Piaf and Brel – The Impossible Concert – Edinburgh Festival Fringe – theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Piaf and Brel: The Impossible Concert continues at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall until 26 August.

Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩

I was so looking forward to this – as an admirer of both artists, I was keen to see how this would pan out. Sadly, the billing is somewhat deceptive as this is a one-woman show/singalong.

Melanie Gall is a French-Canadian classically trained vocalist who has compiled a show of Brel and Piaf’s works – some more famous than others – and punctuates her singing with snippets about their lives and loves. Bennett Paster’s off-stage accompaniment is perfectly matched for her delivery.

Gall’s phrasing is somewhat impressive – lungs of steel that can sustain notes apparently effortlessly. She tells us that this show came about “just for fun and to keep the music alive”. In her early days she sang in a restaurant, now she tours the world, teaches and records primarily nostalgic work with a repertoire that includes Vera Lynn and Sophie Tucker in addition to Piaf and Brel.

When Gall truly inhabits a song, such as her version of ‘Ne me quitte pas’ or ‘La chanson des vieux amants’, the more intimate register of her voice draws the audience towards her and can be genuinely moving and affecting. The songs are gernerally well chosen and clearly popular with the audience.

The show concludes with a ‘singalong’ to ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’, thoughtfully printed on the back of the programme.

Fiona Orr



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