By Brett DeNeve:
Brel’s multi-faceted work has stood the test of time, influencing the lives of others long after his untimely death at 49 in October of 1978. Brel was a successful actor, director, and singer-songwriter of an extremely high caliber. His 25 million records sold worldwide ranks him as the third best-selling Belgian recording artist of all time and that statistic alone speaks volumes. But another interesting lens to look through is his 1959 song “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” which translates to “Don’t leave me.” The common English adaptation of this is “If You Go Away,” and has been covered by Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, Cyndi Lauper, and Frank Sinatra just to name a few.
Brel’s song has transcended cultural boundaries; it has renditions in more languages than any one person should be able to name. This disobedience to previously established confines of personal culture are not just the essence of Brel’s work; it is the essence of this city. New York will always be called the melting pot, but when all comes together, individuality is lost. Buffalo unites diversity but in a way where all can come together without losing their own identities.
One organization that truly understands the appreciation for the preservation of specific cultures is the Federation of Alliances Francaises. This group is over 110 years old and “supports and encourages its Member Chapters in their promotion of the language and culture of French speaking peoples,” found on their website.
The Alliance Francaise de Buffalo will be offering an evening of French Theatre at the Burchfield Penney tonight at 7:30 p.m. The show is titled “Jacques Brel, ou l’lmpossible Reve” and will highlight Brel’s life both on and off the stage as arguably the most influential artist on the entertainment industry in France.
“There is a very significant francophone culture here in Buffalo,” said President Evelyne Harris. “Natives from France, Haiti, Quebec,” Harris continues. They have all made Buffalo their home and the alliance, with their language courses, cultural events, monthly happy hours in French, and a bunch of other activities for furthering French culture all lend themselves to these people feeling more at home in this city. This once a year theatre opportunity, also incorporating students from Buffalo State, is a testament to what the Alliance stands for as well as what type of atmosphere Buffalo breeds; people do not feel afraid to be themselves, they thrive.