MONTREAL—Two days(Wed. 20,2016) of mourning for René Angélil, the impresario and husband of singer Celine Dion, begin with a public visitation followed by a national funeral service Friday to mark his contributions and achievements.
Members of the public who wish to pay their respects to the former singer who discovered a 12-year-old talent in the outskirts of Montreal and turned her into an international superstar can do so starting Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal, a structure as lavish and iconic as the singer that Angélil discovered and later married.
The visitation will be followed by a “national” funeral Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. that is expected to feature a star-studded guest list, including the likes of the composer David Foster, who collaborated with Dion on several occasions, as well as big names from Las Vegas, where Dion has been a resident performer on several occasions going back to 2003.
Other possible guests include Dion’s longtime songwriter Diane Warren, American singer and family friend Josh Groban, iconic Quebec singer Ginette Reno, whose career Angelil once managed, former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who attended the couple’s 1994 wedding, and Quebec’s current cultural and political power couple, television producer and Dion confidante Julie Snyder and her husband, Pierre Karl Péladeau, the leader of the Parti Québécois.
The basilica which will host the funeral service would appear to have a special significance for Dion and Angélil, as it was the church in which they were married back in December 1994 as well as the place where the couple’s first child, René-Charles, was baptized in 2001. It has also hosted the funerals of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and former Montreal Canadiens’ great Maurice “Rocket” Richard.
A national funeral, which can be offered to those who have made a mark in business, culture or sports, for example, involves the provincial government paying for the rental of the location where the wake and funeral are held as well as any security and crowd control, while the family covers the costs of the burial.
On the day of the funeral, flags on provincial government buildings are lowered to half-mast.
Pierre-Paul Boisvert, a talent agent and president of Montreal’s PUR Communications, said Angélil is deserving of the honours. In a newspaper opinion piece published Wednesday he compared Angélil to Brian Epstein and Colonel Parker, the respective managers of the Beatles and Elvis Presley.
Granted he lucked out in finding a talent like Dion, Boisvert wrote. But in developing her career, he also created “thousands of direct and indirect jobs” for other artists, technical staff, business-side workers and other employees. Many of them, including the band that backed Dion, were Quebecers.
“Proud of his roots, proud of his Quebec and an ambassador for it, he helped it to shine in the world. Today we are not only saying goodbye to a giant of show business, but one with a giant heart and passion.”