Ensemble leader, 39, commits suicide amid Covid cancellations

Ensemble leader, 39, commits suicide amid Covid cancellations


norman lebrecht

March 24, 2021

The noted French harpsichordist François Grenier died last week at the age of 39, reportedly by his own hand.

The cellist Claire Lamquet, his co-director at the innovative Hemiolia ensemble, writes that he could no longer bear the Covid-era concert cancellations and the uncertain future beyond.

She writes in La lettre du musicien: With the pandemic crisis, and in particular the second lockdown, I felt a clear change in François’ behaviour. He had a lot less energy, he was so sad about concert cancellations. He couldn’t bear it anymore. This season was to be the most important in the history of our ensemble, with tours planned in Bolivia, Quebec, a Passion according to Saint-Jean by Bach with the Concert d’Astrée…

I told him to take advantage of this period to think about the future, to prepare projects, but he was more and more elusive. He had locked himself in his bubble, and mulled over the cancellations. The future worried him more and more, he was afraid of it, because there was less and less postponement of our concerts. He also feared that the white year for the intermittence of the show would not be extended.

His Facebook slogan


  • FrankUSA says:

    Sad. Tragic. Unnecessary. This person could have sought treatment to help him. I have absolutely no idea the state of mind of anyone who is truly is considering suicide. Thankfully I have not found myself in such a mental state. So many are suffering financially and this can lead down through a spiral of negativity. The psychological and mental impact of the year long Covid pandemic are getting some attention but it may be impossible to find out the reasons that some are not able to ask for assistance.

    • Jean says:

      Is like saying to an alcoholic: “he could have just simply switched to water”. Indeed, is difficult to know unless you have been in the situation yourself. Even more difficult is to convince someone struggling with such thoughts that the ultimate “solution” is not a solution at all. Usually it us who need to take the first step.

      In saying this: everyone, please take care of yourselves and as we rarely see each others face-to-face don’t forget to ask your friends how they are doing.

    • Karl says:

      Sorry, but it’s not that easy. I worked in the mental health field for years and there is a severe lack of competence in many places. I think the entire filed of psychiatry is corrupt and is hurting society with their ‘meds’. Studies show that antidepressants worsen long term outcomes. Many people who were admitted to the hospital where I worked were there because they got a prescription for an SSRI that made them worse.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Almost all depressions have concrete reasons which may be hard to dig-out. No depression comes out of the blue. In former times it was called: melancholia.

      • Nijinsky says:

        Science corroborates your observations. It’s very clearly stated how this is a fact scientifically and statistically in books by Robert Whitaker, Joanna Moncrieff and others. And many people have observed the very thing going on in society. And those are people with a keen ability to observe, not those who take what they are told secure in such knowledge without looking further, or even really looking to begin with. How is this going to be for anyone needing a place to go, because they have no place to go, and seeing yet again that there really isn’t…

    • Nijinsky says:

      To say someone “could have sought treatment,” when that involves the way they feel, is saying they shouldn’t be feeling that way, that there is something wrong with them, rather than what they have experienced. And unfortunately, that’s so often what goes on with “treatment.” And if modern “treatment” were actually effective why is there such an epidemic from it? For a musician to have feelings about their profession, to make themselves vulnerable enough to actually feel what music contributes to society, already is putting one in a place where that stands to be devaluated. Or any of the other reasons anyone would feel hopeless or despondent. Now a days everyone is filled with little snippets on how to judge someone else’s behavior when they start showing “symptoms.” And then think they are being angels deciding there is something wrong with them, and they need help, which they are then given the right to force on another. That is the real disease. You don’t fix a problem by adding to the cause of it.

  • PHF says:

    Musicians sometimes forget that life is not about music – myself included.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It is the other way around: music is about life. And when the music stops, something important of life is missing. No wonder some sensitive performers sink in isolated depression. But to end your own life because of it, is a tragic turn – the future is always open and when young, there is always a way out of the misery.

