HAIM ISAACS SINGS JONI MITCHELL
HISTORY OF A PROJECT
I was fifteen when I first heard Joni Mitchell’s music in my upstairs neighbor’s flat in Jerusalem. I’m sixty-four now, living in France, and the songs still elude me, they still slip through my fingers.
Paris, 2019. Joni Mitchell in Jerusalem has been brewing for over 20 years. Then one morning it’s now… I must do it now. Outside, massive strikes, then Covid. I cloistered myself in a studio for three months, experimenting arrangements and soundscapes.
I had a strong wish to share stories on how, in the 70’s, Joni’s music penetrated my heart in the Middle East. Speaking in the third person, high schooler H wanders through the streets of Jerusalem, Jericho and Bethlehem, haunted by Joni. She follows him down to the Sinai desert where H, now a medic in the tank corps, sees her dancing in the dunes.
Together with Frédéric Reynier on piano, Jules Lefrançois on percussions and tuba and Yann-Lou Bertrand on double bass and trumpet, we are currently performing throughout France and hope to share the music with other European countries.
I’m also working on a series of videoclips around Joni’s music. Please check it out:
Carrières-sur-Seine, 17h. May 14, 2023
Théâtre du Tiroir, Laval. June 3, 20h30 - June 4, 16h
La Bellevilloise, Paris. June 17, 20h
Point de fuite, Bœurs-en-Othe, January 28, 2023
Conservatoire des Coëvrons, Évron, January 20, 2023
Roy Hart Théâtre, Les Cévennes August 19, 2022
Théâtre Thénardier, Montreuil February 6, 2022
La Pomme d'Eve, Paris October 4, 11, 18 ; November 8, 15, 29 ; December 6, 13 2021
L'Hyper Festival de la Ville de Paris August 26, 28 et 29. Paris 75014
Festival Annecy Paysage July 14, 15
Blue Motel Room
All I Want
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
The Blond in the Bleachers
The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Shadows and Light
The Fiddle and the Drum
Both Sides Now
A red swing in a back yard... a kid singing his lungs out... up in the clouds with Mary Poppins... twirling atop the Austrian Alps with Maria Von Trappe. In New York, my family boards a boat, furniture and all, and lands in Israel. All I can say in Hebrew is: Hello... my name is Haim... how are you? That doesn’t go far in 7th grade. I daydream my way through History, Bible, Geometry, Chemistry. Language as abstract sound. Then Jerusalem Experimental High School: hippie territory: the process is what matters, not the result. Then the army: just get there! we don’t give a fuck how! Then a one-way ticket to San Francisco: harmony, counterpoint, piano, voice. Digging under the skins and into the mouths of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Ella Fitzgerald. Then the Iron Curtain: Hungary, I want to move there, but stop off in Jerusalem and find Barry and the Roy Hart Theater passing through. Kaya, Akhmatova. Crazy wild voice work: screaming, shouting, soprano, basso, industrial squeaks. I follow their trail to the south of France and spend 4 years in a French kibbutz. Great. Terrific. Then Paris; teaching voice, singing, recording Jewish songs in Poland (Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Krochmalna Street gutted and pockmarked). Then 17 years of composition: putting together groups, making records. Then improvising: voice, buto, clowning, tchatch. We’re getting closer to now: NazzazzaN Quartet. Wild skydivers doing concerts in swimming pools and circus tents. And now: Joni Mitchell: queen of queens. My brother says I was born the day I first heard her. He’s usually right.
Pianist, improviser, composer
Originally a percussionist, Frédéric moved on to piano at the National Conservatory of Bourgoin-Jallieu, followed by the Geneva Conservatory of Music.
He developed a taste for improvisation and contemporary dance: Recital for piano, two dancers and wind instruments (Cie Pas T'à Trac).
He composes for theatre and contemporary art: The two doors (Cie de la Bulle), Aka... Kraka, the Game of Protocol (Théâtre du tiroir), Érosion Sur Le Vif, improvised performance with the visual artist Qiang Ma.
Frédéric is deeply engaged with living composers: Three Melodies with Texts by Fabrice Villard (Martin Moulin); Urlicht, Feer am Klavier and Verstecklungen by François Rossé.
