J’étudie, tu étudies, elle étudie …

March 26, 2010

It’s been a while.

What can I say? Things got busy and the old head took over – “well, I haven’t written anything today, so tomorrow I’ll have to write something REALLY good” – within a week you are committed to writing something that rivals Holy Scripture and it never actually gets done.

So I guess I’ll just start over and backfill as and when it becomes necessary.

The key novelty in our bilingual life is currently singing; or, more precisely, Piaf singing.

It started with “l’araignée Gipsy”; moved onto “dans la forêt lointaine”; and then, just recently, we have hit paydirt with “mon âne”.  She knows the words to these songs; she requests them; she even knows the gestures. When we sing “lundi matin” on the way to nursery (late as usual) I have to wheel the pushchair with one hand so I can walk alongside her, ready to “serrer la pince” at the appropriate moment.

Of course, as I am not French, most of these songs are as new to me as they are to her; I will see them in a book, or remember a reference to them in a novel I once read, and then have to learn them, music and words, from scratch, before I can then teach them to her.

Not knowing the tune is especially irksome. What I normally do is go onto Youtube.fr and see if someone has posted anything from a children’s karaoke video or a 1980’s kids’ show and then play it practically on a loop while I sing along.

An unexpected find came about this way. I was looking into a song called “auprès de ma blonde”. Sure enough, Youtube had a useful kids’ pop video complete with lyrics and some animation that looked like it had been done with Clip Art.

But another link caught my eye – from the image attached, it appeared to be a grown woman singing this song. Her name was also a mystery – Olivia Chaney did not sound particularly francophone. Perhaps a Canadian? I clicked on it.

Watch it yourself now, if you are somewhere with sound. Ignore the fact that this is an old marching song that has since become a nursery rhyme. Ignore the fact that the scene is the Bishopsgate Institute and that Olivia is not French or even Canadian but very British indeed. Ignore the dowdy dress and tights. Ignore, even, the rolling eyes and involuntary tic-like smile that make her look, frankly, a bit possessed.

Listen, instead, to a woman singing about a husband taken as a prisoner of war by the Dutch and how she would give everything and anything to see him again and then tell me that this single rendition does not tell you everything there is to know about the human heart. Even if you hate folk music, tell me that any composer who omits the human voice from his or her work is not missing a trick.

I dare you.


One Response to “J’étudie, tu étudies, elle étudie …”

  1. I can always rely on you to introduce me to great music – thank you !

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