Verchuren André


André Verchuren was a famous French accordionist, renowned for his unique creative longevity. André Verchuren was born in 1920 in Neuilly-sous-Clermont, near Paris. He put his first accordion on his shoulders at the age of four - "before he learnt to write", he said — and thus continued the family tradition started by his paternal grandfather, a Belgian miner who worked part-time at family gatherings (bal des familles), and his father, who headed an accordion school. As a teenager, André began teaching at school and performing with his father and mother. In the early 1930s, Verchuren performed at festivals and in Parisian cafés, playing dance tunes - musettes. By this time, the traditional bagpipe musette had given way for the accordion and new dances such as the waltz, foxtrot, and cadrille. And the musical style "accordion musette" had become a combination of virtuoso passages, French chanson and medleys of popular melodies. Accordion developed as an instrument of mass culture, its popularity determined in France the availability and ease of playing folk melodies. Most often the French accordion is associated with an instrument of "spilling" sound, filled with a peculiar French charm in which one can hear the shimmers of French speech. It can be considered one of the symbols not only of Paris, but also of the entire France.

In the 1930s Verchuren took part in competitions and won several of them, including the Brussels competition in 1934, which he won by breaking tradition and playing standing up. He was awarded the title of World Champion by King Leopold III of Belgium.

During World War II, Verchuren was a member of the Resistance, harbouring Allied parachutists. In July 1944, he was arrested by the Gestapo (Secret State police), tortured, and among 2,566 others was sent by train to the Dachau concentration camp. Verchuren was later awarded the Legion of Honour, the Military Medal and the Volunteer Resistance Fighters Cross for his military services. After the liberation of the country, Verchuren returned to Paris to resume his performing career. His popularity soared in the late 1940-1950s. Being the artiste and showman, André was a hugely influential musician of his generation, not only in his native country, also in other European states.

In 1950, the famous musician and composer Tony Murena nominated Andre Verchuren for the Radio Luxembourg competition show "Swing versus Musette", which attracted huge audience. The musician won and received a 17-year radio contract.

In 1956, Verchuren became the first accordionist to perform at the Olympia Hall. He toured constantly, giving up to 150 concerts a year.  The musician was also the creator of the bal-music-hall concept, which combined the repertoire of a dance group with a dynamic sketch show. André Verchuren opened his own recording studio and made a huge number of recordings that were sold 50 million copies.

In 1968, he published the autobiography, predictably entitled "My Accordion and Me". As a cycling enthusiast, in 1972, he recorded "Vive Poulidor", an anthem to Raymond Poulidor, the most popular French cyclist of the time.

The wife of the accordionist, Micheline Bouteau, died in a car wreck in 1974 on a road in Normandy while Andre was driving. He himself suffered minor injuries and was given a suspended sentence for accidental killing.

"Dance halls, music and touring are like drugs for me," admitted Verchuren in his book. "As soon as I pick up the accordion, I feel like a different, younger person. It is on stage that I feel most alive. It's what I live for."

The musician and composer was also famous for his extraordinary creative longevity.  In 2007, he celebrated the 80th anniversary of his career with a jubilee concert at the Olympia in Paris.
The musician died at the age of 91 from a heart attack. He is buried with his wife and parents.