French-born vocalist Anne Griffith performs with Tacoma ensemble Pearl Django at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at the Sudden Valley Dance Barn in the first of a four-part series, "Here's to the Ladies," to benefit the South Whatcom Library.
Tickets, $70 for the series, are available at Village Books, the Sudden Valley administration office (Gate 2), and by calling 360-671-1709 or 360-306-1800. Individual concert tickets are $20.
Griffith is also in Kulshan Chorus, which is directed by her husband, Roger Griffith.
Question: Where did you grow up?
Answer: I was born into a large extended family in a village located in the northeast part of France called Lorraine, a region that had been devastated by World War II. Within my family were many musicians. I would watch and dance while my grandfather practiced his clarinet, my uncle his saxophone, my cousin his guitar and my mother the piano.
Those who didn't play an instrument used their voices, and family gathering always involved extensive singing and laughter. I didn't learn to play an instrument because I found that I loved singing, and was highly encouraged by my grandmother to do so.
Q: When did you come to the United States?
A: I left France after high school and, looking for adventure, ended up in Montana first, then moving to Bellingham to attend Western Washington University. Eighteen years ago, while raising three children, I went back to school to become a massage therapist, a vocation I absolutely love.
Q: When did you start singing publicly?
A: I have been singing all my life, first with my family, then with different choirs in schools and communities, the most recent one being the Kulshan Chorus. I discovered this choir one day when it had perhaps 30 people, and decided right then and there that this was the kind of musical adventure of which I wanted to be a part.
This was one of the best decisions of my life, a life-changing experience, in all sense of the word. I was impressed by the diversity of the music they sang, most inspirational and fun. I was on a waiting list for two years before I could get in. That was 20 ago.
Within a couple of years, when a soloist for a French song was needed, I thought, "I am the expert here, I can do this!" In 1993 I auditioned, got the part, and have been soloing ever since.
Q: What kinds of music do you enjoy?
A: I have experimented with different vocal styles and found that I like singing anything as long as it is in my range. When I was a child, my mother would listen to anything from Beethoven to French musette and operettas, and to Brubeck, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles or the Beatles. If the radio wasn't on, a record played in the background.
Much more recently, Eva Cassidy has been a big influence on my musical education. I love the way she turned any song into her own with such skill and soul, no matter what the style.
Q: Do you sing with other groups?
A: I sing in small a cappella groups, or just with friends. And whenever possible I perform as one of The Inkleinations with the local R&B group, Paul Klein and The Atlantics.
Q: Why do you enjoy performing?
A: I compare singing before an audience to a chef cooking for guests; there is a lot of gathering information and prep time, a lot of personal flavor added, plenty of fun and joy offering what I have prepared, and, for me, presenting what I have created with no attachment. I want to share my gift with others, and hopefully they will enjoy it.
I began learning the piano a year ago, both to accompany myself, and to gain a greater understanding of music theory, and am enjoying the process tremendously. It is addicting.
Q: What will you sing with Pearl Django on Saturday?
A: I will be singing French songs; some of the music and beautiful melodies to sing were written by Django Rheinhart, a French gypsy composer from the 1940s. I am very much looking forward to it.
Q: What's up with the Kulshan Chorus?
A: The Kulshan Chorus has traveled to many different countries to sing in honor of human diversity, and to bind cultures through music. This June, my husband, Roger, and I will tour with the chorus to Costa Rica. (Note from Margaret: Roger will retire from the chorus after an April 27 concert at Western Washington University.)
When in France, where we live in the summer, I have the opportunity to sing with different jazz groups who perform in our region. Last summer I sang with "Le Pocket Orchestra de Laurent Mignard," and look forward to do so again.
Music is a big part of my life, and I cannot imagine a day without it. As Ella Fitzgerald said, "The only thing better than singing is more singing!"