There may not be can-can dancers, shot glasses of absinthe, or curling plumes of smoke from a French cigarette (in a holder, no less) in St. John's Cathedral Sunday night, but there will echoes of Gershwin, Cole Porter and Edith Piaf. "Parisian Nights," Zephyr's third annual New Year's Eve Gala concert, transforms the stone aisles and stolid pews of St. John's cathedral into a one-night-only French cabaret.
It begs the question -- how can this be done?
"It's a daunting task," admits Kendall Feeney, Zephyr's artistic director. "We decided that the cabaret is what will be onstage; the music creates that atmosphere."
To do that, Feeney is working closely with the Cathedral and The Arts association and also with co-producer John G. "Jack" Phillips of the Civic Theatre to create a Parisian feel within the Gothic sensibilities of the cathedral. As in years past, the cathedral will be illuminated by candlelight, but special effects and additional interior lighting in keeping with the evening's theme will add to the general atmosphere.
With Jack Phillips from the Civic lending a hand, how much of the concert is also theater?
"We have these wonderful sets designed by Peter Hardie of the Civic Theatre," replies Feeney. "They really evoke the feeling of the period."
Musically, Feeney will be joined by Greg Presley, piano, Randel Wagner, baritone and Portland soprano Liz Keever.
"We all came up with the program together and picked songs that had a wonderful French feeling, inspired particularly by Paris," Feeney says.
Gershwin's An American in Paris is one of the highlights of the evening, as is Darius Milhaud's Scaramouche, performed by Feeney and Presley on two pianos. Wagner and Keever will sing selections with a Parisian flair, including songs by Cole Porter, Edith Piaf, and selections from Gigi and La Cage Aux Folles. For Feeney, one of the evening's highlights is the song "The Last Time I Saw Paris," by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein.
"It's this beautiful song from my father's generation about Paris in World War II and how your last memory of Paris is from the Nazi occupation and wondering if you'll ever see it again or if it will ever be the same again."
As in years past, the gala is set up so that people can fit it into a full night of New Year's Eve festivities. "It's an hour and a half," says Feeney. "It's structured so people can come and still get to pre-midnight functions."
& & & lt;i & "Parisian Nights" is at St. John's Cathedral, Grand Blvd. at 12th, on Sunday, Dec. 31, from 8-9:30 pm. Tickets: $20; $18 seniors; $7,12 and under. Call: 325-SEAT. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &