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Suicide by François Grenier: requiem for a harpsichordist


On March 17, François Grenier, 39, a specialist in baroque music, committed suicide. The cancellation of concerts, the lack of perspective

A paper keyboard runs around the white coffin.

Dozens of bouquets have been arranged around, under the nave of the collegiate church of Avesnes-sur-Helpe (North).

Placed above, the portrait of a man in the prime of life.

François Grenier was 39 years old when he ended his life on March 17 at his home in Lille.

How could this accomplished musician, sensitive soul, merry fellow, have committed the irreparable?

He alone took away his mystery.

But by questioning those close to them, we can see the abyssal void opened up by the endless Covid-19 pandemic.

She extinguished everything he cherished: rehearsals, concerts, tours… "Music was his whole life", her father Patrick simply confided to us, after having accompanied his "wonderful boy" to the local cemetery. .

No one, on this sad Wednesday, March 24, the day of his funeral, was going to tell us anything else.

"Patient, humble, of great gentleness"

The mass took place under the vaults of this 13th century church, full as it had not been since the end of the concerts, in March 2020. A shower of tributes and celestial songs performed by dozens of choristers, amateurs and professionals, who did not hesitate to brave the Covid "for François".

Listening to the lamentation, the heartbreaking finale of Purcell's “Dido and Aeneas”, Fabrice Pietton was overwhelmed.

“Ten years ago, it was given here at the collegiate church.

The fruit of a year of working together ”, remembers the one who was his former music teacher from 6th to 12th grade, before accompanying him on many projects, such as this opera staged in 2011.“ This ceremony of farewell was a moment of pure grace.

We couldn't pay him more homage.



Depression, finances at half mast, uncertain future ... the cry of alarm for beginners in culture

François Grenier leaves a silent harpsichord, and lots of friends, both happy and sad to see each other again under a spring sun.

While the coffin leaves the forecourt of the collegiate church for the cemetery, small groups gather, modeled on the sections of the deceased's life.

There are the friends of the baroque ensemble Hemiolia, co-directed by the harpsichordist, a specialist in Bach, Monteverdi, Handel or Josquin des Prés.

Older choristers, whom he directed in three amateur ensembles in Hauts-de-France.

Former students he had trained here and there.

Many colleagues with whom fraternal links have been forged during the projects.

And Olivier Cornille, former deputy principal of the college of Avesnes where François, the former pupil, intervened twice a week at the piano.

“He was very happy to come back to share what he had received as a teenager.

He was patient, humble, very gentle.


"An extremely gifted musician", according to Yael Naim

Anne-Lise Blin, his “best friend”, knew him almost thirty years ago.

François was attacking his 6th grade in the Cham (music class with flexible hours), which had just started in the village of Avesnes, in the middle of the Ch'tie countryside.

“It was he who wanted.

There was no musician in the family.

She is 17 years old, he is 12. The two violas - he has not yet changed - are found side by side in a choir that will become the Maîtrise Boréale.

They give their voice, never leave each other, travel a lot, in Spain, Italy, Quebec ...

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Treble clef in hand, the student opens all the doors of musical training, in Valenciennes, Lille, then at the Royal Conservatory of Mons (Belgium).

At the time of starting his career, here he is pianist-harpsichordist, countertenor (formerly called castrato) and choirmaster.

“A total artist”, according to Anne-Lise.

The Franco-Israeli singer Yael Naim has worked with him twice, notably during a residency in Vézelay (Yonne), in November 2019. The harpsichordists do not run the streets, she remembers this "extremely talented and passionate musician. .

How sad to learn of his death, ”she confides to the Parisian-Today in France.


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Like all those who paid tribute to him on Wednesday, Virgile Ancely, a former friend of the University of Musicology in Lille-3, was "stunned" when he learned of his brutal end.

“François was generous, festive, talented, funny.

Sensitive and vulnerable, but not depressed.

He was going to be 40 years old, he was wondering about his career choices.

We are all in pain, but he may not have been armed enough to face this shock.

"Anne-Lise also tries to understand how he" lost his balance ".

“François tended to look in the retro.

He was afraid of stagnating, of staying on the side of the road after the Covid.

Introspection was more his thing than me, who is the type to demonstrate and occupy the Zénith de Pau nowadays.


It was in the fall that François Grenier began to drop out.

After a last recording in November with Hemiolia, his harpsichord fell silent.

Tears bead on the mask of Bernard, 76, at the end of mass.

“He stopped playing suddenly.

It was broken, ”breathes this former violinist within the baroque ensemble.

"The world of culture is breaking down"

Despite the help of his inner circle, despite the antidepressants, despite the appointment with the shrink which finally became clearer after five weeks of waiting, he sank into an unfathomable despair.

“The concerts, the weekly rehearsals… everything had stopped,” says Hervé, her lover.

Autumn has come like a second wave.

Once again, the plans fell through.

He couldn't see the end of it.

He was worried about the future.

Doubt has set in, depression.

A month ago, it changed.

We were all astonished by his gesture: François loved life.


This image, he wants to keep it preciously.

"Let's not make it a martyr of culture in times of Covid", thinks Anne-Lise, like all those close to the disappeared harpsichordist, outraged by the "shortcuts of many media".

Most agree: France helps its artists, "especially lyrical", specifies Virgile Ancely, who does not envy the fate of his British colleagues.

"Some well-established artists had to take a delivery job ..."

The brutal death of François Grenier nevertheless sounded the alarm clock in the musical world.

"I know a lot of musicians who lose the desire, the muscle, the taste to play", assures the Parisian-Today in France, the famous violinist Renaud Capuçon.

“People sometimes take us for spoiled navelists, but we artists live for the stage, for meeting the public.

We play with our soul.

No longer doing concerts, no longer hearing the phone ringing, no longer seeing the horizon… it drives you crazy, he warns.

The world of culture is breaking down.


Source: leparis

All life articles on 2021-03-28

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