All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

You know how one step can lead to another...

                As the wonderful Lena Horne has explained!

So what steps have I been following?

It all started with Flanders and Swann.....on Perpetua's blog....'The Gasman Cometh'  and 'Have some Madeira, m'dear'....I began to recall other delights of the duo...a 'Transport of Delight', 'Pee, po, belly, bum, drawers'...and, as Lena thing just leads to another....

And so, through Scots folk songs - 'Jock of Hazeldean',' Bonnie Strathyre', I began to recall the songs of my French friends ....loosely called the chanson francais... and came across the website dedicated to its origins -
'Du Temps de Cerise aux Feuilles Mortes'.

What a gem it is!

I'd heard various songs sung at gatherings...the less formal sort..and there used to be a festival of chanson francais just over the departmental border,  but this site has it all.
The wheezy early phonographs..even the first recordings made on paper!

Now, I know that even the most dedicated of Francophiles doesn't always have complete mastery of the French language...but I urge you to visit this site where you have the history of France from 1870 to the 1950s expressed in music.
Here, for example is the 'Le Temps des Cerises', inextricably linked withe Commune of Paris, overthrown by the bourgeois army of Versailles...and the conflict is not forgotten. Look up 'la Butte Rouge'....

Then, think of the defeat of France in 1870......the loss of Alsace and Lorraine and the patriotic songs of the following period, such as, much later, recalling the triumphs of Napoleon and smarting from the defeat of 1870 we have 'la Reve Passe'.
And, commemorating the revolt by the vignerons of Languedoc in 1907, we have 'Gloire au 17eme'..the regiment who refused to fire on the protesters and who, for their pains were given punishment duties in North Africa.
It is all there on this super  hall songs that, once I played them, I remembered old friends humming or singing...songs of the 'grandes horizontales collaboratrices' ...Arletty, Mistinguette....songs I'd heard on the radio...or heard played at revues ...'Quand Madelon'...

'Le chanson  francais' is not all Brel and Bressens, though 'Les Bourgeois' of the former and 'Le Gorille' and 'Quand on est Con on est Con' of the latter are not to be missed.

The message of the wonderful 'Tout va bien Madame la Marquise', (try the Sacha Distel version) is still in use in the newspapers today when talking of politicians and their spin on events....

And talking of spin, the website gives a pastiche of 'Temps de Cerises' which is very apposite in this time of economic crisis.
Written by Jules Jouy in 1886 it declares

'Vous regretterez le beau temps de crises
Quand pauvres sans pain et riches gaves
Les drapeaux de Mars flotteront aux brises
Les drapeaux vermeils sur qui vous bavez
Quand viendront le peuple en haut de paves...'

Well, roll on the time when we shall be singing once again
'Ca Ira!'

Tout les banquiers a la lanterne....


  1. Hello:
    We do love this Lena Horne song but now have it firmly planted into our heads and are sure that until the day is out we shall be humming it!!!

    the clips you include here are indeed interesting and the connection between songs and their historical origins fascinating. We always think it clever, too, how such famous songs are adapted to meet new situations. We shall indeed note this site and return at our leisure to enjoy!

  2. It does rather cast anchor, doesn't it!

    The song about the 17th regiment was, I think adapted during the 1917 mutinies, which bears out your point...but there's lots of other stuff there too.
    I wish I'd found this site before...sometimes there was a song in the back of my head that just could not be coaxed forward and this site does the trick.

  3. I adore Lena Horne -- and this has me feeling ever so good! I expect you got quite lost listening to all these songs and your own 'remembrances of things past'. The website sounds fascinating and with French dictionary in hand is one I shall be exploring. Many thanks...

    1. Yes, I spent a very happy evening with times past!

      There are lyrics to some of the clips...and in some cases lyrics only, but the website is a work of love...two passionate amateurs of the chanson I reckon you'll enjoy it.

  4. Great post, Fly and I've bookmarked that fantastic site for much future enjoyment. My French isn't perfect,,but I can catch enough to make it well worth listening.

    Thanks too for the Lena Horne clip. It's ages since I heard her and it's such a pleasure to listen to a singer who lets me hear every single word. :-)

    1. Yes, Lena Horne makes a great change from the modern mumble merchants, doesn't she?

      I think it's a site I'll be dipping into a lot, too. There is a mountain of information in there...

  5. Thanks for the link. Funny, I was just browsing YouTube yesterday for Le Temps des Cerises. There's a fantastic version by Yves Montand on Spotify

    1. Super site, isn't it?
      I can't get Spotify in Costa Rica!

  6. Wonderful tunes and just what you can imagine people singing all over the place. When I was at school our French teacher used to sing us songs of this type - we loved listening to them.

    1. I wish our French teacher had done so!
      I heard lots of stuff...on the bus, at get togethers, on the radio and to me the chanson francais forms part of the fabric of living in the country.

  7. Ah, lovely...Lena Horne. Enjoyed your blog.

    1. Thanks, Wren! I see you're another nostalgia fan...

  8. That post has set me thinking. We Brits do not seem to be so keen on historical singing. We seem to be more interested in singing about love or a lack of it!

  9. I may have given a false impression here, because these are songs which interest me!
    There's plenty about love and lack of it in the songs on the website.
    Though the British are, in my view, a far more romantic nation than the French!

    Though you've now set me thinking in my turn. At school we had traditional songs and a fair few historical pieces whose titles now elude me, but which included setting out for Agincourt, King Henry VIII going hunting - and not for Greensleeves - and of course the sea songs about showing the other nations the worth of English valour, etc usually at the mouth of a cannon.