REVIEWS & Articles

Bob Keefer, March 2015, www.eugenearttalk.com

Siri Vik may be at her best conveying madness. And it was divine madness that led off La Mome: Piaf 100, her vocal tribute to Edith Piaf, and wove itself in and out of the program tonight at Eugene’s Shedd Institute.

“I feel like I’ve fallen off the deep end,” she told the audience in a Piaf-like monologue as the show began. “It’s had the kind of effect on me, like I feel a little emotionally unbalanced.”

Vik, a Eugene singer whose career I’ve followed for years, has a background in opera and has occasionally tried her hand at jazz. But she’s at her artistic best — and this is saying something — working the rich collection of songs from the likes of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel, mid-20th century European cabaret singers.

Piaf, particularly, was a tragic figure in her personal life, and as Vik explained between songs, seemed to be constantly searching for a perfect love that was never to be found. Vik has had a fair share of ups and downs in her own life, and she excels at channeling love and suffering on stage through her music.

Friday’s show — which will be repeated Saturday evening and Sunday in a matinee — traced the career of Piaf, the French singer sometimes called the Little Sparrow, in three separate sets of songs, with two intermissions. Add in a fair amount of narration between the music — the Shedd is nothing if not educational in this regard — and the show stretched to nearly three hours.

That wasn’t a problem. The concert ended well before I was at all ready to let go of the splendid music. Vik can sing loud and forceful — that opera background — but she can also sing sweet and lyrical. She brought all her vocal and acting skills to play during the evening, sometimes standing tall before the audience and moving like a jerking marionette, and at other times kneeling or sitting close to the edge of the stage, turning the performance into an intimate conversation.

You don’t have to be a student or even a fan of Edith Piaf to appreciate this music. Most people will recognize at least some of the songs. La Vie en rose, with which Vik began to wind down the concert at the end of the third set, was Piaf’s trademark song, and just about everybody knows it.

Some songs will be familiar as well from their American adaptations.

Even the songs you don’t know it all will resonate. Les filles qui la nuit, which Vik translated as “the girls who give themselves to the night,” was a quiet, gorgeous poem; and Jezebel, a French adaptation of an American western song about a certain kind of gal, needs no translation at all.

Vik was backed nicely for the performance by a quintet headed up by Jesse Cloninger on reeds, with Nathalie Fortin, keyboards; Nick Hamel, guitar and banjo; Dusty Carlson, bass; and Adam Carlson, on drums.

The Shedd’s Jaqua Concert Hall is configured in cabaret style for the show, with the main floor given over to round tables, and somewhere around the beginning of the third set I actually began to imagine myself in a nightclub in Paris in 1940. Yes, the show is that good. Go see it.


Jennifer Kristiansen, 2010, www.registerguard.com

As the light came up onthe pianist and Siri Vik’s pitch-perfect soprano began, my heart shattered in the best possible way...I have never, in ten years of writing about music, been moved to tears by any of it. When people spoke of operas or classical pieces inspiring such a reaction, I thought it was hyperbole. Maybe I’ve just been listening to the wrong music, attending the wrong shows, all this time. I certainly look forward to Vik’s future performances.”


A Sparrow Takes Wing

Randi Bjornstad, March 5 2015,  www.registerguard.com

Vik devotes her latest show, which she presents three times this weekend, to the French singer who was born Édith Gassion but became known to her countrymen as La Môme Piaf, or Little Sparrow. The stage name was given by a nightclub owner, possibly because of her 4-foot, 8-inch stature.

Vik’s fascination with Piaf came in a roundabout way, starting with the “dark side” of early 20th century European music that she encountered during her years of graduate study at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

Vik was drawn especially to the collaborations of composer Kurt Weill and lyricist Bertolt Brecht. Six years ago, she turned that longtime interest into a recital of their music at the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts.

From there she discovered the French music of the same era, which gave rise to the cabaret music — and inimitable style — of Édith Piaf.

“Discovering the French songs really expanded my vision,” Vik said, “especially the way they set their lyrics, because they are so in love with their language. They draw on the ancient tradition of the populace having a voice and telling their story.”

