Symphonic Sessions 2 – Ooh la la
Emer/Piaf J’m’en fous pas mal (1946)
Milhaud Suite Op.157b – Jeu (1936)
Lili Boulanger Nocturne, ILB10 No. 2 (1911)
Satie Gymnopédie No. 1, IES26 No. 1 (1888)
Gould Benny’s Gig – VI, Calypso; VII, Jaunty (1962)
Khachaturian Clarinet Trio in G minor – Allegro (1932)
Louiguy/Piaf La vie en rose (1947)
Gilles Les trois cloches (1940)
Tiersen Amélie – Comptine d’un autre été (2001)
Debussy Première rhapsodie, ICD73 (1909-10)
Gershwin Shall We Dance – Walking the Dog (1937)
Stravinsky L’Histoire du soldat, Suite – Tango, Valse, Ragtime; Danse du diable (1919)
Tormé/Wells The Christmas Song (1945)
Glanzberg/Contet Padam, padam… (1951)
Gabrielle Ducomble (singer), Oliver Janes (clarinet), Colette Overdijk (violin), Julian Atkinson (double bass), James Keefe (piano)
Hockley Social Club, Birmingham
Thursday 2 December 2021
Written by Richard Whitehouse Photos courtesy of Hannah Fathers
It might not have featured the eponymous song from John Cale, but this ‘Ooh la la’ certainly had more than its share of surprises in among the entertainment. The artistic and commercial success of the first Symphonic Sessions event held back in October meant that its successor, once again co-presented by Hockley Social Club (a beacon of light in the dreary surrounding of Newtown) and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, would not be long in coming. Soon enough for this to have taken on anticipations of Christmas in its overall aura, and with a cabaret element provided by Belgian chanteuse Gabrielle Ducomble, whose cover-versions of Édith Piaf have previously (and rightly) attracted widespread plaudits. The stage, or raised platform towards the centre of the venue, was ready for another varied and enjoyable evening.
The first set duly got off to a striking start with Michel Emer’s J’m’en fous pas mal, Gabrielle Ducomble bringing out the world-weariness of lyrics which Piaf all too easily made her own; and to which Jeu, third movement of Milhaud’s Suite for clarinet, violin and piano, provided a vivacious foil. The evocative poise of Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne was elegantly conveyed by Colette Overdijk, then James Keefe drew surprising nuances from electric piano for the first of Satie’s Gymnopédies. Oliver Janes and Julian Atkinson enjoyed putting two numbers from Morton Gould’s suite Benny’s Gig through their paces, the central scherzo of Khachaturian’s Clarinet Trio most engaging with its alternate vigour and suavity. Ducomble’s take on Louis Guglielmi’s La vie en rose, Piaf’s signature-song, brought this set to a warmly eloquent close.
After a ‘dessert interlude’, the second set found Ducomble leaving her mark on Jean Villard Gilles’s Les trois cloches (a Piaf song introduced to a new generation by Tina Arena), before the ‘Theme’ from Yann Tiersen’s music for the film Amélie injected an appealing whimsy. A sure highlight was Janes’s rendering of Debussy’s Première rhapsodie, sensuous and poetic by turns, then perfectly complemented by the coy jauntiness of Gershwin’s Walking the Dog (aka Promenade). Four dance pieces from the suite for violin, clarinet and piano arranged by Stravinsky from L’Histoire du soldat received an incisive response, then Ducomble offered a soulful take on Mel Tormé’s evergreen The Christmas Song. The faux affirmation of Norbert Glanzberg’s Padam, Padam… saw this Piaf-centred programme to its gently fatalistic ending.
Probably the only thing not really evident over the course of this evening was the ‘‘specially dressed bohemian finery of a rather festive feeling Hockley Social Club’’ as was detailed on the promotional flyer, but no matter. The reaction from a capacity house was never less than enthusiastic – doubtless abetted by the variety of food and drink (including another designer cocktail) available, with DJ sets from Pritt Kalsi which enhanced the ambience between the live music-making. Incidentally, those who enjoyed Gabrielle Ducomble’s singing can hear her in residence at London’s Brasserie Zédel in the final week of December, and Symphonic Sessions will be back in action sometime next spring – now established as an attraction well beyond the confines of B19 and likely to remain so throughout 2022, and hopefully beyond.