song embroiderer

When she’s not singing, Cécile McLorin Salvant does embroidery. Since the start of the pandemic, she has spent long weeks locked up in her New York apartment “coloring” huge drawings (up to 3 meters high and wide!) made with markers with her colored threads. She had learned the basics of this ancestral technique as a child in Miami, alongside her mother, a French school principal. Embroider, for hours, listening to the audio recording ofIn Search of Lost Time by Proust, allowed him to ward off loneliness and dissipate this nagging feeling of uselessness born of the cancellation of concerts and tours.

A Brooklyn gallery, Picture Room, exhibited his embroidered paintings in March, just as his latest album was released. Entitled Ghost Songit was shaped with the same meticulous care as his textile works and undeniably bears the trace of this particular period. “For the first time, I thought of the album as a whole and not as a collection of songs. Even if, because of the pandemic, the recording was spread over a year and a half. In this atmosphere of the end of the world, we say to ourselves: everything can end overnight. So we can try anything.”she recalls.

From this freedom of experimentation, Cécile McLorin Salvant has made it a strength, mixing in the same crucible jazz, Irish folk and pop rock, marrying her voice to that of her great-nieces (“Thunderclouds”), even imposing distortions on her strange in the futuristic “Lost my Mind”. The album, conceived with his accomplice Sullivan Forter, opens and closes with a sublime Gaelic ballad recorded a capella in St. Malachy’s Church in New York on a snowstorm day. “This traditional song, Sean Nos”, whom I discovered by chance on the Internet, intrigues me because we cannot tell where he comes from or what era he dates from. It sounds both very old and ultramodern! »she points out.

She continues in an airy voice with a cover of “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush, inspired by the novel by Emily Brontë, which she reread during confinement. These tormented characters, this exaltation of feelings, between passion and violence, nourished the original compositions of Ghost Songevocation of the ghosts that everyone carries within themselves, of lost loves, of vanished desire and of nostalgia in the face of passing time.

Cécile McLorin Salvant, however, does not allow herself to be drowned in melancholy. Her joyful fantasy and piquant humor often take over, as when she seizes “The World Is Mean” from The Threepenny Opera of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, whose acerbic sensibility she shares. If the original song was interpreted by two characters, female and male, with opposing speeches, she merges them like two facets of her own personality: her part of shadow and light, for an album full of nuances.


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