Christine answers the phone with a wonderfully husky voice. One that would not be out of place, you’d imagine, in the jazz music halls of 1920s Paris. An era to which she is inexorably drawn…
Her show ‘Christine Bovill’s Piaf’ garnered a swathe of five star reviews. In 2017 she picked up ‘The Spirit of the Fringe Award’ for her next show, ‘Christine Bovill’s Paris’ and it is this one that she will bring to the Lochwinnoch Arts Festival this March. We caught up with Christine this month for a quick chat…
Q. You seem very drawn musically to this era. What is it about this time and place that inspires you?
It was an old family friend, knowing of my love for old music, who suggested I listen to a record. I was 14 and the record was Edith Piaf. This was where it all began. I started to listen to more and more. I loved the Paris scene; I just fell in love with the music. But I HATED French. I loathed it at school! This story is actually a huge part of the Piaf show.
It wasn’t just the music, you see, I became obsessed with the language and culture. This album just opened a whole world to me; the world of Paris that I wanted to inhabit. It made me obsessively try to understand the occasional word or phrase and then kind of in spite of myself, I just started working harder and harder at French at school and I ended up doing a degree in French… and I err became a French teacher! [Que more wonderful laughing]
You might be forgiven for thinking that Christine Bovill’s Piaf is some sort of impersonation, but as Christine explains:
It makes it tricky sometimes, people think I’m gonnae don a wig and little black dress and go on as Piaf, but it’s not that at all! I pay homage to her, but it’s my story really.
Her Piaf show evolved out of a mistake. Every night she brought musicography notes on stage, however, one night when she went to grab them she realised what she had in fact brought along were the driving directions to the gig. She says triumphantly,
From that moment on, it kinda steered with its own soul.
People who are Piaf fans know her life story, you see. What is more interesting is what she means to me and how a girl from Glasgow is up there doing a show in French. So I just decided to tell my story that night and it took off from there.
The Paris show that we’re doing in Lochwinnoch is similar. We’re talking about the era and about these icons. Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet, Piaf and others. I deliberately choose songs that were big hits in both English and French.
Q. Do you see any similarities between teaching and your current career as a performer and songwriter?
You give all your creative energy away when you’re teaching, so juggling the two meant I had nothing left to channel into my singing. But there is a huge part of ‘performing’ when you are dealing with ‘spirited’ kids high school aged kids in Glasgow. They don’t want to speak to you in English nevermind French!
Having watched many youtube clips of Christine now, I can fully assert that knowing French is not a prerequisite for these shows. Just as she was moved emotionally as a 14-year-old, listing to her icon, Piaf, you cannot fail to be moved when watching Christine. She has the ability to communicate with the audience through her incredible voice which somehow transcends language to the very heart of a song. Not to be missed.
Christine Bovill’s Paris is on at the McKillop Centre on Thursday 19th March.