58 sec. - 112 Kb.
song : F. Falchocchio, U. Bertini, E. Franssen, Van Aleda
Year : 1954
"Steeds denk ik aan jou"
80 sec. - 157 Kb.
song : Brahms, E. Franssen, arr. J. Stevens
Year : 1958
Record co. : Philips
La Esterella's real name was Esther Lambrechts (°May 7, 1919), and
under this somewhat less star-spangles namd she worked as a seamstress in the
Antwerp region. Together with her mother, she went to visit the singing contests
that were held each week in "Oud België" in that city. In October
1940, she had a go at it herself. The second time she participated, she made it
to the final (her goal, as it earned her 150fr!), and made the acquaintance of
a man named Charly Schleimovitz there and then.
This Russian (stateless) immigrant and ex-acrobat had an eye out for Ester
for some time, and now made himself available as her impressario, and a bit later
as her big love (they married in 1950). He put La Esteralla up in singing school
(with a jewish teacher, who later on in the war was deported), and managed to
have her sing in the great halls of those days. La Esterella about this relationship
later in "het verhaal van de Vlaamse showbizz": "My man didn't
only handle the business side of things. He literally though me éverything.
I didn't even know how to put make-up on, you know. He taught me how to dress,
how to stand on stage. He is the one that made me a star".
As she enjoyed a bit of succes, she was enlisted by the Germans to go sing
in Germany, but in 1944 she managed to evade another tour there. Just after the
war, she made her breakthrough in a number of European countries. One tour followed
another, and in most European capitols she was announced as "the Belgian
Zarah Leander". From 1948 to 1954, she stayed in England each year for 6
months, to perform in the concert halls of the coastal towns, and regularly to
perform in front of the microphones of the BBC. Or as her colleague-singer Jo
Leemans said it: "La Esterella has put Flanders on the map, internationally.
When I went to London for the first time after the war, I saw her name in big
letter on a theater. "She's from Belgium, you know", i proudly told
my fellow travellers on the bus". La Esterella sung in more than 10 languages,
and had a reputation for the incredible speed with which she mastered new songs.
In 1953, the singer got offered a record deal from Philips, which started
a presence in Flanders at that time. The label made her sing a mostly dutch repertoire,
and between 1953 and 1959 this brought her songs - which have later become evergreens
- such as "Oh! Lieve Vrouwe Toren" (about one of the 3 proud towers
of Antwerp), "Voor een kusje van Jou" (For a Little Kiss From You -
both in 1953), "Alle Moeders (All mothers - 1954), "Ave maria"
(1955), "Arrivederci Roma" (1956), "Het lied van Lima" (The
song of Lima - 1957) or "Steeds denk ik aan jou" (I always think of
you - 1958). These were mostly Italian or French songs, in sweetsounding, Disney-like
arrangements, with very romantic lyrics (the clichés weren't quite invented
In real life, however, things weren't going from good to better though: she
remained childless after a miscarriage, and in 1959 her husband and support Charly
became seriously ill. When he dide in June of 1962, La Esterella said goodbye
to showbizz. She went to work as a (very multilingual) secretary, and remarried
in 1970. This marraige unfortunately also wasn't "forever", as this
second husband also died, in november 1980.
A few year after, to everybody great surprise, La Esterella broke the silence
(after 22 year), when she was persuaded to sing a song in the Studio of Radio2.
As she later told de Standaard: "It was at a radio-show in the Flagey-building.
I had agreed to sing óne song. No, not Flemish, but Ol' Man River of Sinatra.
He was the only one whose songs I still kept humming along when they were aired
on the radio. From the first notes that sounded through the studio, everybody
eyebrows went up, but I knew I could do it. And it worked out. I got a standing
ovation. Unbelievable, I was never happier than then at that moment".
This "come-back" got her so many good reactions, that her career got
a second start. In 1984 she got a medal from the Minister of Culture, and in 1994
a medal of the City of Antwerp. Occasionaly, she also recorded a few songs, such
as for Levenslijn in 1995 (with Coco Jr), or a song for
the soundtrack of the movie "Shades"
in 2000 (with Alex Callier of Hooverphonic and Regi Pinxten
of Milk Inc), but there were also re-issues of the songs
she had recorded in the fifties.
Anno 2001, Esther Lambrechts still regularly feels the urge to "enter
ths skin" of La Esterella. She is still in demand, so much so she can select
the gigs she really favours. A gig for the students in Leuven made most papers.
"At the end, they were all listening with a lump in their throats. Good
music moves you, no matter what the age of it is", she told newspaper
In April 2000 there was a documtary "Immer Schijnen" - meaning "Shine
Forever" - made about her, with as synopsis : "In the imagination
of the storyteller of this documentary, there is no Esther Lambrechts, only the
star La Esterella, who came with a star-limo from space to speak the
language of the stars to us, in other words: to sing for us. Anno 1941, war, a
poor seamstress takes the chance she's getting. Anno 2000, La Esterella still
stubbornly assumes the role of Diva, even although the big auditoriums have become
communal halls. Still, she obeys her one order: "shine forever". As
a queen, she stands on the stage. When she sings, it's goosebumps and tears all
around!". Reaction of the singer herself : "nice, but far from complete".
Also in 2000, La Esterella received a trophy from Radio 2 "Voor Een Leven
Vol Muziek", an honour she shared that year with Bobbejaan
Schoepen, Toots Thielemans, Will Tura & Rocco
Buy CD's of this artist
- De gouden stem van Esterella (2LP, 1974)
- De levende legende (CD, 1989)
- La Esterella - Master Series (CD, 1997)
- "Immer Schijnen",
the documentary that was made about her
- De "eregallerij van het Vlaamse lied" of radio
2 celebrated her in 2000.
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