Vik made an exploratory foray into the genre four years ago with a show of Piaf and Jacques Brel’s music.

It whetted her appetite for more.

“The French songs are very earthy but also existential,” she said. “They deal with the contradictions in life.

“They are like poetry, in a way that’s really profound but at the same time has its own context that doesn’t translate well into English.”

With the 100th anniversary of Piaf’s birth coming Dec. 19, Vik found herself “really diving back into her life story.”

“I was reading and learning so much about her, it galvanized me to go back and sing her music,” Vik said.

“It’s almost like she became more and more the songs she sang, especially in the last 10 years of her life.”

PATTERNS OF NEGLECT

Piaf was born in Paris to a French street-performer father and a mother with Italian and Moroccan heritage who was a cafe singer in Italy. She abandoned Piaf soon after birth.

When her father went off to fight in World War I in 1916, he took the baby to his mother, who ran a brothel in Normandy. In her early teens, still Édith Gassion, the girl rejoined her father as a street performer.

Piaf soon became romantically involved with another street performer, Louis Dupont. At 17, she gave birth to a daughter, whom she neglected in much the same way her mother had neglected her.

The child, named Marcelle but called Cécelle, died of meningitis at age 2. Piaf never had another child.

When she was 19, Édith Gassion came to the attention of a Paris nightclub owner. He trained her for the stage, promoted her and gave her the Little Sparrow moniker, which later was refined to Édith Piaf.

During the World War II occupation of France, Piaf continued to sing in nightclubs and brothels. After the war, she was investigated for possible collaboration with the enemy.

Piaf was not convicted. In fact, there were controverting stories that she had used her access during performances at prisoner of war camps to deliver forged documents to assist French prisoners to escape.

Piaf’s personal life was tumultuous, marred by tragic deaths of others she loved and a series of severe car accidents that left her addicted to morphine and alcohol.

She died at age 47 of liver cancer.

ROSE COLORED GLASSES

Piaf’s music has been used in the soundtracks of many Hollywood films, and many soloists and groups have recorded her songs on their own albums.

Piaf’s most famous song, “La Vie en Rose,” was written in 1945 and soon became an international sensation.

When she first took on Piaf’s repertoire, Vik said she shied away from some of the French singer’s greatest hits.

“But now I’m less afraid of doing that,” she said, “although I’m not trying to imitate her. These songs were hits for a reason — because they’re captivating.”

For her current show, Vik has retained three or four of the Piaf songs she sang from her earlier program “because they help to tell what are landmarks in Édith Piaf’s story.”

She’s also organized the concert into three cabaret-style sets, instead of two concert halves with an intermission.

Much of the seating in the Jaqua Concert Hall at The Shedd will be cabaret style. Small tables will fill the main floor of the Jaqua, much like the clubs where Piaf originally sang, Vik said.

“I like that, because I don’t want people to feel that they are stuck in their seats,” Vik said. “I want the atmosphere to be the way it would have been when Piaf was performing.”

Vik especially looks forward to singing one Piaf song that never became a “greatest hit.”

“It’s called ‘Hymn to Love,’ ” she said. “She wrote it for the love of her life, Marcel Cerdan, who died in an airplane crash in 1949.

"I cried when I read about that whole period in her life. I find that song very moving."


TRANSPORT YOURSELF TO A FRENCH CABARET, WITH SIRI VIK AND “LA VIE EN ROUGE”

Associated Press, January 17th, 2015, www.newslincolncounty.com

Like a smear of deep red lipstick against a clean white wall, Edith Piaf’s voice is perhaps the single most vivid impression the world holds of France and its music – especially through her exquisitely sad classic, “la vie en rose.” Piaf’s voice reverberates through the last century into the 21st, echoing the loves, losses, the quiet desperations, the boundless passions, the stories of a nation.

Edith Piaf would have turned 100 this year – and as a tribute to the work of Piaf and the chanson tradition, chanteuse Siri Vik has created the cabaret concert, “La Vie En Rouge.” This performance, featuring Vik accompanied by a quintet playing piano, accordion, melodica, guitar, bass and percussion, will come to the Lincoln City Cultural Center on Saturday, Jan. 31. Tickets for this Weekender Concert Series presentation are $18 in advance and $20 at the door, on sale now at lincolncity-culturalcenter.org. Showtime is 7 pm.

