As we listen to "éclectique," we can immediately imagine ourselves in an intimate, candle-lit, cabaret-style bistro, hearing familiar, tuneful songs, sung in French and English by American (or is he French?) Don Sheppard.
We are struck by the individual musical personality each song has been given by creative musical arranger and accompanist, Khris Dodge.
These eclectic song personalities run the gamut from passionately romantic... to pensive and reflective... to playful and whimsical.
The romantic, easy listening mood created allows us to relax, unwind, and drift effortlessly along with the music.
The ebb and flow in the mixture of the two languages offers a opportunity for an almost hypnotic, relaxing effect on the listener.
Don's comments :
I love all these songs. What's not to love? Most of them are tried, true, beloved standards.
The other few have a special "je ne sais quoi" that intrigues me lyrically or melodically -- or both.
I hope that the listener will become relaxed and be carried along with me on a wave of nostalgia and personal memories... from truly gentler times.
Don answers frequently asked questions:
"Are you French or have you ever lived in France?"
No, I'm not French and no, I haven't lived in France... or any other French-speaking country... nor was I raised around French-speaking people.
"Okay, then how the heck can you sound native-French?"
I guess I would have to say: "Study and practice, practice, practice!" It was a matter of determination and being "cursed" with a perfectionistic drive!
Just like an athlete goes to the gym and works out to develop his/her muscles, I did the equivalent activities/exercises for training my mouth, lips, tongue, throat, and vocal cords to produce the authentic sounds of the French language. French has a lot of different sounds that we don't have in English... just like French doesn't have the "th" sound that English has -- and that's why that sound is so difficult for the French to master. The difficult sounds for us in French are the nasal sounds (and there are many), the "u", and the back-of-the-throat, soft "r"... those are the "biggies."
I started my study of French in high school... but the earlier you start the better.
However, I believe your age is not as important as your ability to hear the sound nuances and then practice repeatedly, doggedly, to reproduce those sounds accurately. You need a good ear, for sure.
From the Jan-Feb 2002 newsletter of the French Institute of Arizona by Michel Sarda, publisher and author:
" Don Sheppard has released a remarkable CD mostly dedicated to French songs, in which he astutely combines English and French. Besides such timeless classics as La Mer (Beyond the Sea) or Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves), where he switches languages in such a smooth way you hardly notice -- Don ventures with ease, charm and authority into less familiar territory, with Yves Duteil, Gilbert Becaud or Charles Aznavour. If you love French songs and enjoy understanding the lyrics, this CD is for you."
Molly V. Stockton, classical music radio announcer:
"I'm sitting back with my eyes closed in my favourite Paris bar -- a nice neighbourhood place where a woman doesn't lose her respectability by sitting there alone with a glass of wine. My eyes are closed because suddenly there's a young man, accompanied by a few musicians who are complementary rather than intrusive, standing beside my table singing only to me. I'm too embarrassed to open my eyes; I just listen to that sensuous voice beguiling me with songs heretofore sung by Charles Trenet, Edith Piaf, and Charles Aznavour. He switches from French to English (maybe the bar's patronne told him I'm English) and back to French, with ease. Songs I know, songs I haven't heard before, songs that take on a new meaning. Aznavour would love this young man's treatment of "She" (Tous Les Visages de l'Amour); did I really hear the throbbing of Ravel's Bolero under the main theme? And this Piaf devotee couldn't fault what he did with La Vie en Rose and my very favourite, L'Hymne à l'Amour. He stayed by my table singing song after song, just for me. Suddenly he's gone. No more songs, no more musicians, no glass of wine, no bar. I open my eyes. Where am I? My living room! I've been listening to Don Sheppard's CD "éclectique." I, who profess to like only Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert (oh, and yes, Edith Piaf) have been transported to Paris by a gentleman from Tucson.
Well done, Don! When is your next CD coming out?"