As a part of the Moncton Armenian Festival, whose goal is to promote Armenian culture in Metro Moncton, a special tribute to the work of French-Armenian artist Charles Aznavour will take place at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre this Thursday evening.
The show will feature local and national talent, including popular French musicians Marie-Jo Therio, Sandra Le Couteur, Lina Boudreau, Michel Carpentier and Serge Bedrossian, an Armenian singer-songwriter and composer who sings in 10 different languages.
Also taking part in this celebratory evening of music is Moncton choral group Les Jeunes Chanteurs d’Acadie as well as 16-year-old Maxime Robichaud.
The Moncton Armenian Festival, celebrated bi-annually, launched in 2005. This year’s festival got under way at the Aberdeen Cultural Centre last week. The founder of the festival, Sylvia Kasparian, says that Thursday’s show honouring Aznavour, arguably one of the biggest musical icons of the last century, is only appropriate on the eve of Aznavour’s 90th birthday.
Aznavour is an internationally acclaimed author, singer-songwriter, composer and actor whose career has spanned the last seven decades. He has appeared in more than 60 movies, composing more than 1,000 songs, which have helped him sell more than 100 million records.
“Charles Aznavour is such a unique artist. His voice and his sound isn’t one that is easily imitated,” Kasparian begins. “At the outset of his music career, he was told he didn’t have a good singing voice and yet, he is on the verge of turning 90 and still singing.”
Kasparian admits that while she would have loved to have Aznavour in attendance at this coming Thursday’s show, his schedule simply did not allow that to happen.
“I thought that right now was the right time to honour him. I believe that this is a project that will have a little something for everyone, no matter what their age. Young and older people alike listen to his music. It is really truly amazing to see the longevity that his music has had. I think that a big reason for that is the fact that his songs come from the heart. He has an incredible passion for words and is very poetic with the way he sings.”
Born Shahnour Varenagh Aznavourian in Paris, Aznavour’s parents were Armenian immigrants who fled the threat of massacre by the Turks during the First World War. Aznavour’s father was a singer while his mother was an actress and part-time seamstress. It was little surprise that Aznavour eventually found his way to the stage.
Before he started making music however, Aznavour was a star of the theatrical and cinematic stage, making his stage and screen debuts at the age of nine. Although he was reportedly hesitant about his singing abilities, the legendary Edith Piaf, for whom he also served as a chauffeur, coached him. It was with her help that Aznavour developed his style and while not initially received with open arms, Aznavour’s breakthrough would happen in Casablanca in 1956. He would eventually sign with Reprise Records in the United States, the record label that was founded and run by the legendary Frank Sinatra.
Proving that the music of Aznavour is something that appeals to multiple generations of fans, Robichaud was introduced to Aznavour’s catalogue by her father around the time that she was four years old. She admits that while she could not necessarily understand what Aznavour was saying or singing about, there was some inexplicable force that continued to draw her to his music.
“When I became old enough to understand the meaning behind the songs, he became one of my absolute favourite artists,” Robichaud says. “He is not just a singer – he is almost a magician with the way he is so passionate about his music and how he can bring out such strong emotions in people with his songs. His songs have touched me rather deeply.”
Robichaud had the chance to see Aznavour perform live while in France a number of years back. She says that from the moment the vocalist took the stage, he had simply captivated the audience to the point that it might have actually been possible to hear a pin drop.
“People didn’t hesitate to sing along at times during the show but for the most part, the crowd was very quiet and very respectful. I looked around at people watching the show and couldn’t help but noticed that people were almost hypnotized while he was on stage.
“The way that he spoke to the crowd and took his time to properly introduce songs and describe them in a way that everyone could understand and appreciate was amazing. His passion for words was really something amazing to have had the opportunity to see in person.”
What: Tribute to Charles Aznavour featuring Marie-Jo Therio, Sandra Le Couteur, Lina Boudreau, Michel Carpentier, Serge Bedrossian and Maxime Robichaud
When: Thursday, Oct. 10, 8 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets: Start at $25.50, plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca