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French Jazz Group Works with Businesses to Perform Live During Pandemic

[additional-authors]
November 17, 2020
Paris Chansons

Los Angeles based French jazz group Paris Chansons used to perform live around the world. Then the pandemic hit.

Despite the global restrictions, the Ukrainian and Russian husband-and-wife singing duo Julia and Jacob Kantor (Jacob also plays guitar) along with their fellow bandmates Max Cohen (vocals), Jeff Lams (piano), Endre Balogh (violin), Adam Cohen (bass) and Sinclair Lott (drums) went virtual. Julia, Jacob, Max and Endre offered 25 Zoom concerts for communities in the United States, Bangkok, Germany, England and New Zealand.

“Honestly I didn’t know what Zoom even was before March,” Julia Kantor told the Journal. “Even though [the concerts] were for particular groups and organizations, it was open to everyone to experience and participate over Zoom. It allowed interaction and it united all of us. We were all connected in this very scary time.” 

The group— which blends French music with Hebrew and Russian renditions among others— never imagined seven years after their formation that they’d have to adjust their performance style to meet the needs of a computer screen. Kantor said they purposely chose a Zoom format rather than a webinar to see and hear the audiences. Some nights 300 to 400 people tuned in.

“We’d invite them to get up and dance with us to raise their glass and toast with us to health and life,” she said. “We were building community with these concerts.”

During any given performance, Kantor— who first fell in love with French music while studying in Rennes— said audiences can expect original renditions of French artists including Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Joe Dassin, EnricoMacias, Salvatore Adamo, Dalida, Zaz and Stromae.

After months of performing virtually, Paris Chansons learned in September they could start playing live outdoors in front of an audience.

COVID-19 guidelines in California allowed restaurants to have limited outdoor seating. Paris Chansons played at Campus JAX restaurant in Newport Beach in September after receiving a call to perform in their re-modified outdoor space.

“It was the first time the whole ensemble was united,” Kantor said. “It was amazing. It was very emotional. You could feel the joy of being able to celebrate music together in a safe way.” 

Jack Jasper, owner of Campus JAX told the Journal that he wanted their outdoor venue to remain safe and follow COVID-19 guidelines so that guests could enjoy live music again. He also wanted to help local artists and groups that were struggling. He established a virtual tip jar that allowed guests to pay and thank the performers safely. 

While a portion of ticket proceeds from JAX events goes to the performers, a portion also goes to Feed the Need in OC, JAX’ community service kitchen that feeds the homeless, caregivers and frontline workers in Orange County.

“Music and food have been a major part of human existence,” Jasper said. “As soon as I saw [Paris Chansons], I wanted them on the stage. It takes a small army for this to work and it takes the bands’ willingness to come down and make the extra efforts as well.”

Before the pandemic the Kantor’s played with Jewish-French violinist Jeremie Levi Samson. With a tour and trip to France canceled due to COVID-19, Levi Samson and his wife Jacqueline Herrera decided to create a drive-in concert venue on their 15-acre property in Yucca Valley near Joshua Tree.

“I was thinking ‘What if people came and stayed in their cars and Jeremie can play music?’” Herrera said. “We had a concert [a few days later] with a rug on the floor and we had our speakers set up. We had eight cars show up.”  

From eight cars came 55 meeting their maximum capacity. Through word-of-mouth their new venue, “Mon Petit Mojave,” was officially up and running in May. Every weekend the venue puts on a show, social distancing and mask wearing is upheld. Guests must also sign up and check-in through the website and must remain in their cars during the free weekend concerts.

“The arts should be accessible to everyone and are such an important thing to have in these times,” Herrera said. It’s a lot of work but we are doing it because we want to. It’s actually getting people outside, in nature. We hold [the concerts] around sunset and you get to see the Joshua trees and breathe the fresh air. The whole experience is pretty healing for people.”

Herrera said Julia and Jacob Kantor will perform on Nov. 22. “The style of music they perform is so old-world but really uplifting,” she said. “People like to hear something different but [that] resonates with them… They love to listen to music that feels familiar.”

“The music we perform is a true unifier,” Kantor said. We see how music unites people. [This] is something we crave right now. In a time where there’s so much division, our show uplifts and highlights love, friendship and togetherness.”

Paris Chansons will perform at Campus JAX on Dec. 13. For more information click here. They will also be performing at Mon Petit Mojave Nov. 22. For more information click here.

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