Joëlle Rabu and Nico Rhodes present No Regrets, a live-streamed and in-person show featuring the songs of French singer Édith Piaf at the Port Theatre on Oct. 17. (Photo courtesy Vital Image)

Nanaimo mother-son duo pay tribute to Édith Piaf at the Port Theatre

Vocalist Joëlle Rabu and pianist and arranger Nico Rhodes present ‘No Regrets’ show Oct. 17

Five years after bringing the music of renowned French singer Édith Piaf to the Port Theatre stage, vocalist Joëlle Rabu and her son, pianist and arranger Nico Rhodes, are returning to revisit that repertoire on a smaller scale.

On Oct. 17 the local mother-son duo present the in-person and live-streamed Piaf revue No Regrets. While 2015’s Tonight…Piaf featured accompaniment by the Vancouver Island Symphony, this time Rabu and Rhodes are on their own and showing off their lifelong musical connection.

“We have played together for months at a time and then had years apart but it never feels like it’s been more than a minute since we played together,” Rhodes said. “As soon as we start there is an instant and familiar connection that cannot be put into words.”

The pair also have a strong connection to Piaf’s music. Rabu said she grew up listening to Piaf and has been performing her work for almost 40 years, while Rhodes said he’s been a fan since he was in utero.

“Her voice was passionate. It was untrained,” Rabu said of Piaf. “She was discovered in the streets of Paris so there was a certain rawness to her voice, her quality of interpretation of songs that I’ve always admired. She understood what she was singing about.”

Rhodes said Piaf’s music is typically performed with a big band or orchestra. In devising his piano arrangements, he said the characteristic that matters the most in a song is the story.

“If we’re doing a song about lost love, I don’t want to just capture a general feeling of lost love,” he said. “I want to find a way to capture exactly the story of that love that was lost.”

Rabu said Piaf fell in love passionately and often and that her music continues to be popular because of how she explores the “different facets of love.”

Throughout the evening Rabu and Rhodes will be discussing anecdotes from Piaf’s life to give listeners an introduction and further insight into the woman behind the music.

“She was born on the streets, her mother was a drug addict, her father was an acrobat, she was raised in her grandmother’s bordello,” Rabu said. “So all those things put together, her life, translate into many different songs.”

Rhodes said if not for circumstance, Piaf’s life should have been “a complete calamity.” He said her story serves as a reminder of what people can be capable of.

“This person isn’t just a beautiful voice,” he said. “This person represents human potential when given a chance to shine.”

WHAT’S ON … Joëlle Rabu and Nico Rhodes present No Regrets at the Port Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 7:15 p.m. In-person tickets sold out. Live stream tickets $12 available here.

RELATED: Live performance returning to Nanaimo’s Port Theatre

RELATED: Musician Nico Rhodes receives City of Nanaimo Emerging Cultural Leader award



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