“Edith Piaf was, with her voice, expression and passion, the embodiment of a great fulcrum point in the grand and tender, ancient tradition of French popular song: the chanson. At the midway point of the 20th century, she was the culmination of generations of wild, sometimes tortured, and supremely artistic cabaret singers— women and men who dared to bring the grit and sensuality and sheer emotion of real life to the stage,” said Vik. “Piaf was warrior and a tramp. She lived large — dangerously and fearlessly, spiritually; on the edge of all the blessings and tragedies one life could hope to hold. We celebrate this life and this voice–a voice which spoke for so many.” Siri Vik’s cabaret “La Vie en Rouge,” like Piaf’s classic chanson “La Vie en Rose,” celebrates all that is bold and raw, grand and nostalgic, tender and beautiful in the music and memory of Edith Piaf and the greatest of the French chansonniers.


Elizabeth Lorish, March 2015, www.registerguard.com

Saturday night, my husband and I enjoyed a memorable evening at the Shedd, listening to Siri Vik channel Edith Piaf in a show called,” La Mome: Piaf 100.” It was such a beautiful and powerful experience, we both wept, laughed and joined the audience in spellbound and mesmerized delight.

We first heard Vik perform Piaf several years ago and were equally enchanted. Another equally impressive concert featured the German composer, Kurt Weill and lyricist, Bertolt Brecht. Vik is gifted in presenting the existential angst, political confusion and spiritual yearning of pre-war Europe in the 20’s and 30’s.

This was a new show in honor of Edith Piaf's 100th birthday. It was heartbreaking and uplifting, as well as informative. Vik included several slide shows of Piaf and her contemporaries, anecdotes about Piaf's life, historical perspective, as well as interpretations and explanations of each songs. This could have felt like a boring college lecture, but Vik’s stage presence and compelling presentation held the audience at all times. She commanded the stage with wisdom, humor and elegance. Vik was accompanied by a very competent five piece band, consisting of Nathalie Fortin (piano), Jesse Cloninger (reeds), Nick Hamel (guitar), Dusty Carlson (bass) and Adam Carlson (drums). Their instrumental arrangements supported the passion of the soloist and was true to the genre. I was especially moved by a few of Cloninger’s haunting saxophone solos and the addition of Fortin’s occasional accordion accompaniments.

The Shedd was set up like a cabaret, with small tables and candle light. Wine and soft drinks were available. It would have been nice to have some cheese and freshly sliced baguettes to enhance the French theme of the evening. None the less, we could easily have been in a cabaret in France in the 30's and 40's. But we were here in Eugene, just minutes from our homes!

The show was divided into three sets, with two short intermissions. Since it was the 100th Anniversary of Edith Piaf, Vik included many of her most famous Chansons. The show began and ended with Milord, and included such hits as L’Accordeoniste, Mon Manage a Moi, Padam Padam and Hymne a L’amour. At the end of the last set, Vik pulled out all the stops with La Foule (Autumn Leaves), La Vie en Rose and her piece de resistance, Non, Je Ne Regrete Rien. Although I don’t speak French, I understood every word with Vik’s careful translations, explanations and interpretations.

Because of this program, I intend to, once again, dig out my first year Rosetta Stone French tapes. What a beautiful language! What beautiful music! Siri Vik's shows are sophisticated, emotionally powerful and musically profound. While she is worthy of any international venue, she has chosen to return to Eugene, where she grew up. That is very lucky for all of us.


CELEBRATING EDITH PIAF'S 100TH BIRTHDAY WITH SIRI VIK

By Eric Alan, March 6, 2015, KLCC

As the 100th birthday of French vocalist Edith Piaf nears, Siri Vik presents La Mome: Piaf 100--three evenings of song honoring her music and life. It will be in a cabaret-style setting, as many of Piaf’s own performances were. Siri Vik’s performance will be in the Jacqua Concert Hall of the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts in Eugene, Friday through Sunday, March 6th through 8th. Siri Vik joins Eric Alan in the KLCC studios.