PIAF featured at Green Show

You might get the feeling you aren't in downtown Ashland but rather outside a romantic Parisian cafe as the music of a beloved French legend rings across Pioneer Street at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's outdoor Green Show, at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8.

Pat O'Scannell will sing numbers from the repertoire of Edith Piaf, an icon of the '30s and World War II era, along with musicians Don Harris on keyboard, Olof Soderback on accordion, and Michael Vannice on clarinet and melodica.

"The Piaf performances are special for OSF visitors, especially the 60-and-up crowd because it often brings back direct memories from that era," says O'Scannell. "I'll find myself in tears while talking with audience members after the show."

For more than 25 years, O'Scannell has directed, performed and arranged music for the Green Show, as well as composed for OSF plays and other theaters in the Rogue Valley.

And her talents go beyond that.

O'Scannell is the musical and artistic director of the touring and recording ensemble The Terra Nova Consort, founded in 1989. Some also may remember her from CRIONA, a band that played the traditional music of Ireland and the British Isles.

Inspired by the life and work of Piaf, O'Scannell originally started performing the cultural icon's music at the Green Show in 2006.

"Piaf didn't have formal training until after the fact," says O'Scannell. "Her sense of voice and placement are from the heart."

After the release of the movie "La Vie en Rose" which O'Scannell saw on a plane, she knew she had to continue the Piaf gigs and began putting on shows at small venues, such as Liquid Assets.

"We're having so much fun with this, and it's been successful," says O'Scannell. "I foresee continuing the Piaf shows sporadically in local settings."

Familiar with medieval European languages and songs but having studied Spanish and German in school, O'Scannell worked with a French language coach to prepare for her Piaf renditions.

O'Scannell admires the singer's nonjudgmental understanding of women, which is rooted in her childhood. Piaf was raised, in part, by prostitutes and gives a voice to the plight of the "streetwalker."

"One of my favorite Piaf songs embodies the plight of the streetwalker, someone trying to be something for everyone and finding there is nothing left for herself," says O'Scannell. "She covers an enormous range and sings from a truly heart-wrenching place."

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