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When Charles Aznavour sang to the Virgin Mary before 20,000 people

CHARLES AZNAVOUR
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The recently deceased French singer-songwriter surprised the audience at a concert in December 2017 with a beautiful Ave María.

The French tenor Charles Aznavour, who died today at 94 years old, gave one of his most moving concerts last year.

Picture the scene: it’s Wednesday, December 13, 2017. It’s raining and cold. It’s 8:15 p.m., and the 20,000 spectators, with their hair dripping wet, jostle and maneuver into their places while they wait for the performer to take the stage.

They’ve come to see Charles Aznavour, whose age has not dulled his eyes, which are full of music and memories. All his songs on this night celebrate tenderness and are a call to kindness, without a shade of crudeness or guile, and he sings with laughter in his eyes.

His fine hands tremble; he doesn’t hide it, but rather explains between songs that it’s normal. It’s not the result of stage fright—tonight he hasn’t taken his medicine to control the shaking, because they’re bad for his voice. He has the humility of those who have nothing to prove.

But he shows this humility in other ways as well. It’s in the sobriety of his elegant clothing, in the seriousness with which he treats his musicians. Not once does he try to hide his age through antics, yet sometimes, seemingly without realizing it, he becomes like a child, through a spontaneous dance step or a vocal explosion of joy. Like a child.

His voice rings out, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that this voice is coming out of that frail body. And then, the stage is illuminated in totally in blue. Charles Aznavour seems smaller, even more fragile, in this seemingly limitless sea of blue, and he begins to sing, more unselfconsciously and calmly; and his voice becomes stronger and more confident, even as the years seem to fall away from his face.

He sings a Hail Mary, with incredible strength, and the audience is totally silent. All the spectators fall silent before this man, alone in a sea of blue, who calls upon the Virgin Mary and asks her to console those who weep, those who suffer, those who suffer constantly and courageously, through the offering up of Her Son whose death redeems all humanity.

Here’s a translation of the lyrics:

Ave Maria,

Ave Maria.

Those who suffer come to you,

You’ve suffered so much!

You understand their sufferings,

and actions.

Mary, the courageous.

 

Ave Maria,

Ave Maria,

those who weep are your children.

You gave God your Son

to wash all people

from their impurities;

Mary, the pure.

 

Ave Maria,

Ave Maria,

Those who doubt are in the dark of night.

Maria,

shine light on their path,

take them by the hand.

Ave Maria,

Ave Maria, Ave Maria.

Amen.

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