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Rogue Performer Preview: Piaf and Brel, The Impossible Concert

IN THE February 6 ISSUE

FROM THE 2021 Articles,
andMusic,
andRogue Festival,
andTheatre
SECTIONS

by Melanie Gall

Rogue Festival is almost here! But just like most things, this year will be different, as it will be virtual. However, KRL will still have performer preview articles, an article about virtual Rogue, reviews, and an event page. So I hope you all check out Rogue this year and all of our articles! You can also learn more on the Rogue Festival website.

In 2013, I first performed my French music cabaret, Piaf and Brel: The Impossible Concert at the Fresno Rogue festival. At that time it was a two-person show, and the two weeks I spent at the Rogue fest were two of the best weeks of my life, with a whirl of breakfast parties with Marcel, late-night doughnuts in the Tower District, and more sun that a girl from Northern Alberta usually gets in March. (Also oranges! Straight from an actual ORANGE TREE!!) It’s been eight years since that sold-out run, and the show has segued into a solo cabaret that has led to some amazing adventures around the world.

I would never have expected the music of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel to hold almost universal worldwide appeal. From Mozambique to Algeria, from Scotland to Taiwan, I have performed these songs for a widely diverse audience, many of whom already knew the music well. One restaurant owner in Port of Spain, Trinidad, confided to me that Piaf’s funeral was the only time he ever saw his father cry. Another man, attending the show in Edinburgh, Scotland, asked me to dedicate one of the songs to his mother, who had recently died. He told me afterwards that there was no greater tribute than a Piaf song for the mother he had loved and lost.

One Piaf and Brel concert I performed was in Jerudong Park, the billion-dollar amusement park in Brunei Darussalam, on the same stage were Madonna had performed just a few years earlier. Before I was allowed onstage, I needed to prove to the government censorship committee that these songs (many of them about a very carnal sort of love), were innocent and family-friendly.

Then there was the show at the Ahfad University for Women in Khartoum, Sudan, with music students from throughout Africa. At the masterclass I held following the show, several students knew and performed Piaf’s songs. There was also an outdoor performance in the middle of a sandstorm in N’Djamena, Chad, where I was the only North American singer ever to publicly perform. In Cambodia, I performed this music to two members of the royal family, and went out afterwards to a jazz club with the prince. He arranged for me to sing with the band at the club, the song being – of course – one of the Piaf tunes he knew and loved.

Probably one of the most fun Piaf and Brel performances I ever did was at a nudist community in Florida. Yes, the audience was naked, and yes, I was, too! Singing has never been so… bouncy….

But with all of these unforgettable international experiences, I still hold a special place in my heart for the 2013 Rogue festival run. Even though I can’t be there in person this year, I am still so excited to be performing digitally as part of the festival, and can’t wait to (hopefully) be back in person in 2022.

Piaf and Brel: The Impossible Concert will be performed online at 4 p.m. on March 6, 2021, and again at 5 p.m. on March 12, 2021. These are live performances, so they will be different, and anything can happen (well, within reason… I will be doing the show in my mother’s living room…) Details and tickets are available online at www.fresnoroguefestival.com.

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