Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016: Melanie Gall sings Piaf and Brel

Melanie Gall has made a profit at the Fringe this year. She did the same last year with the song she brought to Fringe 2015. That in itself was enough to make my eyes pop out. Everyone needs a little something up their sleeves to hook the unsuspecting in when they’re talking about their show.

This year Canadian soprano is back at the Fringe with an homage to the music of Jacque Brel and the songs that made Edith Piaf a star.

Such has been the popularity of Melanie Gall’s show at the Fringe this year that when I chanced my arm for a last-minute ticket the only seat available was at the back next to the technician.

I was glad of it. Melanie’s passion for her musical hero and heroine is evident. She peppers her set with an account of how she was inspired by the music she sings, as well as the highs, lows and bits in between of Piaf’s and Brel’s lives.

Considering I knew nothing of Jacque Brel earlier today (something I admitted to in the podcast in which I met her) Gall proves something cynical media-types often dismiss: honesty, enthusiasm and passion are a good foundation for advocacy of a particular genre. I wish I’d come to Edinburgh before now; I may well have found the kindred spirits I’d been searching for online.

Throughout the programme Melanie exuded an endearing sense of excitement, beaming with pride. She is an utterly charming performer. I would definitely like to see her build on her act, incorporate a live instrumentation from say a battered old upright piano and a double bass, and have the audience sat at round tables. For this music she wants to be a late night billing. It’s a late night, end of the day, kind of programme.

That isn’t a back-handed compliment. Quite the opposite, in fact. After only a few days at the Fringe I’ve concluded that the best way one can show engagement is to show you want more.

On that basis, I’m going to punch a little higher. She doesn’t need the audience participation for Non, je ne regrette rien – she has the tools at her disposal to deliver the song herself, something I’d much prefer. If you go and she encourages you to sing, just to refuse and insist you want to hear her dulcet tones. Piaf’s signature song may be a daunting prospect, but I imagine that facing the fear (if there is any) and nailing it must promise the most tantalising of fixes.

A touching rendition of Brel’s La chanson des vieux amants followed soon after, taking me to a place I wasn’t expecting emotionally. This is evidently the song which means the most to her.

Melanie loves this repertoire and that makes being in her company an absolute joy. Keep an eye on her. I reckon she’ll back .

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