Remembering Charles

I wonder how many of you have heard of the French singer Charles Trenet?  If you haven’t heard of him, you have probably heard one of his songs, perhaps La Mer (Beyond the Sea) or Que reste-t-il de nos amours? (I wish you love).  Both songs have been covered by many artists – have a look for them on the net, you’ll find many of them!  Charles Trenet was a big star in France, and most people know the lyrics to some of his songs.

What the Wikipedia page fails to mention under the heading ‘Early life’, is that Trenet’s father was the notary in Saint-Chinian at the time Charles was born.  Although he was born in Narbonne, little Charles spent his first years in Saint-Chinian, where he took piano lessons from a local music teacher.  The house where the Trenets used to live, is today the Maison des Vins and the veterinary practice – at some time it was divided into two.

Earlier this year year, the municipality of Saint-Chinian decided that it would be fitting to remember the fact that Charles Trenet was once a citizen of Saint-Chinian.  To that end, the Rue de la Promenade was recently re-named  Avenue Charles Trenet!


The re-naming ceremony took place outside the Maison des Vins, one recent Sunday.  The sun shone, and the atmosphere was festive!  Part of the ceremony was the induction of three of Charles Trenet’s collaborators into the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Saint-Chinian, the Fellowship of the AOC Saint-Chinian.


Of course there was an aperitif after the official business had been completed!


The “festivities” continued in the abbatiale, the former abbey church.  Here a monumental picture of Charles Trenet was unveiled, hanging on the end wall.  It looks impressive, doesn’t it??

Jean-Pierre Tutin and Jean-Jaques Debout, both of whom knew Charles Trenet very well, were playing some of the Trenet repertoire, while the rest of us snacked on cheese and apple cake.

Jean-Pierre Tutin

Jean-Pierre Tutin


Jean-Jacques Debout

You’ll be able to hear Jean-Pierre Tutin in Saint-Chinian later this year, on July 7, 2016, during the music festival.  He will be playing and singing music by Charles Trenet.  I’ll write more about the music festival in due course, once the programme is finalised.

The last event of this day of celebrating Charles Trenet was in the parish church in Saint-Chinian.  Here a recital of the music of Charles Trenet was played on the organ by William Henriet, another Trenet collaborator.  Hearing 20th century music played on an 18th century organ was interesting – let’s leave it at that! 😀

All in all, a great day, and I’m sure there will be more events in Saint-Chinian with a “Trenet” theme.

13 thoughts on “Remembering Charles

  1. What is it about the south of France and music? Charles Trenet in Narbonne/St. Chinian (I knew about Narbonne and thanks for pointing out the St. Chinian angle), Georges Brassens in Sète, Carlos Gardels in Toulouse….

    Liked by 1 person

    • And there are many more famous musicians who are from around these parts. Juliette Greco (Montpellier), Bobby Lapointe (Pezenas), Claude Nougaro (Toulouse), to name just a few!!


  2. Re Charles Trenet. Our recent visitor to SC, 23 and English and a ‘friend’ our granddaughter, clearly knew of Charles Trenet and in particular La Mer. I was surprised and pleased . Although as I write this I wonder if he had done his homework before arriving?. Good if he had, good if he hadn’t.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peter, perhaps he’d been reading the blog?? 😀 Seriously though, there are some songs which are just so well known in their own right – think of ‘My Way’, which was written by Claude Francois and started as ‘Comme d’Habitude’. Who hasn’t heard that one?


  3. I believe Charles Trenet wrote La Mer during the war years. I loved the song when I heard it in the 1950’s and loved his voice. Taking the english version to account (mon francais tres mauvais!), is the song an anti-war song (my love is across the sea – the free French forces?) or just a love song? Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. In Ireland we have a long tradition of writing faux love songs and poems (in Irish and English) which were really patriotic songs about the country, which was occupied by the English for centuries. Patriotic songs were banned of course by the occupying power! Frank Walsh


    • Hi Frank,
      from the entry on the French Wikipedia site, it appears that Trenet wrote the song in 1943 on the spur of the moment. He was in on a train which went past the Etang de Thau, and penned the song while he was travelling, inspired by the view of the water. Of course wikipedia is not always a very reliable source… Watch out for a future blog about my visit to the house where Charles Trenet was born!


  4. Pingback: It’s wine O’clock | midihideaways

Did you enjoy this post? Let me know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.