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Legendary singer and diva ("the Belgian Zarah Leander") who became the best-known singer from Flanders after the 2nd world war with a repertoire of standards or light-classical.


"Oh! Lieve Vrouwe Toren"
1'20 sec. - 157 Kb.
song : J. Dante
Year : 1953

"Voor een kusje van jou"
43,9 sec. - 86 Kb.
song : Ravasini, Bertini, Remo, Van Aleda
Year : 1953

"Alle Moeders"
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 yet).

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 de Standaard.
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 Granata.

Buy CD's of this artist at proxis

Albums :
- De gouden stem van Esterella (2LP, 1974)
- De levende legende (CD, 1989)
- La Esterella - Master Series (CD, 1997)

Websites :
- "Immer Schijnen", the documentary that was made about her
- De "eregallerij van het Vlaamse lied" of radio 2 celebrated her in 2000.

Forum :
- Read the messages about La Esterella
- Add your message, question, cd- or concertreview ... about La Esterella in the Forum


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Last update to this site : December 2001.

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