Your questions

Presenters' questions

Claudia's answers

What is cabaret?
"Cabaret" began in the intimate setting of 1880s Paris bistros and taverns as a gathering place for artists, poets, singers, actors and musicians to share songs and stories. The small size of the room underscored the intimacy between teller and listener, and the universality of life's experiences. That's the cabaret I love to share.
You sing in French so how will other people understand you?
I set up each song by telling its story in English or by singing an English version alongside the French. It helps that so many words in our American vocabulaire come from French and that we pepper our conversations with idioms so chic and filled with l'amour. C'est la vie, vive la France, hôtel, fraternité, bonjour,and voilà!
Music is the universal language and then there's body language—definitely universal. As an electrician in my audience once said, "I don't understand a word of French but I understood everything you were singing."
Some of my favorite audiences are seniors who remember of lot of my songs in their English versions and sing along. My other favorite audiences are kids because we are "awesome" in any language.

Do you sing American songs, jazz standards?
In addition to American songs about Paris and American hits in France, I especially love to sing American songs as part of Espresso—4 Chicago Voices. That way I get to sing Sh-Boom, sh-boom and Java Jive with the best of them (my fabulous colleagues).
Is cabaret safe to bring my kids to?
Definitely, I even take my cabaret shows to elementary schools and high schools, using songs that match their interests and studies. Cabaret in my book is not the Las Vegas sex show. It's about revealing feelings, not underwear.

What is a house concert?
A wonderful way to have live music and friends together in the relaxed setting of home. I love fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger's answer so she's given me permission to quote her.
A house concert is a fun and informal way of getting to hear music that you really enjoy. It is a cross between a party with all your friends and relatives, and a concert with your favorite musicians.
Desired attendance; between 20 and 60 people, depending on how many you think your living room will comfortably hold. Ticket price; usually a $10 to $20 donation per person; or the equivalent from a group of sponsors; all proceeds typically go to the musicians.
Whether you have an established series, or are a first timer please let us know—we'd love to come and play at your house!

How do you pronounce your name?
Hommel rhymes with "la belle". (Pierre Saka, lyricist and chanson expert, came up with that one. Merci, Pierre.)

What is Maison Clobert and how do you pronounce Clobert?
Maison Clobert is my record label and production "house". In France maison often applies to a publishing house (as it does, for example, with Random House in English). Clobert rhymes with bear and may appear to be a twist on Claudette Colbert, the 1930s movie star.

Answers for presenters

We don't have a piano on site. Will you still consider performing in our venue?
Let's bring the accordionist or the jazz band with guitar, bass, and clarinet or saxophone. If a particular concert requires piano (and some of my shows do), we will consider using electric keyboards with piano action and 88 keys.
The younger audiences want high-energy music. How are you going to reach them?
Kids have more eclectic taste then we often give them credit for. I have lots of respect for young people and I think they sense it when I play for them. I've never lost a young audience. And I love it when they say, as a 12th grader in Manhattan, Kansas, said: "I had never really seen anything like that before and it was wonderful." Her 4th-grade sister piped up, "Awesome."

Will you sing to recorded music?
Non, never! Cabaret is all about relationship and for me the relationship starts with my musical partner. Mind you, certain shows can be done well to a track but I thrive on spontaneity, so the track and I would quickly get out of synch.
But never say "never". I have been known to use tracks in an audition or showcase-type situation. Period.

Zut! you're already booked for my date. Can you recommend someone else to perform at my event?
Bien sûr! I am happy to refer you to the deep pool of talent among members of the Chicago Cabaret Professionals -- www.chicagocabaret.org is a good place to start. Or call me for a personal reference. Some of my best friends sing in French, too!

Our venue seats 800. How are you going to keep the performance up close and personal?
Years of crafting stories in song for smaller audiences has taught me that those same stories can cross the footlights and reach the balcony. Just bring together the intention, the body language, and a good sound system and you can have an intimate cabaret concert in a large venue. If there are steps leading into the audience and a follow-spot, I'll also mix it up with some lucky audience members.

Do you do this for a living?
When your generosity allows me to. My "day job" is marketing my "evening work". Your word-of-mouth and recommendations help a great deal. Merci !