When I was a child Maurice Chevalier was the TV’s favourite Grandad figure. His signature song ‘’Thank Heaven’’ was often sung around the house and the melody picked out on the digital piano. In his early years he worked on various jobs including a carpenter’s apprentice electrician and printer. Chevalier was performing in a café when his talent was first spotted:
Chevalier was noted for his landmark dress code of boater and tuxedo. He was equally as smart in his choice of socialites and his rubbings with those in the right circles got his talent recognised. From a young boy in Paris to a more mature act at the Palace Theatre in London he had made the big time.
As his stage presence grew Chevalier started to tour the USA. He starred in talkie films including ‘Love In The Afternoon’ and ‘Livin’ In The Sunlight, Lovin’ In The Moonlight’.
‘Thank Heaven’ For That
The original theme tune from the 1958 musical Gigi was performed with a full orchestral line-up and sung by Chevalier. Although Loewe’s scoring is never in doubt, this melody has also been transcribed for digital piano. When the orchestral sounds are rendered down you can hear the harmonies more clearly. It can be played in a less strict more rubato style that I think is more appropriate to the mood of the piece.
Yes – I Remember Him Well
One of my favourites ‘I Remember It Well’ from Gigi sparks memories of Chevalier singing with his trademark improvised air throughout the song. Again, the spoken word with a heavy French accent adds a certain finesse to the performance as Hermione Gingold carries the duet to its conclusion as a well-to-do courtesan.
Every Body Wants To Be An Aristicat
Despite being in retirement Chevalier starred in the 1971 Disney Title track of ‘The Aristocats’. The introduction to the song starts with an upbeat accordion sound played on the digital piano. The off-beat tempo is fast and full of energy. Chevalier uses the spoken word to deliver the storyline – his ‘put on’ heavy French accent giving the piece buoyancy and enhancing the animation process – ‘naturalment’.
A Full Circle
This was to be Maurice Chevalier’s last contribution to the film industry. He had lived for the stage since he was first spotted singing and dancing in a Parisian café. He had come full circle and died in Paris in January 1972 at the age of 83.
Ah yes… I remember him well.