Magic Moment: Glen Hansard at Shakespeare & Co

Last Tuesday Glen Hansard played an afternoon acoustic set in Shakespeare & Company bookshop. Hansard is perhaps best known  for his part in the movie “Once,” but he’s a veteran musician (with The Frames and more recently The Swell Season).

What a privilege to be in such an intimate space listening to gorgeous, unadorned music! One voice and a guitar. That’s it.

“Lots of traveling takes a toll on the flesh,” Hansard said, “but not the soul. Voice may sound broken but it’s singing its heart out.”

His voice sure didn’t sound broken to me. Strong, emotional, and yes, full of heart. In an age of cynicism I find Hansard’s earnestness – those life and love songs he belts out at the top of his lungs – so refreshing.

(Poor quality video, but to give you an idea):

Shakespeare & Co’s upstairs library doesn’t hold many people; we packed in as we could. Hansard recounted the first time he came to play in Paris in 1993 or ’94. He heard that Serge Gainsbourg and Samuel Beckett were buried in Montparnasse cemetery near the Irish bar where they were booked. He decided to pay his respects.

Upon finding an old woman at Gainsbourg’s grave he lent her his walkman so she could listen to a Gainsbourg song during her visit. Meanwhile he went to see Beckett. He laid a pencil – all he had – on the tomb in hommage, but the wind quickly blew it away. He took it as Beckett saying, aw, away with you ; )

When he turned around the old woman was gone, too; she had stolen his walkman! Then he got lost trying to find his way back to the bar and ended up missing the gig. So, that was actually the first time he didn’t play in Paris.

“Anyone have any requests? I didn’t really prepare anything,” Hansard said, returning to the music at hand. I loved the private house party feel to it, all of us gathered round.

Here in the City of Light, the clocks have turned back an hour and the cold has come, the light less and less each day. This waning time heading toward winter has a kind of beautiful melancholy to it. I’ve talked about this before, the importance of gratitude, of how I actively name the beautiful things in my life, even when – perhaps especially when – things are hard. Does sadness help crystallize joy? Am I more reflective as I approach another birthday? Another year, another year.

I just know I’m alert to the magic moments. Ordinary, extraordinary, tiny, containing all the world.

Last week I didn’t have to look hard. The concert was one of those moments. Merci, universe!

What have been some of your magic moments lately?

And East Coast friends, stay safe from Sandy! Let me know you’re okay!


26 Responses to “Magic Moment: Glen Hansard at Shakespeare & Co”

  1. 1 Buffy October 30, 2012 at 12:45 am


    I love his music; having only heard it from the movie Once until recently. Thank you for sharing. I am sure it was a treat. Hope Paris is being kind to you as the weather grows colder. We are having a hurricane here in VA.

    Take care,


    • 2 paris (im)perfect October 30, 2012 at 12:51 am

      Oh, I know! So many of my friends and family are on the East Coast. I am thinking about all of you. Hold tight and stay safe!


      • 3 paris (im)perfect October 30, 2012 at 1:06 am

        P.S. I wasn’t going to post this today as I wasn’t sure it was sensitive timing, but I’ve been watching status updates roll in from friends all day and they are facing the storm with humor and everyone is still safe so far. Some people were going stir crazy already, so I decided to offer some reading material 🙂

        And that is ANOTHER slice of magic I’m grateful for: seeing how concerned and supportive everyone is awaiting this scary storm.

        Stay safe, Buffy! Check in later!


      • 4 Buffy October 30, 2012 at 2:21 am

        It is always nice to have a diversion when there is bad lurking. I am just happy not to be at work tonight and tomorrow. I would worry how things are at home. Thanks for the well wishes. I hope your friends and family stay safe.


