Freré Jaques is not the only French song that English men and women know!
Having expressed trepidations in listing Maori music, I admit to having even greater trepidations when considering the closeness of my Gallic neighbours! At least the Maoris are half a world away from me in Germany. Most of the listed French songs were all acquired from popular German songbooks and that coupled with my appalling atrocious French (my English/Worcestershire accent being as thick congealed lead dumplings) the outcome must be compellingly doubtful. French being the first foreign language acquired as an 11-year old schoolboy had something quite "classy" about it, especially with a working-class background. With my at that time new won knowledge, the then very popular Charles Trenet song, La Mer
, a hit in the late 1940's and heard constantly on steam radio, took on a larger-than-life meaning. A little later whilst listening clandestinely, late at night when I should have been asleep, to Edith Piaf
, who I somehow imagined to look like Brigitte Bardot, on good old Radio Luxembourg brought me to the conclusion than "chansons" were not only "classy" but quite special.
Be all that as it may, I did have the opportunity of "singing" most of them to an odd couple (a middle-aged Irishman married to a middle-aged Frenchwoman on their first visit to Germany in 1996) who managed to get themselves lost in Vegesack and who landed up in Treppchen
hosted by Rolf Gawehn
. I think they were so bemused by the whole affair they weren't especially critical. They only recognised "Sur le pont d'Avignon", the other songs being unknown to them. I will probably have to wait for another 3 years before having another bash.
Geoff Grainger, Bremen-Vegesack, January 2001