      • Sanity says:

        In normal circumstances and as someone who has lost my only sibling to suicide, I would absolutely agree with you. But, in my opinion, when we are talking about a profession that is not just a profession… When we are talking about an activity, a gift that is so intrinsically part of who a person is… The fact that authorities in supposedly civilized countries are treating the performing arts as the most futile and unimportant of things, letting it very clear how “not essential” artists are… The fact that musicians who have done music in a high level during their entire lives are being completely denied a future even thought performances can take place in an absolutely safe manner… All these things make even the youngest and strongest of souls fall into a really, really dark place.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Indeed… the nonchalance is hard to understand, even in WW II concerts were given, under very difficult circumstances. But considering the changes in culture since then, it begins to be fully understandable – materialism, erosion of cultural awareness, etc. and a misunderstanding of what democracy means (‘everything is the same’), all dehumanizing forces. So, the arts are pushed to the margins of society.

        • Hayne says:

          Right you are Sanity. When it comes to the arts, it’s obvious our overlords (that’s right, until we say enough) don’t care at all.
          What do they care about? Glad you asked…


    • z-anon says:

      100% agreed.

  • Robert Roy says:

    Very sad news.

  • Hayne says:

    What a terrible tragedy. Poor man. Multiply that by thousands because of lockdowns. Also factor the millions without jobs and poverty around the world because of lockdowns. Shouldn’t the state have to provide proof of the efficacy of lockdowns? What is the end play here, really?
    God bless his family.

    • Sanity says:

      Agreed! Every day I am more and more sure that history will not forgive this lockdown obsession/religion so many authorities (and citizens) have locked themselves in. Taking this pandemic seriously and fighting it is one thing, insisting on blind, destructive lockdowns ONE YEAR after this nightmare has started (while allowing packed airplanes, agglomerations in protests as long as they have the right causes and so on) is another. Enough is enough!

      • John Borstlap says:

        The problem is lack of sufficient scientific understanding which would allow for more subtle and precize measures. The discovery that airborne transmission via aerosols is the main route of infection was already available in April last year. But it has hardly been picked-up by governments. The clumsiness is staggering.

  • Dennis says:

    Another of the growing pile of Covid lockdown deaths to be laid at the feet of politicians. But he, at least he didn’t die of an overblown flu, right?

  • David Rowe says:

    Yes, please, please, if you are feeling hopeless or desperate for ANY reason, reach out to somebody. There are suicide crisis lines in most countries. In the USA: 800-273-8255
    I am so sorry to hear that for Mr. Grenier the situation apparently became unbearable.

  • Sharon says:

    Thank you for giving the phone number of the US crisis line. Suicide is caused mainly by clinical depression which has a physiological base in brain hormones but can certainly be aggravated by external circumstances.

    Yes, antidepressant medications can have long term psychological effects but in the short term they can be life line to those who are suicidal.

    I strongly encourage those who know those who are having suicidal thoughts to urge them to seek help and take anti depressant medications. Side effects can be treated and depression, with the proper treatment, CAN and DOES pass.

    Please reassure any depressed person that she/he will not always feel so miserable.

    • David Crichton says:

      The despair of suicidal ideation is not realised by many. I have been convicted for a 10 second phone call asking for help. The police framed it as malicious communication, even though they knew it was desperation

    • Nijinsky says:

      There isn’t any conclusive evidence at all that there’s an imbalance in brain chemistry that causes depression. It can be too much serotonin, it can be too little, and it can be “normal,” is what was found with autopsies on those that had committed suicide. That’s BEFORE “medication,” where “anti-depressants” actually at first cause serotonin hyper activity because the recycling or re-uptake is inhibited, and then logically the body stops producing serotonin because there’s too much of it still at large, and then one gets serotonin sluggishness. There IS ample CONCLUSIVE evidence that anti-depressants can cause depression, that’s why it’s also listed on the side effect list, as suicidal ideation and homicidal thoughts. And with all of the

      Perhaps you need to list your conflicts of interest regarding psychiatric treatment, that would be en par with what goes on behind closed doors in general, given that when there’s an APA meeting, that it has to be stated that the “normal” rules of conflicts of interest don’t apply, given how much collusion there is. The drug companies to this day can not really back up the claim that psychiatric diseases or physiologically based, what they can do is get others to state this, get a system going where anyone happy with such disabling controlled substances is highly rewarded, get a system going where those who aren’t compliant are forced on treatments they aren’t happy with, can’t truly express how it makes them feel, aren’t allowed to express how the “treatments” make them feel when they aren’t compliant, aren’t given any alternative choices, choices that although they don’t bank up dividends for the drug companies have been shown to be helpful and allow for recovery rather than assimilation….