  2. 5 pretemoiparis October 30, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Beautiful post Sion!!!! Thank you so much for sharing. Magic moments are all around us…


  3. 7 Karin P October 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I saw this post in my email inbox after it posted, and I nearly could not bring myself to come on to your blog and comment because I am SO ENVIOUS. *green face* Oh wow. I loved the film “Once”, the soundtrack got me through some superbly difficult times, and even listening to this video makes my eyes leak water (lol).

    I would have loved to have seen this in person.

    But, just having had the opportunity to be in that wonderful bookstore over the past four years, knowing Hansard’s music, and having this amazing video to watch has absolutely shared the magic with me. Magic is with us wherever we are, wherever we go, and you remind me that we just have to be on the lookout for it. And I could use a wee bit of a sense of magic these days. Maybe I need to start looking harder.

    I am hoping that the magic writing fairies are with me in the coming days, haha. I am not doing nearly enough it feels to prep for NaNoWriMo, and this year is feeling a lot like November 2008, where I wrote a respectable 25,000 words or so (I can’t remember the exact number) but was the only year I did not make the goal of 50K. I’m not trying to give up before I start, but this year I could use a little magic to get there. It’s going to be a slog, it feels like.

    ‘Course, I write that in the wake of the devastation on the east coast of the U.S. and realize that folks out there need a lot of hard work and magic to recover from the storm. Perspective. My NaNo woes pale! It’s been that way planet-wide this year – Asia was pounded continually with Category 4 & 5 typhoons and storms these past months. We did not hear as much about them, since they did not shut down Wall Street (heh) nor cut power to the Big Apple, but our planet is in the middle of some pretty remarkable weather and other earth events in the past couple of years. I have a feeling we are in store for more. I think the planet could use a little magic, too. I know I am trying to do my part to give it! But yeah. It needs a lot.

    I think moments like you captured are actually pretty huge in providing an oasis of magic in our lives, and I feel deeply grateful that you shared it, even if it made my eyes water. Gotta stop cutting onions in my bedroom!! Grrrr!! (lol)



    • 8 paris (im)perfect October 30, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      Hi Karin,

      Oh, thanks for such a thoughtful comment. So much here to respond to! Though I think you’ve said it all very well so perhaps I’ll just agree 🙂

      I have been listening to WNYC (New York public radio) nonstop today and started the morning by crying as I looked at photos and videos of the devastation. Indeed. I felt a little weird talking about “magic moments” knowing this scary storm was a-coming, but I think it’s true: recognizing these small magic moments are really important in the face of such big hard things. I mean, life is hard. But it’s been amazing to me seeing (yet again) how people can come together in times of crisis and I love the humor my NYC peeps are displaying in the face of it.

      I’m sending you love, too and magic as well. I can imagine it’s a bit hard to hear Paris news. Ah, isn’t so much of life bittersweet? Beautiful melancholy nostalgia. As for NaNo, I think you’re well placed. I think it’s important to remember that JUST TRYING is also awesome. In life in general, too!

      Thanks for popping over to the blog, Karin and take care.


      • 9 Karin P October 30, 2012 at 6:07 pm

        “Beautiful melancholy nostalgia.”

        Indeed. 🙂 And you know, it is true that, being wired up the way that I am, this is not a bad place for my head to be in. Ha! Good writing fodder…. Hmmmmm. Maybe those fairies are starting to help out. 😉

        Just wanted to say my thoughts are with everyone in the eastern US, and I think that when we all send our good hopes and wishes to them, and help in the physical ways that we can, we hold the balance for them.

        It often seems that even people in individual relationships have this happen: one person has tough times, the other has good times, and the one who is not in the depths of the trouble helps hold up the one that is. I think that we create a lot of energy with our thoughts and minds, and the more positive and hopeful we can be in our heads regarding the people affected by the storm, the better off folks will be in their recovery.

        So, I’m sending the best of possible thoughts to people in NYC and elsewhere who have been affected.

        Take care, Sion.


