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Bonjour Monsieur Brel – beautiful, haunting and inspiring

Jaques Brel Alive and Living in Paris was a soundtrack to my childhood.  Even as a small child the passion of the music left an indelible spiritual imprint.  I almost forgot the music, you never hear his songs on the radio.  I didn’t know that Seasons in the Sun was based on his Le Moribond (The dying man).  The original lyrics differ, the meaning amplified with that unique Jacques Brel wry wit.

Le Moribond

Goodbye Emile I liked you very much
Goodbye Emile I liked you very much you know
We have sung about the same wine
We have sung of the same women
We have sung about the same miseries
Goodbye Emile I am going to die
It’s hard to die in the springtime you know
But I leave the flowers and peace in my soul
And because I know you’re as good as white bread
I know that you’ll take care of my wife
Chorus:
I want them to laugh, I want them to dance
I want them to have fun like crazy people
I want them to laugh I want them to dance
when they put me in the hole
Goodbye priest I liked you very much
Goodbye priest I liked you very well you know
We did not always agree about views and we weren’t on the same path
But we were searching for the same port
Goodbye priest I’m going to die
It’s hard to die in the spring you know
I leave the flowers and the beauty, peace in my soul
And knowing that you are her confidante
I know that you will take care of my wife
Goodbye Antoine I didn’t like you very much
Goodbye Antoine I didn’t like you very much you know
And it’s killing me to die today knowing that you are still so alive
And yet still as solid as boredom
Goodbye Antoine I’m going to die
It’s hard to die in the spring you know
I leave the flowers and the beautiful peace in my soul
And because I know that you were her lover
I know that you will take care of my wife
Goodbye my wife I love you very much
Goodbye my wife I love you very much you know
I must take the train for the good Lord
I’m taking the train that leaves before yours
But we all must take the trains that we can
Goodbye my wife I’m going to die
It is hard to die in the springtime you know
But I’m leaving the flowers and my eyes are shut, my wife
And because I realize that they were shut often
I know that you will take care of my soul

Belgian born Jaques Brel sang in French, Dutch and English.  In the stage production Bonjour Monsieur Brel, Jannie du Toit sings and plays guitar.  His expressive countenance imparts all which is between the lines, transcending words and language.  Susan Mouton on cello plays haunting accompaniment, I would pay even just to listen to her.  Chanie Jonker on piano and accordion completed the ensemble, her dancing fingers mesmerise.  There is not much speaking in the production but between songs Jannie reads some words of Jacques Brel or shares interpretation and insights into the lyrics.  Few words but so much food for thought, seeds in the mind on tenderness, beauty, life and more.

Jaques Brel died too young at 49 but he lived in the fullness of creative genius.  He may no longer be Alive, well and living in Paris but he is immortal though his music.  His work inspired many greats including David Bowie.

If you are in Jo’burg I highly recommend that you see the show and emerse yourself in an experience which left me feeling ‘This is what life is about’.  I was blessed to share the evening with my friend Karin who plays piano and guitar, and has studied French.  We left elevated and enriched.  You can book at Computicket or through the Auto & General Theatre on the square.  The show is running until 22 March 2018.

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2 comments

  1. Would love to attend this! My aunt used to take us to shows of Daniele Pascal, and this looks like the same kind of entertainment.

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