paris (im)perfect: Glen Hansard's Parisian tale
Sion Dayson retells the story of Glen Hansard, Shakespeare & Co. and the Montparnasse cemetery.
Last Tuesday Glen Hansard played an afternoon acoustic set in Shakespeare & Company bookshop. Hansard is perhaps best known for his part in the movie “Once,” but he’s a veteran musician (with The Frames and more recently The Swell Season).
What a privilege to be in such an intimate space listening to gorgeous, unadorned music! One voice and a guitar. That’s it.
“Lots of traveling takes a toll on the flesh,” Hansard said, “but not the soul. Voice may sound broken but it’s singing its heart out.”
His voice sure didn’t sound broken to me. Strong, emotional, and yes, full of heart. In an age of cynicism I find Hansard’s earnestness – those life and love songs he belts out at the top of his lungs – so refreshing.
(Poor quality video, but to give you an idea):
Shakespeare & Co’s upstairs library doesn’t hold many people; we packed in as we could. Hansard recounted the first time he came to play in Paris in 1993 or ’94. He heard that Serge Gainsbourg and Samuel Beckett were buried in Montparnasse cemetery near the Irish bar where they were booked. He decided to pay his respects.
Upon finding an old woman at Gainsbourg’s grave he lent her his walkman so she could listen to a Gainsbourg song during her visit. Meanwhile he went to see Beckett. He laid a pencil – all he had – on the tomb in hommage, but the wind quickly blew it away. He took it as Beckett saying, aw, away with you ; )
When he turned around the old woman was gone, too; she had stolen his walkman! Then he got lost trying to find his way back to the bar and ended up missing the gig. So, that was actually the first time he didn’t play in Paris.
“Anyone have any requests? I didn’t really prepare anything,” Hansard said, returning to the music at hand. I loved the private house party feel to it, all of us gathered round.
Here in the City of Light, the clocks have turned back an hour and the cold has come, the light less and less each day. This waning time heading toward winter has a kind of beautiful melancholy to it. I’ve talked about this before, the importance of gratitude, of how I actively name the beautiful things in my life, even when – perhaps especially when – things are hard. Does sadness help crystallize joy? Am I more reflective as I approach another birthday? Another year, another year.
I just know I’m alert to the magic moments. Ordinary, extraordinary, tiny, containing all the world.
Last week I didn’t have to look hard. The concert was one of those moments. Merci, universe!
What have been some of your magic moments lately?
Sion Dayson is an American writer living in Paris. Her work has appeared in a number of different venues and she blogs about the quirkier side of the City of Light at paris (im)perfect.
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