”
Also on hand was ‘Hymne a l’amour’. A ‘Hymn to Love’. More uplifting, except for the sad history of the song itself (more thereover later). Thank goodness for that cheerful smile Theo!
Special guest of the evening Brigitt’ Annessy also has a winning smile. It’s actually one that you might recognize too. Brigitt’ was to be seen for several years as Dominique Mourrait in supersoap ‘Lindenstrasse’. Rather like a certain English actor named Laurie she could just as easily have been a top musician. Versailles born Annessy clearly loves the chanson style she so elegantly presents, and the accompanying piano from Hans-Peter Kempkes is a perfectly executed understatement to her evocative phrasing. What is it though about French chanson music that invokes the singers into a trance-like facial expression that seemingly looks right through the audience, through the windows beyond, and indeed through the walls, into another dimension where the love of their life is waiting? It makes you turn your head expecting to see not fellow Folk-Clubbers but instead a dinner jacketed beau with slick hair standing in front of the Eifel Tower. It was the same impression I got last year when Zaz hypnotized us all at Museumsplatz.
My aforementioned lack of French prevents me from commenting on the lyrics this evening, but I recognized a good few of the tunes, and that in turn made me realize how much english pop musicians have made use of my fellow Brits general lack of appreciation for the French language. How else can you explain the lyrical history of ‘Hymne a l’amour’ -Written by Edith Piaf for boxer Marcel Cerdan who died in a plane crash on the way to meet her soon after she first sung the song? It was translated into English as “If You Love Me (Really Love Me)”and a huge hit for forces sweetheart Vera Lynn. Or ‘Ne me quitte pas’ The original Jaques Brels lyrics were jettisoned in favour of english ones and resulted in Terry Jacks having a huge hit with ‘If you go Away’. Or ‘Comme d’Habitude’ – hijacked lyrically by Paul Anka whose version gave Sinatra his signature piece ‘My Way’. It’s not all French inspiration either: Brigitt’ Annessy also sings the Spanish ‘Besame Mucho’. Wiki tells us this was written by a fifteen year old Consuelo Velazques who claimed the romantic lyrics were all imagination as she had never even been kissed. Whats more to my point though is that Wiki tells us no less a band than the Beatles covered an English version of this when auditioning for Decca records. Then there is ‘La Mer’ – covered by Bobby Darin in english as ‘Beyond the sea’. So now you know why I spent a good deal of the evening thinking “I’ve heard this somewhere before” without knowing a word of French.
Thankfully for my senses I had the aid of Regina sitting next to me who could help with the French, and I had some musical breaks for my weary brain too. The first of these was Barry Roshto’s special rendition of Mr Jagger and Mr Richards hit ‘Angie’ in honour of our Landlady. The second was a first appearance by local troubador Richard Limbert. Obviously a bit nervous to start with, Richard needn’t have been. His own compositions ‘’The Bad Seed’ and ‘Never Mine’ were both thoughful and tuneful. Undoubted highlight though was a ragtime version of Rev Gary Davis paean to cocaine ‘Coco Blues’ which had my foot tapping and thinking that with a few more appearances to get comfortable under his belt Richard will really be a popular performer here. He also gets 10 out of 10 for the Oasis haircut that had me thinking he was from somewhere ‘up north’.
The evening though really belonged to Brigitt and Hans-Peter. The former was certainly a photographers dream with her gestures and expressions – even on a musical stage, that acting school education shines through. Hans-Peter recalled to me during the break that when he first heard from Briggit he really had no experience of her Chanson style. It took only a few verses to bring him into a musical partnership that we were all priveleged to experience on Friday. So, a fitting final headliner to the Folk-Club in Gaststätte zum Schützenhaus. If there were no tears at the end of ‘Jock Stewart’ then it was because every end is a beginning – and that my friends is at ‘Haus Müllestumpe’ on the first Friday in March. Tick it on your diaries/online-calendar/Smartphone/to-do list now.