Des de Moor
Pirate Jenny's Club.

London's most provocative night out.
Mary Read was here! Pic: National Maritime Museum

 Forthcoming shows
Currently there are no forthcoming Pirate Jenny shows confirmed: see right.

 Other venues
The shows below are not promoted by Pirate Jenny's but are likely to be of interest to PJ audiences. We're pleased to be able to support the venues and performers by publicising them here.

Komedia, Brighton
Hosts of Barb Jungr's regular Café Prague.

New Greenham Arts, Greenham Common near Newbury

Hosts of Barb Jungr's regular Blue Hours.

Rosemary Branch, London N1.

One of the few small theatres in London to support positively music theatre and musical cabaret.

Vortex, London E8
Pirate Jenny's former home has now reopened at the Dalston Culture House with a full programme of jazz.

Pirate Jenny's

Pirate Jenny is currently taking a well-earned rest after almost 12 years hosting the only regular slot in the capital, and one of very few in the country, dedicated to chanson, theatre song, musical cabaret and literate, dramatic song in the European tradition.

Jenny hopes to announce a new programme of London dates at some time in the future. In the meantime club founder and host, leading English chansonnier Des de Moor, continues to appear live: see the gigs page for details.

To stay in touch check this site regularly or join the email newsletter (see right). Full details of past dates can be found by following the Pirate Jenny's Archive links on the right.

Pirate Jenny's has always featured the most varied and fascinating bills of serious entertainment in London, by turns boldly dramatic, hilariously comic, passionately political and hauntingly moving. The club began in December 1994 with a mission to provide a regular platform in London for songwriters and performers from, or influenced by, the European tradition of literate, dramatic song.

Since then we've welcomed a huge range of talented performers from Britain and abroad: chanteurs and chanteuses, cabarettists and cabarettistes, chansonniers and chansonnières, singer-songwriters, theatre song performers, actor-singers, and even a few performance artists and poets, by turns boldly dramatic, hilariously comic, passionately political and hauntingly moving.

Highlights over the years have included ex-Sadista Sister and entartete Musik specialist Jude Alderson and her Amazonia company; intelligent songwriter and Clive James collaborator Pete Atkin; legendary (and now sadly departed) cabaret performer Agnes Bernelle; Flemish kleinkunst artist and Brassens interpreter Koen De Cauter; Amsterdam-based German cabaret interpreter Hilde Hildebrand; brilliant Brel-inspired English chansonnier Philip Jeays; outstanding songwriter Robb Johnson; queen of musical cabaret Barb Jungr; electrifying Fascinating Aïda star and songwriter Dillie Keane; US poet and lyricist Fran Landesman; Danish cabaret stars Livingstones Kabinet; accomplished actor-singer and theatre song interpreter Elizabeth Mansfield; acclaimed German theatre song interpreter Eva Meier; sophisticated Parisian chanteuse Caroline Nin; ex-Jethro Tull member turned affecting chansonnière Dee Palmer; Weill, Poulenc and Vian expert Peter Scott (Eric) Presland; veteran English chansonnier Leon Rosselson; fringe rock star and storyteller in song Judge Smith; musical cabaret legend and Brel interpreter Peter Straker; unique falsetto jug band The Tiger Lillies; British jazz-cabaret pioneers Kate and Mike Westbrook; cabaret and Yiddish song specialist Alexandra Yaron and many, many more.

Until April 2004, Pirate Jenny happened monthly at the old Vortex Jazz Bar in Stoke Newington. In September 2004 we moved to the Drill Hall 2 in Bloomsbury. We have also supported Barb Jungr's monthly Café Prague club at Brighton's Komedia cabaret bar, Irregular Records English chanson events, cabaret at the Rosemary Branch and other related activities.

To contact Pirate Jenny's, email us at jenny@desdemoor.com. To join the mailing list for regular gig updates, use the form top right.

Musical cabaret and chanson
Musical Cabaret is a catch-all term for a variety of musical styles and traditions that have a certain sensibility in common, but don't fit easily into the familiar Anglo-Saxon pigeon holes: song styles that found their voice in the cabarets and bars of the urban Europe of the modern era, direct but sophisticated, anything from hilarious funny to hopelessly fatalistic, sometimes sleazy and adult, often satirical or political, and designed to be dramatically performed in a way that gets the message across.

