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Des de Moor
About me and my work.


"The very talented Des de Moor...a sort of Brechtian Marc Almond" - Time Out
Caught in cherubic smart-bomb mode Photo: Theo Cohen

Live at the Drill Hall February 2005 Photo: Paul Jackson

Men in skirts Photo: Ian Harris

 Inspirations
My first great enthusiasm as a teenager was David Bowie, who provided the signpost to Brecht/Weill, Brel, soul, jazz, electronica and whatever else. Jacques Brel's utter passion in performance and his ability to lace humanism and warmth with penetrating social criticism are a major benchark. The jagged sonorities of Kurt Weill's Overture to The Threepenny Opera showed me a way between the lushness of 'classical' romanticism, the disengagedness of much 20th century classical musical and the imbecility of much popular song, which naturally lead me to Bertolt Brecht, still the last word on how to write political poetry and lyrics, and his second major collaborator, Hanns Eisler, one of the great 20th century songwriters. I don't share T S Eliot's world view, but he awakened a love in language in me early on and I still find myself trying to measure up to his way with words. Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk between them wrote half the manual on how to use the piano, and had the knack of writing melody lines that sound just right but still provocative and unpredictable. Franz Schubert is an object lesson in respecting the text, telling the story through song, and interlacing accompaniment with vocal line. I love the pure tone and poignant sense of vulnerability in the voices of June Tabor and Chet Baker, while another fine singer and teacher, Barb Jungr, taught me amongst many other things to think before I sing.

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Salty songs, provocative performance


English chansonnier Des de Moor is one of only a handful of British-based performers originating material that's broadly in a theatre-cabaret and chanson tradition more familiar in mainland Europe.

Des draws on the great names of European cabaret and chanson such as Brel, Brassens and Brecht, along with other influences as diverse as Latin music, jazz, folk and German romantic Lieder, to create new English chansons in a style that is still uniquely his own, a potent combination of high-profile lyrics full of wit and passion with sophisticated music dynamically and dramatically delivered.

Des is an accomplished and intense performer with a distinctive and powerful voice, unafraid to confront the gamut of emotions on stage, and his sets also include provocative and imaginative interpretations of other people's songs. Alongside more familiar names like Brecht, Brel, Bowie and Schubert, expect to hear gems from many lesser-known songwriters, many in original translations from French, German and Dutch.

Des is also the founder and host of Pirate Jenny's, a unique monthly musical cabaret night which in December 2004 celebrated ten years as one of London's most provocative nights out. Pirate Jenny's ran for many years at the Vortex in Stoke Newington before moving to the Drill Hall in central London in September 2004.

Des has so far released two albums of his own excellent compositions. 1999's Water of Europe is a set of sparkling acoustic chansons featuring many live favourites. Its predecessor, Photographs in Empty Houses, helped set his current musical direction back in 1992. The next album of original songs, Testing Times, is now composed and is due to be recorded during 2004.

In April 2000 Des launched Darkness and Disgrace, a music theatre piece based on the songs of David Bowie as adapted and presented in collaboration with former Julian Clary foil Russell Churney and directed by one of Britain's leading interpreters of chanson and musical caberet Barb Jungr. The show enjoyed several extended runs, including a stint on the Edinburgh fringe, proving a hit with both critics and audience with its unexpected and provocative stripped-down reinterpretations of well-loved songs. A first class CD of all the songs from the show was released in Autumn 2003.

Des is often seen in the company of pianist David Harrod, one of London's leading cabaret accompanists and a composer in his own right. Occasional members of an extended band have included ex-Happy Ender, Cats Cradle member and jazz/Tango specialist Julia Doyle on double bass, and extraordinary cellist/electric bassist and Mike Westbrook and Arthur Brown collaborator Stanley Adler.

Des is also known as a collaborator with other artists and a faithful translator of songs in French, German and Dutch. He worked with Barb Jungr on her French cabaret-themed album Chanson: The Space In Between, helping select material and providing new translations for both familiar and unfamiliar songs from Jacques Brel and Léo Ferré. He regularly appears alongside artists such as Jungr and Robb Johnson singing his own versions of songs by Brel, and contributed to the seminal 1998 Brel compilation CD Ne me quitte pas. One of his two tracks on 2002's English chanson compilation 9x2 was an English version of a song by Flemish kleinkunst artist Wannes Van de Velde. In 2005 his version of veteran English chansonnier Leon Rosselson's 'Jackboot Democrats' appeared on a tribute compilation, And they all sang Rosselsongs.

Des has worked as a theatre composer, with composition and arrangement credits for five shows with ESC offshoot Sturdy Beggars, including an acclaimed score and sound design for their production of Strindberg's A Dream Play. A varied previous career has involved everything from busking to rave music.

Since 1997 Des has worked regularly as a DJ at London's 100 Club, where you can currently catch him most Saturday nights playing swing, classic R&B, jazz, soul, lounge, ska and pop. As a journalist, he currently writes regularly for walk magazine and the CAMRA newspaper What's Brewing among others.

Detailed biography.


Click here to email me Contact Des de Moor at des@desdemoor.com or join the mailing list below for regular news about his work and Pirate Jenny's musical cabaret and chanson club.


 More about my work
Read a more detailed chronology of my musical career, press cuttings or about my work as a DJ and for the theatre.

 Live performances
Check the current gig list and archive of past appearances, read further details of current cabaret shows: David Bowie show Darkness and Disgrace, centuries-spanning Those Old and Evil Songs and Jacques Brel show Ne me quitte pas. Or click here for information about my musical cabaret and chanson club Pirate Jenny's.

 Recordings and lyrics
Read a full discography with detailed pages about recent recordings, or access complete lyrics for all my recent recordings and more, with some tracks to download in MP3 format.

 Background stuff
A little personal background: family, friends and other activities.

 What the critics say
"One of the country's leading interpreters of the cabaret-chanson tradition" - Guardian, September 2000
"To hear these songs in such a personalised context is a real ear-opener. I listened as though someone else had written them." - David Bowie on Darkness and Disgrace, July 2001.
"The very talented Des de Moor -- a sort of Brechtian Marc Almond" - Time Out, June 2000
"The uncompromising contemporary songs of Des de Moor would have been right up Brecht's strasse" - Tom Robinson, BBC Radio 4, April 2000
"Intelligent and moving...superbly versatile tenor...new insights at every turn" - What's On in London, January 2001
"Like a cherubic smart bomb elbowing his way into the history of chanson." - Misfit City, December 2000
"Thumbs up -- a witty unique take on English Euro cabaret" - Folk Roots, October 2000
"Excellent titres...issus de la plus pure tradition de la chanson sociale." - Woxx, Luxembourg, May 2001
"Songs that reach out and hold you forever" - Rock and Reel, Spring 2000
"A rich tapestry of provocative lyrics and chirpy melodies" - Gay Times, August 2000
"An endless stream of compelling vignettes." - The Stage, April 2000
"Go and see him live. Believe me, it's worth it." - Morning Star, October 1999
For the full texts of press reports, reviews and details of broadcasts, see the media file.