  4. 11 Amy Kortuem October 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Such good advice – actively naming the good things. That’s why I hestiate to post on my blog about when things are overwhelming like I did a few weeks ago, because it’s my good space, my positive space, my “see? your life is great!” space.

    Honesty, however, is a good thing. That’s my magical moment, this realization. And the sunrise this morning in Minnesota – those colors.

    Such a lovely moment you experienced there at S&Co. I’d love to give a harp concert there, but I don’t think it would fit up the stairs!


    • 12 paris (im)perfect October 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      Amy, that is SUCH an important realization. Honesty IS amazing. Yes, it’s wonderful to name the good things and actively practice gratitude. But that in no way excludes recognizing life’s difficulties, too! I think people appreciate when you show vulnerability (it’s strong to speak your truth!)

      One of the most magical moments I’ve had on this blog was when I had to write about my divorce. That was very hard. It’s obviously not the sunny, fantasy life in Paris that you think people might want to hear. And yet I received such an outpouring of love and support and encouragement it turned into such a beautiful moment. That is honesty and beauty in action. I literally read the comments with tears streaming down my eyes. I was so, so grateful. I feel this more and more, that the struggle and the beauty really do mix with me each other so much.

      So don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re going through. It actually offers a chance for people to show you how much they love you. It’s kind of amazing.

      As for your harp concert in S&Co, they also do events on the ground floor and outside! So don’t give up that dream 🙂


  5. 13 Franck October 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    I taught reading to a young adult. First time he read effortless and understood the meaning of the story (the three Musketeers)… I realized that I had given him all the universe. Limits of his mind just exploded for ever. I felt like god on earth, a giant among dwarfs… then I checked my pack of bills and that rare feeling disappeared. I check too much, I know it but I can’t help myself.


  6. 15 Sweet Freak October 31, 2012 at 4:26 am

    Amazing! You lucky girl! And didn’t you recently see A.M. Holmes as well??


    • 16 paris (im)perfect October 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Yes! S & Co has been killing it lately. She was here THIS past Monday. It was amazing. Truly incredible. I almost said something about it in this post, but I wasn’t sure it could contain all that amazingness. I’ve been thinking these “Magic Moment” posts could become a recurring feature…though when I think about it there are SO many magic moments, maybe that would just be too much 🙂


  7. 17 Fabien October 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Frak! Missed that.
    Please tell me it was a short gig, so I haven’t missed that much.


    • 18 paris (im)perfect November 1, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      Well I could tell you that if you wanted, but I’ll just state the facts 🙂 It was about 45 minutes minutes, I think. So not a long gig, but a rich one.


      • 19 Fabien November 1, 2012 at 3:21 pm

        Rediscovered Shakespeare&Co by doing a tour of most libraries with english books in the Latin Quarter with a freshly arrived american writer a few weeks ago.
        That’ll teach me: she inquired about S&C’s upcoming events, I didn’t. I really should have!!


      • 20 paris (im)perfect November 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm

        Ah yes, now you’ve learned a lesson: it never hurts to ask! S&Co has always had great literary events, but they seem to be branching out even more these days – music, film screenings. Even see that an improv dance group is coming this month!


  8. 21 F.H.R November 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    True. But as I bookmarked/monitor those kind of events, it didn’t seemed necessary, plus I already knew I was going to miss the next cool event at the time (David Simon).

    What Sylvia Whitman is doing with the shop is really great, indeed. Never noticed the film screenings, that said.
    Gonna keep an eye on it from now on, that’s for sure!


  9. 22 Edna December 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Oh. my. god. I cannot believe I missed this. Thanks for taking the video though! It’s almost…almost…like I was there. (and yes, I am this far behind on my google reader.)


    • 23 paris (im)perfect December 2, 2012 at 2:13 am

      Ha. I actually gave up on Google Reader awhile ago. I got so behind!

      Glad to almost bring you there. I nearly missed the concert myself. Seemed a last minute addition to the schedule…I’m glad I checked the events page the night before!


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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