      There are excellent books about all of this by Robert Whitaker, or one can look at the extreme spike in “mental illnesses” that abound now since the mainstream methodology stating exactly the method you taut that any mental illness has a physiological base. Strangely causing more of what it’s said to heal, so that there’s more push to get people to believe, be forced on what more correlates with more of the disease than a lessening. Just to mention one “medications.” Wanting to improve people’s lives, using what represents some sort of methodology actually in real life turns out showing that anti-depressants have little at all effect greater than placebo or none greater, this is WHILE they have been proven to sometimes cause suicidal thoughts, which I don’t think one has found with placebo. And after three years they have been clearly shown to cause more recycling of depression. And this can lead to more and more diagnosis piled on rather than acknowledging what the anti-depressants are doing. Many people who don’t feel any positive effects from the anti-depressants can’t get off of them, because the withdrawal symptoms can be that severe, and neither would they be offered adequate help, nor do the doctors know, are trained in or show interest to really find out how one titrates. And if they think they know they usually state a period that can be way too little, or not know how slowly or gradually some people have to titrate. There’s no decent concern for getting people off of these “medications” either just the whole media splurge.

      But then once again mention THAT is mentioned as what needs to be done to help. What if anyone, the poor man who lost his life, already knows these truths, has actually seen the results, studied them, or by the very slogans that it’s portrayed finds something doesn’t feel or “smell” right? And yet again he’s met by this URGENCY coming from ideology rather than true science, an ideology which has lead to more of what it’s said to heal. THAT is supposed to help him feel he can talk with others about his feelings!? And when this isn’t welcomed, and it upsets anyone further, there’s more need to convince people. This is not how one shares the truth. That’s how one promotes ideology that “sounds” good. That’s how one makes loud sounds blaring out the softer more human realities of life.

      And it’s all highly insulting to say to anyone that really has been confronted with extremely distressing situations: “Heh, you know, you have a chemical imbalance there’s something wrong with your brain.” What kind of a glorifying of denial is that!? And offering them substances that seem to help by disabling natural functions of the mind, have that touted as healing because “symptoms” don’t show up for an interim, only to return with more recycling afterwards, and have this stated as helping for an interim because then one knows that: “you won’t always feel so miserable,” as if the very feeling in itself didn’t have a natural intelligence when simply ALLOWED and FELT, when we are talking about MUSIC or ART which actually gives room for that, and has given room for that since intelligence blossomed in the human brain…..

      WOW! What a fundamentalism……

    • Willoweed says:

      According to the research serotonin drugs marketed as “antidepressants” increase suicide by around 250%. They also increase depressive symptoms by 50-200% in the long term. They also cause withdrawal that can last months to a year. Other than that they cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a whole list of other problems resulting in them reducing lifespan from physical illness by 5 years per user.




  • Sanity says:

    I hope that the so many readers of this blog who day after day keep defending that not a single concert should take place while the pandemic lasts are happy! This death is on you all! On you all and on the stupidity and cruelty of governments who are treating an absolutely safe form of live art as if it was the biggest threat to public health ever.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Of course it is NOT an absolutely safe form of live art: audiences spread the virus if there is not enough distance, or in spaces which are not properly ventilated with fresh air.

      • Sanity says:

        But is there a concert hall or opera house where these things that you mention are NOT being done where they are still needed? I still haven’t seen any. Classical music venues are the safest closed spaces there are; their protocols are even exaggerated. And yet they keep being treated by so many like a menace!

  • Quentin says:

    François was a dear friend of mine. I am furious to read those articles, copy-pasted with no fact checking and most importantly no consent from the family.
    It is sad to see that under the banner of freedom of the press his death is used to make him a martyr for political or advertising means , not reflecting the reality of his condition.
    François did not end his life due to cancellations. He was a complex and sensitive man, discreet and shy about his personal life. He would not appreciate all this.
    In respect of his life and his work it is good I think to think twice before publishing or sharing such articles.
    If we want to talk about the condition of musicians in these difficult times we should listen to them instead of speaking for them once they’re dead.