Live Review of Hans Pieter Herman in New York

Pangea  New York, NY

Web: hanspieterherman.nl

Contact: [email protected] 

Players: Hans Pieter Herman, vocals; Brian Holman, piano, musical director; Ira Siff, director

Material: In his brand-new cabaret offering, “The Singing Fool,” life, travels, and troubles of Charles Trenet, Han Pieter Herman chronicles the artist’s life with reverence and humor expressed not only through Trenet’s compositions, but songs by other songwriters that are relevant at various junctures in his life. Herman became enamored of Trenet after winning the Alliance Française song competition in 2010 with his performance of “I Wish You Love.” There are also songs by Jacques Brel, Johnny Hess (one-time duo partner of Trenet’s), Franz Liszt, Kurt Weill, and George Winters, to name a few.

Musicianship: Herman’s rich baritone voice is both angelic and powerful. His operatic training enables him to easily shift from full voice to hushed intensity fully in charge of a song’s various colors and dynamic nuances. A large part of the repertoire was sung in French, but there were also songs in German and Spanish which Herman often translated for the audience. Supported on piano by Brian Holman, both Herman and Holman’s musical backgrounds dovetail nicely as Holman has directed and conducted numerous opera companies throughout the U.S. He also serves as the straight man for Herman’s comedic antics.

Performance: In addition to his vocal gifts, Herman is immensely likeable and engaging. He has refined his comic delivery such that it was unpredictable, refreshing and sometimes downright irreverent. He jockeyed easily between humor and profound sentiment depending on the song, making it all seem effortless. Using occasional props when needed, like a fruit-laden straw hat (some of it edible) to highlight Trenet’s time spent in Rio de Janeiro, along with shakers in the form of fruits, gave the staging more dimension.

Draped in a polyester shawl, in his best German accent, was a nod to Marlene Dietrich who Trenet encountered in his earlier life. Before wrapping up the performance, Herman sang a sublime rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” which he joined together with “Beyond the Sea,” his final tribute to Trenet, sending chills up and down your spine.

Summary: To cover 60 years of an artist’s life (or any life) is a tall order and Herman has managed to give a taste of Trenet’s journey while incorporating other material and injecting humor when least expected. This was an evening of true entertainment and musical mastery rolled into one.