Angèle Arsenault, a Prince Edward Island native who gained fame with her French-language songs, was remembered on Wednesday as a great Acadian ambassador.
Acadian singer and songwriter Angèle Arsenault is pictured at her Summerside, P.E.I. residence in a 2006 photo. Arsenault passed away Tuesday, at the age of 70.
— Canadian Press file photo
Arsenault, 70, died in Quebec on Tuesday. The cause of death was not immediately known.
P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz said Islanders were saddened to learn about Arsenault, who was an officer of the Order of Canada as well as belonging to the Order of Prince Edward Island.
“Angèle was an incredible talent that left an indelible mark on Prince Edward Island and especially on the Island’s Acadian and francophone community,” Ghiz said in a statement.
“On behalf of the government of Prince Edward Island, I express my deepest sympathies to Angele’s family and friends.”
In neighbouring Nova Scotia, the Federation acadienne de la Nouvelle-Ecosse described Arsenault as “one of (our) greatest ambassadors.”
“La Federation acadienne is particularly saddened by the death of the composer of the song ‘Grand-Pre,’ one of the most beautiful songs in the Acadian repertory,” Justin Mury, president of the federation, wrote on the group’s website.
Arsenault was born Oct. 1, 1943, in Abrams Village. She was the eighth of 14 children and was exposed to music at an early age because song and dance had an important place in the family.
She won her first singing contest at the age of 14 and started as a folk singer while in university in Moncton, N.B.
Her sister, Marie Anne Arsenault, attended many of her sibling’s performances and said she had a “heart of gold.”
“She was very eclectic on stage,” Marie Anne of Mont Carmel, P.E.I., told the Journal-Pioneer newspaper.
“She could grab all the audience’s attention; she was very, very good at that, to communicate. She was an excellent communicator.”
That was echoed by singer Edith Butler, who was a close friend of Angele Arsenault.
“The way she composed was completely different from what we usually heard,” Butler said. “She was someone who accompanied herself on the piano, on her guitar.
“The lyrics were most important and the melodies were always pleasant. Sometimes the lyrics were funny, but they were also deep.”
Although she studied to be a teacher, Arsenault pursued her singing career when she came to Quebec to continue her education at Universite Laval.
She recorded her first album, “Premiere,” in 1975. It was followed in 1977 by “Libre,” which sold 300,000 copies and earned her a Felix. Arsenault also toured widely across Canada and internationally.
Arsenault branched out into other media, hosting the TV series “Angèle” on Radio-Canada Atlantique in 1981. She also co-hosted “Le radio cafe Provigo” on the Radiomutuel network.
Besides being in several National Film Board movies, she also won a Gold Hugo Award from the Chicago International Film Festival in 1974 for “Avec Angèle,” her educational TV show.
Arsenault also appeared as Ticotine in the children’s TV series “Alphabus.”