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Bing Crosby Sings About Paris

Bing Crosby (1903-1977) sings mainly in French about Paris in this wonderful album. Crosby recorded the album in Paris on May 16, 1953. The orchestrations were by Paul Durand (1907-1977) who wrote Je suis seule ce soir which is in the soundtrack of Midnight in Paris. Crosby’s accent isn’t great but it really doesn’t matter. The love comes through.

As best I can tell, this album is available on Spotify but not on Apple Music.

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France and Germany to Build New Jet Fighter

Seventy-five years after the end of German occupation of Paris, France and Germany have agreed to work together to build a new jet fighter to protect Europe. France and Germany are each expected to contribute €77 million ($83 million) to the project.

It’s nice to see two former enemies now work together militarily. Where would Europe be without the EU?

Source: DW

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The Far Right: Now Normal in Europe?

K. Biswas writing for The New York Times:

The taboo on the far right in government has been comprehensively broken: Mainstream parties appear happy to cooperate with those once considered “toxic.” Nativist representatives have been invited into ruling coalitions in Denmark, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands to act as support partners for traditional conservatives unable to win parliamentary majorities. No longer derided or dismissed by their mainstream rivals, far-right parties now show themselves capable of winning nationwide elections. Last year France’s National Rally, Italy’s League and Britain’s Brexit Party won the most votes in their countries’ elections to the European Parliament.

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Chagall’s America Windows

Marc Chagall’s America Windows, Art Institute of Chicago (2020)

Marc Zakharovich Chagall, born Moishe Zakharovich Shagal, (1887 –1985) was a Russian-French artist of Belarusian Jewish origin.

Chagall visited Chicago in the early 1970s to install his mural The Four Seasons, and at that time was inspired to create a set of stained glass windows for the Art Institute of Chicago. Chagall made the windows a tribute to the American Bicentennial, and in particular the commitment of the United States to cultural and religious freedom.The windows appeared prominently in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Chagall fled Nazi-occupied France in 1941 for the United States where he remained until 1948 when he returned to France. He died in France in 1985.

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‘Museum Diplomacy’ as New Pompidou Center Opens in Shanghai – The New York Times

Situated along the banks of the Huangpu River on Shanghai’s version of Museum Mile, the new outpost is a collaboration with the West Bund Group, a Chinese state-owned development corporation that together with the local government has reportedly invested more than $3 billion in recent years to transform a former industrial neighborhood into a 7-mile waterfront cultural corridor.

‘Museum Diplomacy’ as New Pompidou Center Opens in Shanghai – The New York Times
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Music: New Johnny Hallyday Album

A newly released Johnny Hallyday album called “Johnny” is out. Hallyday — often called the “French Elvis” — had a 57 year career during which he released 79 albums and sold more than 110 million records worldwide. He died in 2017 at the age of 74. He sang beautifully.

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Music: Stacey Kent

Stacey Kent is an American jazz singer with a glorious voice. She was born in 1965 in New Jersey and is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. Her paternal was a grandfather Russian who grew up in France and later moved to the United States where he taught Kent French. Once she learned French, it was the only language she spoke with her grandfather. Kent travelled to England after college to study music in London, where she met saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, whom she married in 1991.

I have the impression Kent is better known in France than in the United States. Her album Raconte-moi was recorded in French and became the second best selling French language album worldwide in 2010.

Kent has also faced serious health challenges. In a 2004 interview with Robert Kaiser of The Washington Post, Kent recounted that she’s been in comas three times caused by brainstem encephalitis:

Each time, baffled doctors were not certain they could bring her back. The last coma was in 1999, and Tomlinson nursed her through it. On doctors’ advice, he brought records to her hospital room. When she awoke he was playing Mildred Bailey, one of the great jazz singers of the ’30s. “There’s just so much emotion in that voice,” Kent says. “It’s a cry — even when she’s singing a happy song.”

I love Stacey Kent’s music and recently discovered this marvelous 2018 interview en français with her. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes and Overcast.

You can listen to Stacey Kent’s sublime voice on Spotify or iTunes. She also has a lovely website worth exploring.

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Book Review: ‘Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light’

I stumbled across Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light while preparing to visit Paris again, a city I have loved for almost 40 years. The author, David Downie, is an American who has lived in Paris since 1986. He loves Paris deeply and knows it far better than I do.

The walk begins at France’s gigantic national library — Bibliothèque nationale de France. This is the largest library I have ever seen; it houses 15 million books and journals. It is located near the Métro station Bibliothèque François Mitterrand right along the Seine. But not much else is nearby. The location feels desolate, modern and suburban, although the library remains within Paris’s Périphérique or beltway.

However, it was unclear to me from reading the book where the walk ended so I emailed the author who cheerfully responded with the details and even suggested a nice, reasonably priced restaurant for lunch right along the walk. The restaurant is La Fregate and is at the only spot on the walk where you have to go up to the sidewalk from the river. Downie describes the restaurant as “cozy, friendly, insiderish, welcoming — and the service — efficient, discreet and unusually chummy for Paris.”

© David H. Enzel

I watched the city transform from stark, modern suburbs and eventually came upon Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower and on to its terminus at the Pont Mirabeau. I will never forget Le Pont Mirabeau after reading Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem in high school. The poem breaths life and love into the bridge. Seeing Le Pont Mirabeau at the end of this day-long walk was special. The entire walk was about 10 km or 6.2 miles. The transformations within that short distance speak volumes about Paris.

On top of the wonderful details that make Paris come to life, Downie’s prose shows a love and mastery of the English language that I appreciate. This gem of a book will teach you so much about Paris and make you want to return again and again or go to Paris and remain as Downie has.

At Downie’s suggestion, I also visited Buttes Chaumont park which is even more impressive than Mr. Downie describes. He knows Place des Vosges like the back of his hand so that chapter is exceptional.

On top of the wonderful details that make Paris come to life, Downie’s prose shows a love and mastery of the English language. This gem of a book will teach you about Paris and make you want to return again and again. It may even motivate you to go there and remain as Downie has.

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Michel Legrand 1932 – 2019

I have enjoyed Michel Legrand’s beautiful music for as long as I can remember.

The New York Times reports that he:

recorded more than 100 albums, with such disparate stars as Maurice Chevalier (for whom he worked as an accompanist early in his career), Kiri Te Kanawa, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne and Barbra Streisand. Others who recorded his music ranged from Frank Sinatra to Sting.

Michel Legrand, hommage on Spotify