Christine Bovill returns to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe bringing an evening of Parisian elegance, celebrating the best of chanson with her renditions of anthems from titans of genre including Jacques Brel, Édith Piaf, and Barbara. Interweaving these renditions with her own anecdotes and stories elaborating on the meaning behind the tracks, Christine is a charming presence with a natural charisma in regards to both her vocals and warming personality.
Accompanied by Jennifer Redmond on piano, Christine sets out to celebrate French music up until around the Yé-yé genre kicked in around the mid-sixties (so don’t expect Gainsbourg, Bardot, Gall or Vartan here). The result is an evening of music ranging from powerful to playful centred on topics as varied as romance, war, and excesses of pleasure; all showcasing a range of varied artists.
Taking centre stage with Jennifer Redmond on piano at her side, Christine stands with a small table adorned with a pleasant bouquet of flowers by her. It’s simple and elegant staging that allows the performer to shine, free of distraction as she pays tribute to these singers and songwriters of chanson. Christine delves into the songs in a mixture of English and French, with most of the tracks or artists achieving some success in the English language. Non-French speakers are still likely to enjoy the renditions, picking up their meaning through passionate delivery and a smattering of remembrance of your Standard Grade French lessons.
Highlights include the woozy romance of Charles Trenet’s La Mer or the sense of joie de vivre and escapism captured in the artist’s 1938 novelty hit Boum! Jacques Brel favourites Fils de… (Sons of…) and the melancholic Amsterdam get powerful renditions by Christine – the former benefiting from the depiction as an anti-war song, whilst Amsterdam shines as much as Marianne Faithfull’s recent rendition of the track packed with gloomy emotion.
Other treats include Christine’s take on Charles Aznavour’s She (or in its French form Tous les visages de l’amour) accompanied by little factoids such as Aznavour always opting to sing the track in English in which it received most of its success. Delving into Barbara’s Göttingen, a track attempting to build relations between Germany and France also delivers further cabaret-flavoured elegance to Paris. With experience of Édith Piaf’s back catalogue in a standalone Piaf show, it is no surprise that Christine is also masterful when delivering La Vie en rose and Non, je ne regrette rien – two of Piaf’s most distinctive hits. Paired with a touching anecdote about performing with Charles Dumont, the writer of the latter Piaf anthem, Christine packs the song with a personal reasonance.
Christine’s delivery of each track is refined, showcasing an impressive vocal prowess and scholarly understanding of the emotional depth of each song, whilst accompaniment from Jennifer Redmond only adds to the sophistication of the evening. Personal musings on Christine’s own relationship with the French language and her falling in love with Piaf bring a sense of levity and warmth to the evening at the Edinburgh French Institute. Travelling to Paris may not be quite in reach just yet, but Christine Bovill’s evening of elegant chanson makes up for this.
Paris continues to play at the French Institute in Scotland until the 22nd of August. Get tickets here.