Faces of Menlo

cabaret singer Nancy Gilliland

For many years cabaret singer Nancy Gilliland was a fixture in downtown Palo Alto, playing at Cafe Fino for 19 years, so we were surprised to find out that Menlo Park is her hometown.

“I’ve lived here  since 1988,” she said. “My husband had a house here. I came West from Atlanta where I worked for Western Electric.”

That surprised us further. Had Nancy not been musical from the start? Yes and no, she explained to us.

“I played organ professionally when I was a child,” she said. “I sat down one day and could play. I had some classical training before not pursuing it any further in college.”

In the early years at Cafe Fino, she played five nights a week. Today her gigs are more sporadic, a fact that she’s not sorry about.

“It’s kind of nice not having a steady gig,” she said. “I don’t want to compete with a blender or cappuccino machine. I do a fair amount of private parties and also appear at Angelica’s on Main in Redwood City from time to time.”

Nancy specializes in the music from the ’20s to ’40s and has a repertoire of over 2,000 songs. She either accompanies herself on the piano or works with a trio or quartet.

“I really like to interpret the story of a song,” she said. “When you can get the audience with you along on the journey —  it’s really powerful.

“Performing is part of who I am. I can’t imagine not playing.”

Booking information as well as sales of her CDs are available on her website.

Photo by Irene Searles

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