MICHEL PIQUEMAL, making his voice heard
« For me, the term ‘sharing’ is a very important concept and inextricably linked with music. I am compelled to share with others. »
This admission by Michel Piquemal reveals all there is to know about the person, the singer, the conductor, the artistic director: everything he does, everything he experiences, with an intensity firmly rooted in the present moment, is solely for the purpose of sharing with others, communicating, passing on. And because, Piquemal still has this passion to communicate, and a mindset that is open and curious, everything he shares is at once rich and generous.
At a very young age, Michel Piquemal took up piano and singing lessons. Just as he was starting secondary school, he joined the prestigious Maîtrise de Radio France choir school (then called Radio Nationale), where he was to become a solo singer. Gifted with the voice of an angel, he made his first televised appearance in December 1960, performing Gilbert Bécaud’s cantata L’Enfant à l’étoile under the direction of Georges Prêtre.
As a young adult, he trained his baritone voice under the prestigious tutelage of Henri Martelli, Denise Duval and Pierre Bernac. Close acquaintances of Poulenc and familiar with his works, Denise Duval and Pierre Bernac instructed Piquemal in the art of melody and inspired in him a deep love of French music. With his solo career soaring from strength to strength, and focusing more on concert and recital performances than opera, Piquemal was also regularly invited to take part in televised broadcasts hosted by Jacques Chancel, Jacques Martin (« Une grande rencontre ») and Ève Ruggieri. Even then Piquemal found himself strongly drawn toward lesser known repertoires and forgotten composers, a preference he holds to this day.
NURTURER OF TALENT
As a former student, Piquemal was asked to return to the Maîtrise de Radio France as a teacher. On leaving this prestigious choir school, he then joined the teaching staff at the Paris Conservatory (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris). With great generosity, he passed on his knowledge, his experience and his wealth of musical talent and personal wisdom.
He would soon be presented with another means of passing on his talent: the choir. This was to be a new direction he would embrace, initially through his « Ensemble Vocal », and later through the Regional Île-de-France Vittoria Choir, which he has been directing since it was formed in 1987. « I was never able to choose between singing and directing, so I divided my musical career accordingly, » he explains. He also honed his skills as an orchestra conductor, the aim being to embrace all musical genres that inspire him.
AN INSATIABLE PIONEER
Given his insatiable appetite for music of all genres, Piquemal’s dream was to explore uncharted waters, and never to limit himself to a single repertoire.
« I love all forms and all styles of music, » he explains. « There is as much beauty in jazz as there is in modern or classical music. I’m not interested in specialising in one particular area; I prefer to remain open to everything there is. »
For example, for the past seven years Piquemal has been working with the Vittoria Choir on reviving public interest in the musical works of Martial Caillebotte, brother of the impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte. He has recorded three albums, including the Messe solennelle de Pâques, widely acclaimed by critics as an important rediscovery. The release of a CD recording of Martín Palmeri’s MisaTango in 2017 shone a spotlight onto the works of the Argentine composer and resulted in immediate, almost universal acclaim.
In terms of career highlights, Piquemal could point to any number of career-defining moments, but the list would be too long.
« Everything I do, I do with passion. Everything is important, rooted in the present moment. »