by: Paulanne Simmons
This December 19 will be one hundred years since the birth of Edith Piaf. In France, she is a national icon, beloved by young and old. Internationally, she is a legendary singer whose star power made her one of France’s finest exports.
Scott Siegel paid homage to “The Little Sparrow” at 54 Below with Edith Piaf: An All-Star Celebration on June 13. The show, which Siegel wrote and hosted, featured a cast of women who have all earned their stripes as Piaf interpreters. A few of the songs were sung in English translation, but many were sung in the original French.
The evening began and ended with two of Piaf’s best known songs: Maxine Linehan singing “La Vie en Rose” and Carole J. Bufford singing “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” But there were also several lesser known numbers.
Even in her earliest songs, we can see Piaf’s trademark regard for the poor, the outcast, the downcast lovers. And she also sang about overcoming sorrow, sometimes with a drink or two, or three.
From that early repertoire, Marni Rice not only sang “The Foreigner” (L’etranger) and “My Aperitif” (Mon Apéro); she also accompanied herself on that most French of all instruments, the accordion. So it wasn’t a big surprise when Rice was called on again for a most inspiring rendition of L’accordioniste.”
Before performing Piaf favorites like “Pigalle” and “La Foule,” Gay Marshall recalled her own experiences in singing Piaf in Paris and walking those same streets she was singing about. But if Marshall had everyone a bit teary eyed, Molly Pope’s rendition of “Milord,” had the audience clapping and smiling, despite the unhappy Englishman’s disappointment in love.
It would be nice to think that one of Piaf’s last songs, “Non, je ne regrette rien” sums up Piaf’s attitude towards life: “No, nothing of nothing/No! I don’t feel sorry about anything/Not the good things people have done to me/Not the bad things, it’s all the same to me.” Bufford’s passionate interpretation of the song summed up the evening and the night.
Although Piaf performed in many large concert halls, she is perhaps best appreciated in an intimate venue, surrounded by new and old friends and a glass of fine wine in hand.
What better place to celebrate Piaf’s birthday than at the elegant 54 Below?
54 Below is at 254 West 54 Street, www.54below.com