Stéphanie Lefebvre: singing celebration, healing and prayer

Photography : Jérôme Prévost - Text : Elisabeth Grosdhomme
Stéphanie Lefebvre - BAT

Stéphanie Lefebvre’s signature is first and foremost her voice. An expressive, vibrant voice, rooted somewhere between Véronique Sanson and Barbara Streisand. A voice that was born in pop music and folk songs, but nowadays sings mostly to speak to the soul.

As soon as fifteen years old, while still a high-school student in Beauvais and then a bachelor student at the university in Amiens, Stéphanie starts singing in piano bars around the region, progressively extending her repertoire from French songs to jazz, bossa nova and British pop.

As time goes on, she traces her own path, building up connections in music circles, attending courses to hone her skills in lyrical singing techniques as well as writing and composition, recording demos and sending them to record companies. And it works. In 2000, Stéphanie signs a contract with Sony Music.

The music industry has not yet been disrupted by the digital revolution and still follows « the old ways ». Producing companies strive to identify emerging talents, invest in their development over two to three albums in order for them to establish their style, find their audience, build their reputation and maybe become featured artists. For Sony Music, Stéphanie perfectly fits this mould. She puts out a first album in 2003, under the alias Lauren Faure in order to keep her private life away from the media. The record meets a promising success : 15.000 copies sold, opening concerts for well-known artists, radio and television appearances.

But then everything collapses. In the span of a few years, the economy of music is turned upside down. Musical « reality shows », which start appearing on television programmes around that time (Star Academy and Popstars as soon as 2001, Nouvelle Star in 2004), challenge the traditional process of « seeding and growing » young artists. Music lovers get into the habit of exchanging digital files instead of buying CDs ; record sales plummet. In the midst of this turmoil, Sony Music merges with Bertelsmann Music Group to create Sony BMG. In the wake of the merger, the company reviews its artists’ portfolio and decides to only keep the most established. Stéphanie loses her contract.

She therefore ends up, in 2005, back to square one. Against all odds, she decides to keep on doing what she knows best, singing, but shifts to a totally different context. She gets an education in musicotherapy, a discipline that is still hardly recognised in France but nevertheless starts to take shape through practice and research works. The principle is simple : using music, and especially singing, to stimulate the cognitive and relational abilities of patients.

It is a technique which is especially beneficial to very premature infants, helping them to complete their maturation, as well as to older people affected with brain injuries, for example people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, in order to maintain whatever capabilities they still possess. The sung voice and the music allow communication beyond words. As we speak, Stéphanie demonstrates this right away with voice and hands : she hums, accompanied by an « ocean drum » and a « finger piano », filling the space with a sound both infinitely sweet and powerful which, we have to admit, transports the listener to a different state of consciousness.

Since 2007 Stéphanie thus works in different healthcare facilities in the Oise district. Five days a week spent singing in order to heal patients.

At night and on weekends, it is a different story : she sings to pray, or to support others in prayer. Formerly very estranged from religion, Stéphanie was brought there by the hardships of doubt and self-questioning : her artist’s contract broken, with family and personal trials at the same time, that was a lot to go through.

She remembers having entered Senlis’ cathedral on a day during Lent back in 2007, with no precise goal in mind, just to find someone to talk to. She met welcoming listeners, then little by little the practice of liturgical chants, the study of the Bible, the experience of sacraments. She also discovered, at the crossroads between her old taste for songs and her new faith, the musical genre of Christian pop, very big in the United States but still nascent in France.

Nothing more was needed for Stéphanie to start composing again. In 2015, she put out « Aimer », an eleven-song album, this time under her real name, full of pop and folk sounds and inspired by Biblical texts. The production was financed through crowdfunding with the platforms CredoFunding and MyMajorCompany, and recording carried out in England at the famous Real World studios founded by Peter Gabriel.

With this album, Stéphanie was recently pre-selected for the Angel Music Awards and invited to play an « intimate concert » on the television station KTO. She is now actively preparing new songs. It is obviously a new start for an artist’s career with less glitter, more spirituality and still the same unmistakable voice.

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