Reflecting the fact that other countries aren't so hung up about the division of musical labour as the English-speaking world, many of these songs straddle the boundaries of popular, folk and 'serious' music. The great dramatist Brecht and the conservatoire-trained compose Weill thought nothing of writing operas full of quirky pop songs and making a major contribution to the tradition of German satirical cabaret. The French would think it odd to place Poulenc on a higher plane than Piaf, and hailed chansonniers like Brel and Brassens as poets who had strings of hit singles. The Dutch-speaking world has a genre of literate singer-songwriting called 'kleinkunst' -- 'little art', but art nonetheless.

Finding a native equivalent to names like these in the English speaking world is difficult: British music hall is long dead, the revue tradition in which Noël Coward wrote now condemned to the nostalgia bin, and the crafted Broadway tunes of the Kern and Porter school long since appropriated and stripped of their verbal significance by jazz. But think of the sour visions of Sondheim, or imagine the work of the pithier English-speaking singer-songwriters from the 'folk' scene, like Ewan MacColl, Phil Ochs or even Joni Mitchell, performed with a little theatrical pizzazz, and you're getting there.

Musical Cabaret songs are usually wordy songs, the tune supporting a lyric that has something to say for itself or tell a story. Performing these songs means getting inside the lyrics, acting them out, communicating them with passion or detachment as appropriate. Although many came from the social settings of smoke-filled cabarets, they are not background music but works that command the audience's attention - and reward it. In an era when the lyrics of much popular music have long since lapsed into the functional and banal, such a stimulating engagement with a song is a rare treat indeed.

'Cabaret' here might mean entertainment but it is not equivalent to comedy. Cabaret songs can be witty and sometimes uproariously funny, but they can also be thought-provoking, moving or downright chilling. An alternative term is chanson: the word is, of course, the French word for song, though it tends to imply a popular song, perhaps by the likes of Vian, Trenet, Brassens or Brel, as opposed to 'mélodie' which sounds artier. It is also widely used outside France to indicate earthy, dramatic cabaret songs: H K Gruber, the Weill and Eisler specialist from Austria, prefers to be known as a 'chansonnier' to avoid the comic associations of cabaret.

In recent years a handful of British-based artists, often from rock or folk backgrounds, have taken inspiration from European cabaret and chanson and introduced its sensibilities into their own work, both by covering songs from its repertoire (in translation or original language) and by generating new material. It's a small movement, but it's growing, and the term 'English chanson', which gives the work a sense of place (often important to the style) in the English-speaking world but also points up its mainland European heritage, is as good a term as any.

This article by Des de Moor is an updated and expanded version of a piece that originally appeared in the Vortex monthly programme to introduce Pirate Jenny's for the first time.

 Email newsletter
Enter your email address and click on the button below to receive regular updates on Pirate Jenny's, Des de Moor and other musical cabaret and English chanson news from the pirate_jenny mailing list (although this is a Yahoo! group, it is a newsletter and not a discussion list).
For more information on the mailing list, and to view back issues of the newsletter, visit groups.yahoo.com/

 Pirate Jenny's Archive
Pirate Jenny's Rollcall
Past performers A-Z
Past performances by date including links to old press releases

Other stuff
Vortex closure
Vortex closing night review and photos
Des's autumn 2004 season set lists
Agnes Bernelle tributes
Russell Churney tribute
Claude Nougaro tribute
Jake Thackray tribute
Kurt Weill in America by Eric Presland

Brel 25th anniversary:

 On other pages
Click here to read about Des de Moor, or see the gigs page for a complete list of his forthcoming performances.

 Other artists
If you like Des's work, or Pirate Jenny's sounds like your sort of gig, you might also be interested in the homepages of the following performers, many of whom have played regularly at Pirate Jenny's.

Jude Alderson/Amazonia Company

Pete Atkin
Attila the Stockbroker

Jane Bom-Bane
Lorraine Bowen
Mark Bunyan
Alan Clayson
Tim Dalling
Koen De Cauter and family
Jo de Waal and Pigeon Quartet
Kinny Gardner

Annette Hildebrand
Kev Hopper

Philip Jeays
Robb Johnson
Barb Jungr
Dillie Keane and Fascinating Aïda

Fran Landesman
Livingstones Kabinet

Elizabeth Mansfield
Julie McKee
Sebastian Michael
Liesl Müller
Caroline Nin
George Papavgeris
John Peacock
Anne Pigalle
Marcus Reeves
Tom Robinson
Leon Rosselson
Judge Smith
Kath Tait
Tiger Lillies
Kate & Mike Westbrook
Alexandra Yaron
Harry Zevenbergen