Breaking language barriers through music

Jessica Fichot and her band perform a diverse, multi-language performance at The Muckenthaler Cultural Center, bringing a new way of enjoying jazz-incorporated music.
Jessica Fichot leads concert attendees in rhythmic clapping during her April 11, 2024 concert at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center. Excelling in call and response, Fichot engaged the crowd throughout the performance.
Jessica Fichot leads concert attendees in rhythmic clapping during her April 11, 2024 concert at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center. Excelling in call and response, Fichot engaged the crowd throughout the performance.

Soft, yellow lights perfectly illuminated a small stage as the soft gentle voice of L.A. based Chanteuse, songwriter and accordionist Jessica Fichot directed the band on, “Un, deux, trois!” Making an appearance in Orange County, Fichot and her band gave the audience at The Muck a mix of french chanson, shanghai jazz and multilingual folk, embracing the beauty of music and bringing different languages all together on Thursday night.

The sound of an accordion created an ambiance of being in France to the audience. Fichot starts off by performing “Je Sais Que Tu M’aimes,” which translates to “I Know That You Love Me.”

“When I started writing French music, I hadn’t played accordion growing up, but I think there was something I wanted in the sound that would remind me of French music,” said Fichot.

Fichot was born in upstate New York, but spent most of her childhood in France in the suburbs of Paris. Her mother is originally from Shanghai, China, making Fichot French, Chinese and American.

Jessica Fichot sings while playing the accordion, an integral instrument in her French-infused music, during her performance at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center on April 11, 2024. (NATHAN BASS)

Throughout the show, Fichot did not just limit herself to singing in French and Mandarin, she incorporated other languages such as Spanish when she performed a classic song called, “Historia de un Amor.” This song has been performed by numerous Latin and Hispanic singers. She also incorporated a tango rhythm through the use of musical spoons that accompany the melody of the other instruments.

Audience engagement was an important part of the show for Fichot. She made sure that the crowd is able to learn something new about the French and Mandarin language in order for them to be able to sing along with her. Also, before performing each song, she gave a small background story to explain the significance and representation the tune carries in her life.

“I usually go through an emotional roller coaster when I’m composing music. Sometimes, I’ll have an idea and I struggle with it, and then I have a flow of ideas I’m writing and think ‘oh this is great!’,” said Fichot.

Throughout the night, the audience was brought to life and inspired by her and her band members’ talents. For those in the audience who were on a musical journey, she became someone they could look to for inspiration.

“I really enjoyed the performance. I thought it was very interesting to see someone singing in various languages all in one night,” said Madison Cruz, a first year music major attending Fullerton College. “She demonstrates how jazz shouldn’t be forgotten about in the music industry and can still have a place in music today.”

Muckenthaler Cultural Center CEO Farrell Hirsch greets attendees, mostly organization members, before the Jessica Fichot concert on April 11, 2024. (NATHAN BASS)

Farrell Hirsch, CEO of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, shared how The Muckenthaler has welcomed numerous bands to perform, but none of them have had as many laughs and engagement from a crowd. Fichot’s grace and charisma transmitted through the crowd with all the smiles caught around the room. During a short break before the second set, many approached Fichot for photos and conversations. “You just want to be her friend,” said Hirsch.

The members share how as musicians they notice a lot of details that go on through the crowd. The energy can be unpredictable, but together, they work towards finding a way to uplift their audience. Their main priority is to make sure that people are having a fun and wonderful moment.

“It’s very refreshing to have people like this in your corner,” said clarinet and tenor saxophone player Chloe Feoranzo. “I usually gravitate towards people who actually want to play with me and not people who want me for simply bringing an instrument to the room.”

Strings vibrate on an upright bass plucked by Alexis Soto Jr. as he accompanies Jessica Fichot during a performance at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, on April 11, 2024. (NATHAN BASS)

The band identifies themselves as a family who have come together to uplift and inspire one another. They want to be surrounded by good people who they can have an awesome relationship with that makes the aspect of performing together more enjoyable.

“It’s not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart,” said upright bass player Alexis Soto Jr. “You have to really want to do it and you have to be willing to put up with a lot and have to hear everyone tell you that you can’t do it.”

When asked about what Fichot’s biggest takeaway in music is, she said, “Enjoy the highs and lows, and have a sense of humor about yourself, that’s all life really is about.”

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