A chanson song is, in general, any lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular. A singer specializing in chansons is known as a “chanteur” (male) or “chanteuse” (female); a collection of chansons, especially from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, is also known as a chansonnier. Wow, that sounds dull but, if you would like a far better definition of chanson then I can heartily recommend A Song Goes Round the World which I saw recently in the St James Theatre Studio.
The show was devised by singer Daniel Donskoy and Musical Director, Arranger and Pianist Inga Davis-Rutter and was a musical journey of 20th Century European Chansons. There were songs in German, French, Yiddish and Russian covering a period from the 1920s through to the 1950s. The songs are sung in the native language by Daniel who has a real stage presence and somehow makes every language he sings in sound like his native tongue. Along with guest vocalist Jackie Marks, Daniel had me wiping away a surreptitious tear twice during the show with his powerful rendition of ” A Yiddishe Mame” and Jackie’s equally strong performance of “Je Ne Regrette Rien”. Inga Davis-Rutter, can certainly tickle the ivories as they say and her breathtaking solo was a wonderful way to end the first act. You can tell her performance was great as the rest of the band – drums, Richard Burden and bass Jeremy Longley – clapped along with the rest of us.
Overall, A Song Goes Round the World or, in German Ein Lied geht um die Welt was a really enjoyable cabaret evening that was perfect for the intimate space of the St James Studio. As with opera, songs sound so much better in their native tongue and even though I speak no Yiddish or Russian and both my French and German pretty much stop at telling you my name and asking for a drink, it was always possible to get the gist of the song by the method of singing and the reaction of the highly appreciative audience. Daniel was very good at giving some background to each of the songs – either the composer or original artist – and my one minor criticism is that I would have liked to have had the English translation written in the programme, as I have spent some of this morning looking up the words to “Mein Kleiner Gruner Kaktus” – the lyrics of which are actually pretty funny.
All in all A Song Goes Round the World is a really enjoyable cabaret evening and if you get a chance to go and see it I would certainly recommend you do.
Review by Terry Eastham
16th May 2016
A Song Goes Round The World
Running Time:1 Hour 35 Minutes including interval
An odyssey through 20th Century European chansons. From the Russian Cabaret artist Alexander Vertinsky to Edith Piaff via the music of the Comedian Harmonists in the early 1930’s, Daniel Donskoy will perform German, Yiddish, French and Russian chansons accompanied by Inga Davis-Rutter and her trio.
Whilst Europe was fractured throughout big parts of the 20th century, chansons always spoke the language of the people from all corners of the continent. From life in the poor Parisian faubourgs to Yiddish theatre tales of loss and joy; Songs sung by Russian political prisoners of the Tsar to the wit of German Cabaret.