A new voice of Sunshine

"♫...Quatre soleils sur notre amour
Quatre matins
Quatre nuits
Quatre jours
Quatre soleils sur notre amour,
On s'aimera plus longtemps que toujours...♪♪"

50 years ago, a Greek lullaby made us discover what is called a voice of Sunshine. Her name, her repertoire, the poetry of some of her songs evoke her origins. Nana Mouskouri then joined some other Mediterranean performers like Tino Rossi, Luis Mariano, Georges Guétary and Dalida who are loved by Quebecers. To underline this anniversary, here is an article recalling the context leading up to her first venue in Montreal.

In November 1964, a song attracts public attention. Some radio stations play every day "Quatre soleils" (Four suns), a sentimental ballad of Eddy Marnay written on a Manos Hadjidakis music. With an accompaniment marked with bouzouki, a melodious voice tells that on every horizon a sun watches over their Love. No clouds. We know very little about the singer. In addition to this single, two of her albums are pressed here. To find out more, we must go in big record shops as Archambault Musique that specializes in French music and imports sheet music and EPs from France.

Her first album, in French, begins with "À force de prier", the title performed at the Eurovision contest 1963. It made her win the Diploma of Marathon de la Chanson française. There are also compositions of Gainsbourg, Aznavour, Bécaud and covers of American hits. Some music lovers remember "Wildwood flower" which appeared in the hit parades in November 1962. However, "Un homme est venu" will remain the most famous of all since it will play on the radio and will be included on other records. As much for the orchestration as for the way of singing, that album could be classifed in the category light jazz. This one will remain on the market until 1967.

Her second album, "My favorite Greek songs", includes songs of Hadjidakis and Theodorakis, the two most famous composers of her country. We also recognize among others the very popular "Never on Sunday" but also titles that marked her beginnings like "To kyparissaki", "Hartino to fengaraki" and "Kapou iparhi i agapi mou". The arrangements and the orchestration are signed Jacques Denjean. In 1963, this album won the Grand Prix de l’Académie du Disque français for Folklore. It finds takers among her compatriots and the ones interested in her Greek repertoire. No accident. The cover designer chose the form of a sun to illustrate the album.

In the fall of 1964, Nana is a guest singer in the Harry Belafonte show in the United States. Together, they perform in 26 university and college-campus halls. They begin on October 19 in Burlington, city in the State of Vermont located 45 minutes from the Canadian border. During this tour, Nana familiarizes herself with folk music then in full fashion. She meets its main performers; Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and the Anglo-Canadian duo Ian & Sylvia Tyson. They recommend her to sing "Un Canadien errant", a traditional song, when she'll come to Quebec.

The Montreal show is set for May 1965. They tell her that she will be surprised because some of her songs are known. There is of course "Quatre soleils", but also "Les parapluies de Cherbourg", the theme of the film which comes out in February of the same year. Nana’s version is released on a single and on her new album. It differs from the previous one and makes feel more her Mediterranean origins, her romanticism and her leaning for jazz music. Finally, the release of "Quand s’allument les étoiles", a third excerpt, will coincide with her visit in the metropolis.

Although we hear her songs on the radio and her records are selling well, most people do not put yet a face to her voice. Apart what has been published in the imported French magazines, her presence in the Quebec press is almost nonexistent. The edition of March 13, 1965 of the supplement Panoramonde dedicates a cover to her. They use the photo on which she carries a mischievous look by lowering her glasses. In the article, we learn that she is Greek and that she studied at the Conservatory. But her jazz discovery made her give up the opera. On two occasions, she won the Song Festival and she sings in several languages without an accent.

Just in time for the tour, "The Girl from Greece sings", her unique English album is reissued with a new cover. It is mainly distributed in the areas of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver where she performs with Belafonte. In this album produced by Quincy Jones in 1962, Nana covers great American standards. Despite the quality of the recordings and of the renditions, the album goes unnoticed and won’t be reprinted after exhaustion. We can allocate this to the under-exploitation of her two distributors Quality and London Records and because she is not very known on the English-speaking side. However, in some shops, we will find the American pressing.

During two weeks, from May 10 to 23, 1965, Harry Belafonte runs at Place des Arts. In the first part, he introduces the harmonica player Sonny Terry and the guitarist Brownie McGhee, who sing blues music. During 20 minutes, in the second part, Nana sings Greek and French songs. "Un Canadien errant" makes her worthy of a standing ovation. Mr Belafonte then returns to sing in duet with her and to finish the show.

Her triumph on stage confirms her popularity with the Quebecers. They learn to know her better through her interviews and appreciate that she can speak in French. In view of her big success, some journalists even write that she stole the show to Harry Belafonte. His impresario Samuel Gesser has the oportunity to work with her. He is charmed by her personality, her talent and her style. They will keep in touch.

With "Quatre soleils", a love story begins with the Quebecers. Little by little, her voice, her songs and her face become familiar. Thanks to her visit to Montreal in 1965 we get to know her. In August of the same year, a fourth single comes out. "L'enfant au tambour" and "Remets mon cœur à l’endroit" become two new hits. Other records will be released and she will come back to visit us because her presence brings us each time some sun.