REVIEW: Beautiful French blues at the Georgian Theatre

By Guy Carpenter

Maggi Stratford (vocals) and Daniel Bowater (piano, guitar and accordion) performed an evening of French song at the Georgian Theatre Royal last night.

Edith Piaf started the night and was a common theme who cropped up in various ways in the lives of the other musicians featured: in between songs, Stratford gave precise little history lessons and background on the musicians and the time and place that they were created and performed in. During these periods she was quite still and quiet, but as soon as she started singing she became animated, with a voice that perfectly captured the feel and poetry of those whose words she sang.

Bowater provided wonderful musicianship in accompaniment, switching effortlessly (“transmogrifying” according to Stratford) between his three instruments.

The combined effect of both of them was beautiful, but certainly not cheerful: song after song about hardship and heartbreak and loss. Just as the audience seemed to be on the verge of tears, Stratford promised “a more cheerful one in a few minutes”. The “cheerful one” turned out to be cheerful only if you didn’t pay attention to the lyrics.

Stratford recommended the audience smuggle in glasses of wine after the interval to help the mood.

The second half had a few more accordion pieces, turning slightly jazzy and bluesy, and Stratford suggested the audience get up and dance if the mood took them. Nobody did, but there was some discernible swaying from several people.

It was an atmospheric evening of beautiful music, and as fantastic as it was in the surroundings of the Georgian Theatre, maybe Richmond needs a specialised venue for such music, with a bar, dance floor, and subdued neon lighting, where people can come and get blue in serious style.

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