French Christmas is a joyful collection of heartwarming songs from France and French Canada that are sure to enhance the holiday season…
In France, Christmas is typically a restrained and intimate holiday. In francophone Canada, Christmas is an opportunity to lighten the mood and bring communities together for a big celebration before the cold North winds and deep snow make travel more difficult. Yet, despite the variations, both France and French Canada celebrate the holiday season with music that is overflowing with charm, beautiful melodies and heartfelt appreciation of all the joys that Christmas has to offer.
The celebration begins with three French legends. Jacqueline François at first sang only for family and friends. She decided to try her hand as a professional singer after World War II and eventually became one of the country’s most popular chanson singers. With “Noël Blanc” she gives a French touch to the classic Christmas ballad, “White Christmas.” Charles Trenet was one of the most beloved figures in the history of popular French music. His song, “Chanson Pour Noël” (Song for Christmas), celebrates the joys of the season. Line Renaud began singing as a child at her grandmother’s café in Armentiers, France. On her classic song “Étoile des Neiges” (Snow Stars), Renaud sings a romantic tale of young lovers who make sacrifices for one another.
Next, we travel across the ocean to French Canada. Nadja, originally from a rural Quebecois village, first achieved success in Asia before returning home and becoming a star in Canada. “Noel Sans Vous” (Christmas Without You) is from her 2010 Christmas release. Also from Quebec, singer and composer Edgar Bori began his career as an enigma, appearing on stage obscured by shadows or disguised as characters to ensure that the audience focus on his words and music and not his persona. With a dozen albums under his belt, Bori is a mystery no more.
Lina Boudreau was born in a picturesque French-speaking village in New Brunswick and discovered at a young age that she enjoyed singing and people enjoyed listening to her. “Noël Jazz” (Jazz Christmas) is featured on one of her two Christmas albums. We return to France where Bruno Mursic, a guitarist, singer and music instructor, is known for his impressive fingerpicking range. On “Guillaume, Prends Ton Tambourin” (William, Take Your Tambourine), Mursic sings the cheerful lyrics “When we hear the fife and drum/ Christmas should be frolicsome.”
Annie Villeneuve received great exposure from winning Star Académie, the Québec equivalent of American Idol. “Joyeux Noël,” from her 2010 Christmas album, Noël Chez Moi has a recognizable melody but in Villeneuve’s version there are no chestnuts roasting; instead, there is a fire dancing in the hearth. Marie-Chantal Toupin released her Christmas album Noël C’est L’amour (Christmas is Love), which featured her version of the classic French Christmas song “Mon Beau Sapin” (My Beautiful Fir Tree).
Our last two artists recorded new versions of old Christmas standards especially for this collection. Francesca Blanchard is a young singer-songwriter who was born in the south of France but lived in Africa with her foreign aid worker parents before settling in the small village of Charlotte, Vermont near the Québec border. Blanchard recorded the classic French Christmas song, “Petit Papa Noël” (Little Father Christmas). Joy Setton and her family traveled the world for two years, exposing her to the music of many cultures. After settling in Geneva, Switzerland, for a couple of years, she formed her first band. Now a resident of Brooklyn, she added new lyrics and a French twist to “Santa Baby.”
French Christmas features a recipe for French Kir Royale, a classic French apéritif often served during the winter holidays. It consists of an elegant blend of Champagne and crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur).