Improbably Brassens

The Eilat Chamber Music Festival features an intriguing mix of genres

(photo credit: GUILLAUME LONG)
The Eilat Chamber Music Festival will celebrate its bar mitzva year down south February 7 to 10. The majority of the lineup features works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Ravel, Dvorak and Mahler, as well as more contemporary offerings by 20th-century French composer Henri Dutilleux and 55-year-old Israeli conductor, composer and pianist Benjamin Yusupov.
However, the four-day program also includes several slots from outside the confines of the classical domain, such as the Alon Choir presenting a varied repertoire with excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem, an arrangement of David Zehavi’s Hachalil (The Flute) by Menachem Wiesenberg, and jazz standard “Darn That Dream.”
There will also be an intriguing interface among classical music, swing and Latin vibes at the Mozart Meets Cuba concert on the last day of the festival. The front liner roster takes in the likes of choir and period instrument orchestra Ensemble Pygmalion from France; German bass vocalist Tomas Bauer; Romanian pianist Daniel Ciobanu; and Mexican piano twosome Duo Petrof.
The “extramural” side of the fourdayer also takes in a fun lyrical overseas duo show with French double bass player-vocalist Pauline Dupuy joining forces with Parisbased British guitarist Michael Wookey. They will present Dupuy’s Contrebrassens show, which revisits songs by Georges Brassens, one of France’s most iconic chansonniers, who died in 1981. As Dupuy is only 37, she doesn’t have any memories of her own of hearing Brassens’s music, let alone seeing him perform on stage. “I discovered his music really late through friends of mine,” she says. “I love the poetry and how he tells stories. I wanted to try to sing the songs, and I just fell in love with it. He writes the melody so well.”
It was this newfound penchant that led to Dupuy’s taking on a new line of artistic expression.
“I started singing because of Brassens,” she explains. “I had never sung on stage before.”
And the bass player does a fine job with the material too, and she brings something of her own to the scores and lyrics. For starters, she’s of a different gender than Brassens, and she comes from a different time and mindset.
Dupuy says she was not looking just to replicate Brassens. She wanted to bring something of her own to the interpretational fray and to draw new audiences to the music. That was very much her line of thought when she and Wookey began performing and then recording together. They first met when Wookey was looking for some musicians to complement the instrumental backdrop to an album he was recording. He and Dupuy hit it off musically, and one thing led to another, and to Contrebrassens.
“I accompanied him on his music, and then he started to accompany me, and then we decided to mix our music and have what we called L’improbable duo – the Improbable Duo.” That, says Dupuy, offered them the best of two worlds.
“In France it’s very interesting because we can maybe bring the music to older people who don’t really want to listen to English music, and also bring Brassens to younger people who perhaps think that Brassens is a bit old. It’s really a nice mix between us,” she reasons.
Dupuy is not the first to rework Brassens’s songs by a long shot, although the majority of projects based on his material have been translations into other languages, with the concomitant adjustments in terms of the textual and musical flow. In Israel, for example, Yossi Banai did a fine job with Hebrew versions of the some of the Frenchman’s songs around 30 years ago.
The Contrebrassens act has been on the road for eight years now and has been through several permutations.
“I started out solo, and then Michael joined me,” Dupuy notes, adding that there are more plans afoot for a principal professional vehicle.
“Last week I was working with brass instruments, and we now have a quartet. It’s great to develop this and to enjoy it so much,” she says.
Although the brass players will not be joining Dupuy and Wookey in Eilat, there will be some fun textural augmentation to the double bass-vocals-guitar substratum.
“Michael also plays toy piano and toys,” says Dupuy, although she says the sonic plaything lineup has yet to be finalized. “We won’t have all the toys because we can’t travel with all of them. I think it will fun for us and for the audience.”
Dupuy and Wookey will perform on February 9 at 11:45 p.m.
For tickets and more information: (08) 637-7036 and (08) 644-4816 and
For accommodation inquiries, call*5450 or 1-700-505-080 or go to