Acadian chanteuse Angèle Arsenault dies at age 70

Eric McCarthy
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Internationally renowned Acadian singer Angèle Arsenault has died.

One of Prince Edward Island’s best-known Acadian singer-songwriters, Angèle Arsenault, died in Quebec Tuesday at the age of 70. 

The eighth child in Arthur and Joséphine Arsenault’s family of 14 children, Angèle Arsenault’s childhood was filled with music and song and dance. Just about everyone in the household played at least one musical instrument and they often performed at house parties together.

Her first confirmation as a gifted singer came at age 14 when she won a televised singing contest in Charlottetown. Her career as a folk singer started while attending university in Moncton in 1963 and really started to soar in the early 1970s after she moved to Quebec. She was also active as a television host and she won a Gold Hugo Award from the Chicago International Film Festival in 1974 for her educational program, Avec Angèle. She was in several films for the National Film Board of Canada.

“She was very eclectic on stage. She could grab all the audience’s attention; she was very, very good at that, to communicate,” said her sister, Marie Anne Arsenault of Mont Carmel, who attended many of her performances. “She was an excellent communicator.”

She toured across Canada and internationally and performed several times at the Acadian Festival in the community where she was born. Last summer she had all of her family on stage with her for the festival’s closing show.

More recently, she translated to French the lyrics for the P.E.I. 2014 celebration song, Forever Strong, and was part of a travelling show promoting the province’s 2014 celebrations across Canada.

For much of her career she was based out of Montreal, but she moved home to P.E.I. in 1996 to care for her mother. She returned to Quebec in 2012 and, although her family knew she was in ailing health, her death on Tuesday came as a shock. She would not have wanted her brothers and sisters to worry about her, said Marie Anne.

P.E.I. premier Robert Ghiz issued a statement Wednesday extending sympathy on the passing of Angèle Arsenault to her family and friends.

“Angèle was an incredible talent that left an indelible mark on Prince Edward Island, and especially on the Island’s Acadian and Francophone community,” said the premiere.

Throughout her distinguished career she was well thought of as a musical and Acadian ambassador for Prince Edward Island. She was named in 1997 to theOrdre de la Pléiade de l'Association des parlementaires de langue française, recognizing her work in the promotion of the French language and culture, and she received an honorary doctorate from UPEI in 1999. She was named Zonta International’s Woman of the Year in 2000, was named to the Order of Canada in 2003 and to the Order of Prince Edward Island in 2005.

“She was such a good person,” said her sister, Marie Anne Arsenault; “a heart of gold.”

Funeral arrangements are still being finalized, but Marie Anne said a memorial service will likely be held in P.E.I. this spring.

Organizations: Chicago International, National Film Board of Canada

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Canada Arthur Charlottetown Moncton Mont Carmel Montreal

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  • Albert et Lucille Arsenault
    March 01, 2014 - 21:55

    Une perte pour toute l'Acadie. Nos plus sincères condoléance à la famille Arsenault... Saint-Louis-de-Kent, NB

  • Brenda Ferland
    February 28, 2014 - 14:27

    Angele was my hero. Her music helped me through many difficult times. It also helped me to master the French language. I would play "Acadian Queen"over and over again until I could sing it just as fast as her without missing a syllable. We finally met and became friends. We even sang together on several occasions in private and once in public. That was one of my dreams and she made it come true. I will remember her for her loving, humble soul, her kind, comforting expressions of caring and understanding, and her beautiful smile that lit up every room she ever entered. Je t'aime, mon ame-soeur. "Le soleil brille apres la pluie. C'est toujours comme ca dans la vie. On pleure un peu, et ca va mieux."

  • Dena Ries
    February 27, 2014 - 23:47

    Angele & I had a great time when she went to the convent in Miscouche . I spent many weekends at her home which was always full of music and laughter. She will be greatly missed for her music, joy and laughter. "When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure" Remember the good times with Angele Dena Ries (nee DesRoches)

  • Rita (Arsenault) Conway (Aunt)
    February 27, 2014 - 21:02

    Thinking of the family on the loss of Angele, my niece. She was very dear to me and was there for me when Edmund passed away and I was alone with 6 little ones. I cherish my memories of her. RIP Angele. Aunt Rita

  • Lennie Gallant
    February 27, 2014 - 14:27

    Very sad to hear of the sudden passing of a great island songwriter, wonderful performer , Acadian icon , and friend, Angele Arsenault. She had a style all her own and never failed to take her audience on a unique musical journey full of joyful , uplifting, and sometimes heart rending songs that came from a deep place . We will miss her dearly. Lennie Gallant

  • Remembering Angèle
    February 27, 2014 - 13:59

    I had the opportunity to be introduced to her music through my elementry school french teacher, who had been Angele's teacher also. He not only shared her music but always had stories about how wonderful she was. Although that is almost 30 years ago, those classes are some of my fondest memories from West Kent. Merci M. Blanchard pour nous avoir introduit à la musique et la joie de la vie d'Angèle

  • Garth Staples
    February 26, 2014 - 20:39

    Angele was a truly great Acadien. She loved her people and their music and culture. I had the grand pleasure of engaging her in her first promotions for Island Tourism in Quebec radio and TV. Her energy, sincerity and personality were so engaging that people were drawn to her. I am the proud recipient of several of her albums. I go now to listen one more time. God's Blessings on this wonderful person.

  • tyrrell pearson
    February 26, 2014 - 19:15

    A years ago Angele called to have her piano tuned. I had not met her before. I was listening as she gave her name and other information. I had the person taking the call to ask if she had a brother Jacques. Her reply was "yes". I then had her asked if she told Peter Gdzoski (sp) when being interviewed that being bi lingual, she swore in English. Angele was amazed that I remembered the radio interview so long ago. From the song American Pie, " the day the music died"