Encore! at the Square Chapel, Halifax.
A blisteringly hot July evening provided the appropriate ambience at the Square Chapel, Halifax, for an evening of French chansons with singer Maggi Stratford and Daniel Bowater, who ably accompanied her on the piano and accordion.
(The audience were in the mood, too, with quite a few berets being worn and some chatting in French ... )
Maggi sings a blend of the expected (Piaf) and the less well known, such as Jacques Brel's haunting "Le Plat Pays". In the course of a few minutes of Maggi's singing this song rose out of nowhere to become one of my favourite songs.
Many of the songs are decades old, but as relevant as ever, and Maggi sings with a wonderful mixture of simplicity and total passion and commitment - her version of Brel's "Ne me quitte pas" left us all in a mesmerised silence for a moment.
Maggi's a talented actress as well as a singer, and it shows: she sings these songs as freshly as though they'd been written last week. She sings in French but explains each song beforehand, so it really doesn't matter if you don't understand every word - we all understood the meaning with no problem at all.
At the end, we all found ourselves singing "Je ne regrette rien" with tremendous enthusiasm, and a feeling of having been involved in something really special.
I'd been thinking for a while that it was time to go back to France. I came home from Encore! and within twenty-four hours my trip was booked.
Direct Personal Management - Leeds-based actors' agency