Little Girl Blue

from Nina Simone

With

  • bruno fontaine (piano)
  • & laurent kraif (percussions)

“There is one thing I am sure of : she moves you and enchants you beyond belief.
 But then we all know that.
What I also know is that her voice, and her song, go with her alone to a place from which none of us return unscathed.
What I do not know is the space she is in when suddenly I hear a Bach chorale or a Monteverdi madrigal. Allusions that typically she seems to keep tucked away and hidden deep in her songs.
Another mystery to me is where she is in those moments of seeming absence, when, seated at the harpsichord, she plays something that might be Couperin… keyboard and voice seemingly floating in from disconnected worlds, seeking each other, over and over, until, ultimately they are reunited by the simple melody of a nursery rhyme.
Then there are those moments of escape when she hurls herself at her keyboard and, like a tidal wave of harmony, sweeps everything away. As though her song has displaced, in one movement, all the incurable pain, anger and loneliness. All hers. All ours, too. Leaving us no choice.
So what is this place? Is it the place she comes from, the place she returns to? A place that goes back beyond her classical studies to where she first heard the church music of her childhood? Where her desire was born? The only place capable of reconciling her love of music with her underlying anger, rebellion, and muted pain?
What I do know is that it is her secret.
I have dived deep into her repertory, her arrangements, her harmonic universe and her story too. This project is about offering her the voice of my cello, supported and accompanied by the multi-faceted musicianship of Bruno Fontaine, and the infinite poetry of Laurent Kraif’s sounds.
Perhaps if I abandon myself to her, she will take me to the secret links between her and the composers she loved above all else.”

PROGRAMME
Black Swan • Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair • Hey, Buddy Bolden • Fodder On My Wings • Little Girl Blue • Images • Brahms / Bach: « Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele » Op. 122 n°5 You Can Have Him • I Wish I Knew How It Would To Be Free • Brown Baby • Come Ye • That’s All I Want From You • Stars • Rachmaninov, Sonata in G minor, Op.19 (andante) Return Home

ABOUT NINA SIMONE
“I often try to imagine you.
Age 4.
Playing by ear the hymn tunes you heard at church or Bach chorales.
Music is your first language. Your mother is a preacher. With African, Irish and Indian blood, her skin is paler than yours. I have no photo, so I can only picture her in my mind’s eye.

They say your whole family was so proud of you and people came from miles around to hear you play.
It was your father who got you into popular songs. Behind your mother’s back.
If I had seen your delight at your first piano lesson.
If I had seen you discovering a world of dreams.
If I had seen you drinking in your teacher’s words.
If I had heard the music running off your fingertips.
At the age of nine you are preparing your first concert. Your parents are asked to give up their seats to whites.
Is this where you first found about skin colour?
Is it your first contact with anger?
I don’t know.
Were you alone when you received your letter of rejection from the Curtis Institute of music?
It took you a while to understand.
But you could never admit.
Then came the bar in Atlanta.
Where you had no choice but to warm up your voice and revert to the songs you learned from your father as a child.
I would have come every evening to hear you sing. To hear you play, eyes closed, for this audience you hated.
To see you sculpting your style, inventing your language, going where you had not planned to go.
Then, little by little, you became the woman we recognise on the black and white photos. In your eyes there is always an enigma of loneliness.
You tell your mother that the girl with the dark voice causing such a sensation is in fact you.
On that day and forever, she turns her back on you.
She says you are playing devil music.
How did you get by?
If I had been at the Carnegie Hall in New York.
If I had heard you open your recital, playing Samson and Delilah to all those people who came to here you do I Loves You, Porgy.
I imagine you because I want to capture the strength you need to go your own way.
I heard Angela Davis tell how, when she was in jail, you took her a red balloon.
A balloon that she did her utmost to keep as long as possible in her cell.
A balloon like a piece of childhood that you keep secret to save yourself from the violence of the world.
You were born on February 21 1933 at Tryon in North Carolina.
Your name was Eunice Kathleen Waymon.
But you turned yourself into Nina Simone.”

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Artistic direction and cello : Sonia Wieder-Atherton
Piano and musical collaboration : Bruno Fontaine
Percussions and musical collaboration : Laurent Kraif
Lighting design : Franck Thévenon
Production for creation : Madamelune with the support of Adami
Photo credits : Xavier Arias
(2014)