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The Rive Gauche, the Left Bank (of the Seine in Paris) came to Loch Awe recently, with the arrival of Les Trois Blondes.
Despite the name, suggesting three fair-haired mademoiselles, the performers took their name from the more literal translation – three pints of lager – la biere blond!
The trio, comprising John Burns (lead accordion), George Burns, his brother (second accordion) and Fergus Wood (drums and compere) specialise in the “bal musette”, the traditional café music of Paris.
Originating in the Auvergne in the Massif Central, it found its home in Paris between the first and second world wars. Originally played on traditional French pipes, the accordion took over with the arrival of Italian immigrants to Paris in the 1930s.
The style suits itself both to the background of the café, as well as the dance hall. Les Trois Blonds played a varied set of waltzes, polkas and foxtrots, the Burns brothers each demonstrating their virtuosity on the box. Among the highlights was their version of C’est Si Bon! – It’s So Good, made famous in the 50s by Maurice Chevalier. This cried out for a chanteur to accompany the musicians, but even without, the audience hummed and swayed along.
Fergus Wood, the drummer, gave a witty, but very helpful explanation and history of the musical form, and introduced each number with an anecdote which helped the audience put the piece in context.
Other highlights of the set included Sous le Ciel de Paris – Under the Parisian Sky, straight out of Maigret, and the mysterious Le Triste Sourire – The Sad Smile, not as sad as the title suggested. The Blondes also included their rendition of Hazel’s Musette, with its origins not in France, but a work from accordionist, David Halcrow from Lerwick In Shetland.
The set concluded with Les Blondes reverting to their day jobs as a Scottish Ceilidh Band with a selection of jigs and reels that almost, but not quite, brought the audience to the dance floor.
Most of the audience, like this reviewer, would have loved to dance but despite the exhortations of Fergus the drummer and compere, perhaps found the surroundings a tad too Presbyterian for comfort.
After the performance, the audience were treated to a delicious cream tea, which rounded off a perfect summer afternoon. Perhaps only missing un verre de vin rouge ou une blond!
As ever St Conan’s Kirk served as a stunning backdrop to the performance. The Friends of St Conan’s are to be congratulated not only for their work in restoring this architectural curiosity, but establishing it as a cultural centre in the heart of Loch Awe. For details of future events, visit www.stconanskirk.org.uk and to book The Trois Blonds, visit www.les-trois-blondes.co.uk