Fribourg: A musical show dedicated to Michael Jackson at the Collège de Gambach

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More than forty students will sing the hits of the king of pop, Thursday and Friday at the aula of the Collège de Gambach, in Fribourg.

A choir of more than forty students was created for the occasion. © Jean-Baptiste Morel

A choir of more than forty students was created for the occasion. © Jean-Baptiste Morel

Published on 05/15/2024

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Dressed in black, two students sing Earth Song at the Collège de Gambach, in Fribourg. Their sometimes powerful, sometimes captivating voices are joined by those of choristers during the chorus, while music teacher Francesca Keller directs everyone.

A few sparkles catch the eye, coming from the sequined gloves worn by the singers. The pressure is building, as this is one of the final rehearsals.

An ambitious event will indeed take place Thursday and Friday, at 7:30 p.m., at the college aula: Shamone! The music of Michael Jackson. This musical show will present the hits of Michael Jackson, who died in 2009. Formed for the occasion, the PopChor-Gambach choir will be accompanied by musicians and sometimes beatboxers. More than 40 students aged 16 to 20, some of whom also come from Collège Saint-Michel, will be on stage. Many are German-speaking or part of bilingual classes. “There will also be a little dancing,” promises the music teacher, who imagined this event for which nine months of rehearsals were necessary.

Complex music

Because Francesca Keller was a singing teacher for 15 years in a music school in Burgdorf (BE). “I set up a lot of projects there. It’s important to motivate people, who don’t just train alone at home,” explains the woman who has been teaching at Gambach College for two years. If she chose to highlight Michael Jackson, it is because she has been a fan of him since childhood: “His songs are much more complex than others in terms of pop, and we want to give a general picture of his career.” She says she thought about the serious accusations the artist was subjected to towards the end of his life, but she points out that he was never convicted and wants to separate the man and the music.

“We want to give a general picture of Michael Jackson’s career”
Francesca Keller

Always seeking to liven up life at the college, the administrator of the establishment Eric Python says he was immediately interested in the project, which the management supports: “Francesca Keller is very committed, motivated and enthusiastic, it was impossible to brake,” he jokes, specifying that the budget for the event is around 10,000 francs. To cover it, around 80% of the 300 available places would need to be taken up. For the moment, around 50% have already been sold for the two performances.

We also had to think about the organization and release students from certain courses during the home stretch, so that they could come and rehearse. Francesca Keller arranged certain pieces, remaining as faithful as possible to the original songs. As for the choreographies of the choir, they were imagined by Nolan Latorre, spotted by the singing teacher. The final year student is in fact part of the Black Diamond’s, who won ten consecutive national titles at Hip-Hop International Switzerland.

The truth about Michael Jackson, finally!

“It’s the first time I’ve been able to take the reins, choreographically speaking, and the chorus members learned quite quickly.” He himself will slip into the shoes of Michael Jackson during a piece, for which he learned legendary steps, such as the moonwalk: “It’s complicated to understand, but not that difficult.”

Solos

According to Francesca Keller, volunteers were not difficult to find for the numerous solos: “The students have a good level and I wanted to give them the opportunity to perform alone on stage, because it is also very good for the self esteem. I trained them a lot, helping them develop their voices, but I also remained sincere: when I think someone is not ready to sing a solo, I say so, because I don’t want them to be there are bad experiences.”

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Note that professionals were hired for the music, as well as for the sound system, and that one of Gambach’s teachers, Albin Ackermann, is on guitar. As for the choir, Francesca Keller would like it to continue. It could be the counterpart to the college’s well-known theater troupe, according to Eric Python. Francesca Keller would like to make it the equivalent of the renowned Chœur Saint-Michel, but in a pop-rok style. She already dreams of putting on a new musical show around the group ABBA.

And what does Shamone mean anyway? This is a phrase often used by Michael Jackson in his songs, meaning “come on” and was originally created by soul singer Mavis Staples.

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