Paris – the city of romance; French – the language of love:
Whether you’re getting married in France or just want to bring a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your nuptials, here are four different ways to make you go ‘Ooh la la…’
La Chanson Française
With his inimitable warbling, nonchalant style, Charles Tremet’s La Mer epitomises the French chanson. Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Robbie Williams and the surprisingly good Kevin Spacey have all had a go at the English version ‘Beyond the Sea’, but the Version Originale surpasses all pretenders. For me you just can’t substitute the imagery of moutons blancs, but maybe I’m an incurable romantic…
There’s nothing more à la Française than La Vie en Rose by Edith Piaf and it’s just perfect for such a romantic occasion. Expect an impromptu sing-a-long wherever you are.
Another 1930’s classic, Plaisir d’Amour always reminds me of Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis, but no connection has been legitimately established between the two; really? Ask a copyright lawyer…
A beloved jazz standard and rather French in origin, Autumn Leaves/Les Feuilles Mortes by Jacques Prevert/Joseph Kosma may be a little melancholic – more about lost than new love – but is another number guaranteeing audience participation, especially towards the end of your cocktail hour…
Whatever you do, don’t overlook Ne me quittes pas by Jacques Brel. His yearning, almost desperate delivery cannot be surpassed – ‘Don’t leave me,’ he implores. With a voice like that? Jamais Jacques, jamais…
A Modern Take
My absolute favourite in this list, although actually by an American and not a French band Pink Martini, Sympathique may not have a traditional wedding song sentiment (I just want to forget him, and then smoke…), but it’s undeniably French in feel – so much so that French workers have adopted it as an anthem when on strike! (Je ne veux pas travailler = I don’t want to work…)
A true early 20th Century classic, the simple and charming Parlez-moi d’Amour has been seductively covered by Piaf, Dalida and Juliette Greco. For a contemporary sound which remains true to the Lucienne Boyer original version, try the Linda Ronstadt/Ann Savoy duet.
With real French credentials, Pour que tu m’aimes encore was penned by Jean-Jacques Goldman, and sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, making it one of Canadian songbird Celine Dion’s most successful French language songs. Their duet has a certain frisson too…
I could be pushing it here, but Michelle by The Beatles falls into the category of ‘songs incorporating random French lyrics’ and if all else fails, it’s a nod in the right direction…
The Classical Touch
De rigeur for your ceremony ‘cellist, Le Cygne (The Swan) by Saint-Saëns is one of the most famous classical romantic pieces, and at only 3 minutes is perfect for a processional.
Not really French, but qualifying (obviously) because of it’s title and also as it was written as an engagement present for his fiancé, Elgar’s Salut d’Amour conjures up warm summers days lazing on plaid throws and sipping chilled champagne from a picnic hamper – well it does for me anyway.
Arguably Debussy’s most famous piano piece, Clair de Lune has been arranged for practically every combination of instruments imaginable, rendering it perfect for a live performance. With its gently drifting sostenuto melody, who could fail to be transported to the scene of a romantic moonlit assignation?
There are so many romantic French operatic classics to choose from it is difficult to know where to begin – but surely one must always end with this gem from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers? Goosebumps every time…
For the Showbiz Couple
For the perfect crossover, try Come What May. Originally intended for the soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, it eventually found fame in his cinematic classic Moulin Rouge and has been covered by crossover greats like Il Divo, Lesley Garrett/Michael Ball and Kathryn Jenkins/Placido Domingo to name-drop but a few. What could be finer?
Love musical theatre? Why not have one of the iconic female leads I Dreamed a Dream -made (in)famous by SuBo – or the beautiful On My Own from Les Misérables? (Just don’t listen too closely to the lyrics…)
Or what about the increasingly popular Bring Him Home skillfully covered by The Piano Guys? It always reminds me of the beautiful Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly – just don’t go with the Russell Crowe version, you know what I mean, right?
Currently trending in the #pseudofrenchsongs category is, bien sûr, Lady Marmalade. Whether you’re Team Moulin Rouge or Team Patti LaBelle, what could be more appropriate? Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? Oooh la la! (Et Bonne Nuit…)