Edith Piaf- a Musical Icon

One of Nana Mouskouri’s biggest musical influences was French songstress Edith Piaf. By many fans and music critics alike, Edith Piaf is perceived as the “greatest singer” that France has ever known. Edith Piaf was born Edith Gassion, being named after a nurse from the first World War [Edith Cavell], who lost her life giving aid to the French soldiers in an effort to help them escape from German occupation. Piaf, which translates into “sparrow,” would receive her nickname approximately twenty years later by a nightclub manager, Louis Leplee.

Piaf’s mother was a cafe singer, meanwhile her father was an acrobat who performed in the streets of France. For a major part of her childhood, Piaf was raised by prostitutes, where in her early years ranging from three until seven, Piaf was blinded due to a condition called keratitis; however, with much faith and prayer to Saint Therese, she was able to be cured miraculously according to tradition. In her teen years, Piaf joined her father in his street performances, which marked her first public performance, where Piaf got noticed for her talent, especially for her rendition of France’s national anthem “La Marseillaise.”

At the age of seventeen, Piaf gave birth to her only child, Marcelle, a daughter, who passed away at the age of two from meningitis.

After being discovered by nightclub owner Louis Leplee in 1935, he was able to help Piaf overcome her stage fright and advised her to wear a black dress, which would later become her signature in all her performances. Thanks to Leplee’s efforts, Piaf landed a record contract, where her first two records were produced on the same year, and France took notice of Piaf’s exquisite voice.

Piaf helped discover yet another influential French singer, Yves Montand, and formed an intimate relationship with him. They broke up when Piaf realized that Montand was approaching the same level of success as hers.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Piaf became an international phenomenon, where she would tour Europe, as well as North and South America. At one point in her career, Piaf was the highest paid female vocalist in the world. Her greatest composition was writing and recording “La Vie En Rose,” a popular song which would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame fifty three years later in 1998.

Her greatest love interest was Marcel Cerdan, a married middleweight boxing champion, whom she had an affair with. Cerdan died tragically in a plane crash in 1949, a loss which would leave Piaf devastated.

Piaf married singer Jacques Pills in 1952 and divorced four years later; acclaimed German singer and actress Marlene Dietrich, a close friend of Piaf’s, was the matron of honor at their wedding. In 1962, Piaf married for the final time a Greek actor and singer Theophanis “Theo” Lamboukas, who was twenty years her junior; Piaf would later rename him Theo Sarapo, a surname which translates into “I love you.”

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Piaf would be a regular performer at the Paris Olympia Theater, a venue she would later save from bankruptcy in 1961, upon debuting her signature song, “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” This tune sums up everything in Piaf’s life where despite all the multiple hardships and successes she’s endured, she has absolutely no regrets.

Although Edith Piaf passed away on October of 1963, at the age of 47, after losing the battle with liver cancer, her vocals will live on forever. The theme conveyed in all of Piaf’s recordings showcases the significance and ability to love. Her funeral procession was massive, where a plethora of her peers and fans gathered in the streets of Paris, to pay their tributes and respects to one of the greatest French musicians the world had ever known.

In contemporary media, Edith Piaf has been depicted in many films and theater productions. French actress Marion Cotillard was honored with the Best Actress Academy Award for her stellar performance as Piaf in the Olivier Dahan film, La Vie En Rose, which depicts Piaf’s life from her early years until her death; Cotillard transforms in this performance and plays Piaf in three stages of her life: her teen years, adult life and dying days. In theater, Naomi Emmerson portrayed Edith Piaf in “Piaf: Love Conquers All,” in an Off-Broadway run at the Soho Playhouse Theater in 2008, in a solo performance that was well-received by the New York audience and garnered rave reviews from theater critics.

American Folk Music: The Origins of Appalachian Folk Music

Appalachian Folk Music is the folk music of the Appalachian mountain people of the United States. Appalachia is a region around the Appalachian Mountain range in the United States, which stretches from Mississippi to New York State. Culturally speaking, however, Appalachian culture is located in the central part of this area and southward, namely West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, though the specific region called the Appalachians is debatable and has changed throughout American history. (1)

Appalachia was settled primarily by people from the borderlands of England and Scotland, specifically from the English counties of Cumberland, Westmoreland, Northumberland, Durham, Lancashire and the Scottish counties of Ayrshire, Dumfries shire, Roxburghshire, Berwick shire, and Wigtownshire. This migration occurred during the 1700s. So, as one can well imagine, English and Scottish folk music traditions were brought to America from these countries and became enmeshed with American folk music styles. (1) A few examples of the influence of the English ballad on Appalachian music are the songs “Barbara Allen,” House Carpenter” and “Cuckoo Bird.” (2) And the Scottish tune “Bonnie George Campbell” may have influenced the Appalachian dance tune “Cumberland Gap.” (2)

The Appalachian people also brought Protestantism and Catholicism with them from their countries of origin. These religious concepts also influenced Appalachian folk music. Some of the religious characteristics that influenced Appalachian music were baptism in natural water, chanted preaching with rhythm, congregational shouting and foot washing. (1) Because the economy of the Appalachian region was based on agriculture and mining, early settlers did not always see the need for formal education. Appalachian education consisted primarily of moral teachings from the Bible during non-farming months. (1) After the Civil War, more schools and more educational opportunities became available in the area.

In the final years of World War I, folklorists Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles travelled throughout Southern Appalachia collecting over 200 ballads that they collected in the region. Sharp and Karpeles discovered that the Appalachian region was a haven of ballads as from as long ago as medieval times. They found such songs as “The Demon Lover” (also known as “House Carpenter”, and “The Elfin Knight.” Both of these ballads are from medieval times.

Traditional Appalachian music is one of the most important aspects of Appalachian culture. This distinctive style of American folk music was influenced by English and Scottish ballads, Irish and Scottish fiddle music, and African-American blues music. The Europeans who settled in the Appalachian region brought their violins (aka fiddles) with them across the ocean to the new world. The banjo became one of the most recognized instruments in Appalachian style folk music, and was an instrument of African-American influence. African-American banjo players were documented in Knoxville, Tennessee as early 1798. In the early 1900s guitars, mandolins and autoharps were made available to the people of the Appalachians via mail order catalogues. So autoharps, mandolins, and guitars joined banjos and fiddles in local Appalachian string bands. Different variations of the dulcimer also became popular because they were taught in settlement schools in the early 1900s. Jean Ritchie increased the popularity of these instruments in her performances and recordings of songs and dulcimer music in the American folk music performed in the 1950s.

Among Nursing Home Residents, Music Therapy to Reduce Agitation

Dementia patients commonly experience episodes of agitation and violent outbursts. For families who care for an aging parent, it is quite common to experience complications associated with this abnormal behavior. When these behaviors become complex and detrimental to familial relationships and safety of family members, decisions are often made about alternate housing options.

Nursing homes provide care for dementia patients who experience agitation complications. Because agitation can lead to complications involving muscle tension, aggression, repetitive movements, restlessness and even verbal aggression, the nursing staff within the nursing home are often educated and prepared in managing these types of complications.

In many nursing home settings, residents who suffer from dementia-induced agitation find their symptoms are greatly exacerbated by environmental noises. While even the most normal of nursing home noises can set of agitated responses, most residents experience complication when these noises are louder than normal, longer than normal or are simply new sounds that are introduced into the environment.

If your loved one experiences complications associated with agitation, and you are concerned for your loved one’s health and safety, it is important to ask the nursing home staff how they will manage the agitation outbursts. In addition to understanding management at the time of outburst, it is also important to know what measures the nursing home will take to avoid these outbursts from occurring. In many nursing home settings, especially those with many dementia patients, the use of background music is quite common. Soothing dinner music and soft music in resident rooms can provide a way in which to reduce the frequency of dementia-induced agitation events.

The nursing home that utilizes music as a soothing mechanism for nursing home residents must do so with care. Allowing residents to play music in their room, without supervision, or even to adjust television noise without supervision, can lead to adverse outcomes. As a result, many nursing homes will control the sound levels of the television and will only permit specific music use in the resident rooms. Controlled sound and genre is important to maintaining peace within and among the nursing home residents.

Caring for an aging adult can be a rewarding, yet tiring, experience. If you choose to forgo a nursing home, but want to manage agitation within your own home, consider utilizing well controlled music as an option. Using music at the right tone, in a soothing genre, will provide for a better source of stability and peace in your home and will work to soothe the mental and cognitive processes of an aging parent who may be suffering from dementia and agitation.