The meeting with these two composers has lead him to develop his own work: Puntiti et le Monstre des Grottes, a musical tale, published by Aedam Musicae; Ça Cheuyait des Chants, a performance for choir and chamber orchestra based on Mayenne songs, commissioned by the Mayenne department; En Quadrature, a piece for four pianos; C dans C, a chamber opera based on Camille Claudel.
Tuba, percussions, senza, backup vocals
As a young boy, Jules delved into both music and acroba7cs. He immediately knew that these
two passions would be his life. Since gradua7ng from the Na7onal Superior Conservatory of
Paris as a trombonist, Jules performs freelance in orchestras throughout France.
As an acrobat and clown, he has trained in France and China and performs with mul7ple
companies mixing music and circus.
Double bass, trumpet
Né à Paris dans une famille mélomane, Yann-Lou Bertrand a fait de la musique toute son enfance. Après son baccalauréat, il étudie la musique au CRR de Paris où il obtient son DEM Jazz en 2016. Il suit les master classes de Pierre Bertrand, Jean-Philippe Viret, Karim Ziad, André Minvielle, Marie-Christine Dacqui, Emil Spanyi…
Il prend part au groupe Monkuti, dirigé par Mario Orsinet, où il partage la scène avec des grands de l’afrobeat tels que Tony Allen, Oghene Kologbo, Orlando Julius, Kiala King K, Cheikh Tidiane, Chief Udh Oh…
Avec le groupe, il part en tournée et s’imprègne des sonorités de différentes cultures qui viendront enrichir sa personnalité musicale : Amérique du Sud, Nouvelle-Orléans, Portugal, Bénin, Tunisie… Il consigne avec lui son premier album : « Monkuti Vilé » en 2018.
Toujours lié au jazz, il enregistre avec Jean-Baptiste Franc et Mourad Benhamou « Garner on my mind » en 2020.
Actuellement, il collabore avec la chanteuse Luna Silva et explore d’autres musiques traditionnelles, du folk à la samba en passant par l’Afrique du nord. Cette collaboration donne naissance à deux albums : « After The Rain » en 2019 et « Breathe Out » en 2022. Cette année là, le groupe est sélectionné au Prix des Musiques d’Ici.
A TASTE OF THE STORIES
High school’s out for the day. H walks up the valley of Lifta and jumps on the first passing bus. It’s January, 1974, Jerusalem. H sits down on the back seat and leans his head against the window. It’s cold. His left hand covers his mouth. He looks outside and starts to sing.
The bus inches down Jaffa Street, stops at Makhane Yehuda, the big open market. Old Moroccan men, old Iraqi women, climb up, toting sacks of fruit and vegetables and cackling chickens.
The bus takes a right on King George Street and stops in front of Hamashbir, Jerusalem’s one and only department store. A soldier gets on. Short and skinny. Yemenite. He sits down next to H and squeezes his M-16 between his thighs.
It’s dark outside as the last passenger gets off the bus. The driver stares through the rear-view mirror at H, still seated in the back. He stares at the boy’s closed eyes; at his head leaning against the window. H's lips are moving. He’s thinking of her, Joni, growing up under Canadian snow; a young girl losing herself in the listening booth at the local record shop: Rachmaninoff over and over.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem To Be Born
Christmas Eve, 1975. It’s snowing in Bethlehem. At the edge of town, in a youth hostel, H and his classmates are fast asleep. Midnight church bells ring. H gets up, puts on his long, burnt-orange woolen coat and walks the empty streets.
A man passes by. “Salaam Aleikum. Aïd milad majid. Young man, I wish you a merry, merry Christmas. ” The Church of the Nativity is covered in snow. Christmas lights... tourist buses... TV crews... cops everywhere. Fifteen years to the day, H was also born. In another country, on another continent. A group of black-shawled, Greek grand-mothers cross the square. H falls in behind them and enters the church, his nostrils tickling from the sugary incense.
H walks back to the youth hostel and lies down on his bed, the long, burnt-orange coat still on his back. Bought in Bethlehem’s flea market that morning, the coat has already warmed another body in this city. The wool is rough, a button’s missing, the inner lining is worn. H falls sleep, happy.
A SONG OF JONI'S
A Case Of You
Just before our love got lost you said
"I am as constant as a northern star. "
And I said, "Constantly in the darkness
Where's that at ?
If you want me I’ll be in the bar."
On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
With your face sketched on it twice
Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of you, darling
And I would still be on my feet
Oh I would still be on my feet