Birds & Bossa – Astatine under the Cedar Tree

On Monday the new Unter der Zeder season got underway in fine Bossa Nova style with Astatine and her special guests Michael Heupel and Uwe Arenz.

Music is indeed coming back to Bonn this week, and in the Kurpark Bad Godesberg it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

It’s not advertised on the website, or written on the posters, but a wonderful aspect of concerts here in the Bad Godesberg Kurpark is that you can smell the flowers and hear the birds singing during the shows.  In these Corona plagued days, we really are starting to appreciate such things, along with fresh air, as incalculably valuable commodities.  They’re not included in the price of your ticket either – so, after in effect paying the musicians to play and the venue to provide the location, seating, lighting and stage, it’s all free!  Given that the musicians and venues have had little to no income for many months who can complain at 15 Euros for a ticket to paradise?

Or maybe a ticket to the beach even?  immediately after stepping onto the stage, Astatine invited us all to “Imagine you are on holiday on the beach tonight…” and apart from no suntan, I felt as relaxed at the concert’s end as if I had been on a Copacabana beach.

Astatine had promised when I INTERVIEWED her that she would take us on a musical journey this evening and tell us a little about the musical ‘stops’ along the way.  The very first ‘stop’ was actually the number widely considered to be the first-ever Bossa Nova song: Antonio Jobim’s ‘Chega de Saudade’ or ‘No More Blues’ from 1957.  The first of many songs about love, and not the last by Jobim tonight either.  As she also said in her interview, love a popular musical theme in Bossa Nova as in every other musical form.  This one was about not longing for someone any longer.  There was too ‘Que Reste-t-il de nos amour’ (What is left of our love) from Charles Trenet, often considered the French Cole Porter.  Sinatra fans might have recognized the tune as ‘I Wish You Love’.

There was a genuine Cole Porter number too in the form of ‘I Concentrate On You’ which interestingly was re-arranged by Jobim as a Bossa melody although Astatine took it back to Porter’s original I’m pleased to say.  “I know at least one person in the audience who will enjoy this one” she smiled.   I suspect I was not alone in my enjoyment though!

Uwe Arenz

What made the evening especially enjoyable was that, having selected the material, Astatine and her excellent musicians had both the imagination and the ability to interpret it creatively.  ‘Girl from Ipanema’ is probably the most famous Bossa Nova song ever, so it was super to hear Astatine take on a German language version – suitably it became ‘The Boy from Ipanema’:

“Wenn er sich bewegt, gleicht es einer Samba,
das swingt so cool und schwingt so sacht,
dass, wenn er vorbei kommt, jedes Mädchen,
an dem er vorüber geht, macht… Ahh”

The story of ‘Girl from Ipanema’s’ creation is a famous one.  On a sunny day in 1962, Tom Jobim und Vinícius de Moraes were sitting in a beach bar in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro. They were drinking beer, chatting, and enjoying the female beauties in the Brazilian sun.  A 17-year-old caught their attention with her green eyes and flowing hair and the girl from Ipanema was born – as a song and a tune right there and then. In case you ever wondered, the girl from Ipanema was actually named Heloísa Pinto (later Helô Pinheiro). You heard it first (possibly) on 3songsbonn!

But I allowed myself to be side-tracked by that beautiful Ipanema girl as Jobim and Moraes were.  I was writing about the variation in Astatine’s set that I so enjoyed.  ‘Clifford Brown’s ‘Joy Spring’ for example “To prove I can Swing!” smiled Astatine at the introduction of this change in musical style and tempo.  Another change in tempo with ‘O Samba O Tango’ giving us the chance to tap our feet and I even thought the birds had speeded up their singing too.

I deliberately kept the names of our guest musicians out of the preceding paragraphs, because both of them added their own individual genius to the music on offer.  Uwe Arenz on guitar and Michael Heupel on flutes played the most glorious musical ping-pong.  Each taking the melody, interpreting, and then challenging the other to take it and run with it where they chose.  Arenz’ guitar was the musical cornerstone of the evening upon which every tune and song was based, with keys and tempos controlled by eye contact and smiles between the three figures onstage.

Michael Heupel was about as unobtrusive as anyone could be on a stage – until he began to play that is, and then he owned that stage for as long as he had a flute to his lips.  A high point of the evening was the opening instrumental of part two with just Heupel and Arenz playing ‘Frevo’.  In particular, I remember Heupel’s Flute-playing on this and ‘Ligia’ floating in the cool evening air and sounding like a lightly toned saxophone.  Certainly an early magic moment in this year’s Festival Season under the Cedar.

Michael Heupel

But I have got off the point again, and this time it wasn’t the Girl from Ipanema’s fault.  The variation in tonight’s set could not be better emphasized than by the closing numbers.  “I don’t often sing German songs because I tend to sound like a Deutsche Schläger (Folk) singer which I’m not” admitted Astatine.  But organizer Sabine Köhne-Kayser had asked for something special as a thank you to her husband for his patience during her organizing of this year’s schedule.  The song in question was indeed a ‘Schläger’ classic ‘Gute Nacht Freunde’ but Astatine had the class to slow the Rheinhardt Mey song down and make it into an intimate ballad to us all.  To be followed by ‘O Pato’ a jolly song concerning a duck who is joined by a goose and a swan in an effort to sing Samba.  A total change in style and tempo once again, this time featuring duck, goose and swan sounds – which after so many linguistic changes throughout a magic evening, must have been a piece of cake for the enchanting Astatine.

Wonderful music, wonderful songs, and wonderful location.  There are only a few tickets remaining for many of the remaining concerts at the time of writing, so make your choice quickly HERE and I’ll see you under the cedar tree…



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