By Peter Fletcher

A choral singer, a band singer, and a theatre singer; an unlikely formula, but add a piano, a flute and some clever arrangements and the chemistry turns to alchemy. The singers were Tim Brown, Alison Allan and Steve Allan respectively and, with Jon Weller on piano and Esther Kay on flute, they made up the cast of Alive and Brel. This was Tim’s adaptation of the Broadway hit ‘Jaques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris’. Brel was a Belgian singer/songwriter who started on the Parisian music hall circuit in the 1950s, touring the world in the 1960s. His name may not be familiar but several of his songs probably are as they were hits for many other artists. Brel’s friend Rod McKuen had hits with ‘Seasons in the Sun’ (Le Moribond) and ‘If You Go Away’ (Ne me quitte pas). Tonight, the latter was sung passionately by Alison in excellent French. Other more familiar numbers were Jackie (In a Stupid-ass Way) sung by Tim with the chorus in French, ‘Marieke’, again sung by Alison with an engaging rubato against the excellent, rock steady accompaniment of Jon and Esther, and ‘Fanette’, sung dramatically by Steve which featured long notes interspersed with patters of shorter ones, typical of the Parisian cabaret style of Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf.

The opening, and also, by popular demand, the encore, was ‘Madeleine’. This entertaining trio utilised the cast in various combinations, in unison and in harmony, with a driving bass-chord-bass-chord accompaniment rather like Tom Lehrer’s revue songs. Due to the vagaries of the acoustic in All Saints’, the balance, although excellent in the body of the church, was more variable in the café area. ‘The Middle-Class’, a satirical duet between Tim and Steve, was reminiscent of Offenbach’s ‘Gendarmes’ Duet’. Fans of musical theatre may well have known ‘Amsterdam’ which built dramatically and gave Tim the opportunity to show us his fine baritone.

With wit, pathos and dark humour, Alive and Brel was altogether a charming way to end the evening.