Montrealers mourn 24-year-old Romane Bonnier, “a real light”, with walking and music


MONTREAL – For two weeks, tens of thousands of Quebecers have been mourning a stranger, Romane Bonnier, 24 years old.

How can you tell?

Bonnier, a singer who dreamed of working on stage, has recorded nearly 60 videos on her YouTube channel over the past year and a half – covers of famous or lesser-known songs, often performed playfully and on guitar or music. ukulele.

Before his fatal stabbing last week near the McGill campus, none of those videos had more than a few hundred views.

Ten days after his death, one of them was viewed 20,000 times, 16,000 more. And people didn’t just look at them, but used them as a kind of public memorial.

“Keep singing wherever you are,” wrote one woman.

“We will continue to listen to you, your voice will stay with us, even if you are no longer.”

“This woman could have been me,” wrote another.

Two events this weekend finally gave people a more public outlet for their grief and anger over Bonnier’s death.

His family and friends, including his parents, two brothers and twin sister, have scheduled a memorial service in Mile End on Saturday.

On the same day, a march through the city center aimed to draw attention to the type of violence that ended his life.

Bonnier, known as “Romy” to those close to her, was fatally stabbed last Tuesday by a 36-year-old man who police said had been her roommate at one point and who may have had a brief relationship with her .

The family memorial was closed to the media, although initially open to the public, allowing foreigners who wished to express their condolences to enter and do so.

They were also invited to make a donation in Bonnier’s name to the choir in which she and her twin sister sang, the Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir des Mélomanes.

Bonnier would like the idea that more people could enjoy music. She was a born singer, said her singing teacher, Lisa Atkinson.

“She was a beautiful singer, she really sang with a lot of heart. And that’s something you know, as a teacher you can’t teach, ”said Atkinson, who had Bonnier as a student at Randolph College, one of the top musical theater schools in Canada, and continued to tutor him until his death.

“That kind of musicality, and that connection to music, is really a natural ability that I think Romy had in spades.”

Although she studied acting, dancing and singing at Randolph, and before that she performed on stage at CEGEP, she mostly wanted to be a singer, Atkinson said.

“She’s played a lot with a lot of older music and reimagined melodies and she would love to play with all areas,” she said.

“I think she was very good at it and made it her own… she kind of took any genre and made it her own.” What I thought was a pretty unique gift.

She also listened to a tremendous amount of music, Atkinson said, in both French and English – a fandom that has revealed itself through the covers she chose to record, ranging from Dolly Parton to Billy Joel and her own. versions of ABBA’s achievements.

Bonnier posted her first video on March 23, 2020, saying she was inspired to do something with her lockdown.

“I think everyone needs a little bit of joy these days,” she said in the video, explaining that she recorded a song.

“I changed the lyrics a bit and made a video of it,” she said with a smile. “Just remember, it sucks, but you’ll be fine.”

Atkinson said Bonnier was loved by her teachers and classmates, winning people over quickly with her outgoing and warm nature.

“She was very open, she was very beautiful,” she said. And “very funny, just really, really funny”.

Toronto theater producer Derrick Chua said he had met Bonnier a few times and his “enthusiasm, passion for musical theater” made an impression, as well as his “nerve” in setting up a chat with him to discuss work together at some point.

Recently, she was really excited because she got a contract to play Shakespeare in schools with a touring company, Atkinson said.

As an artist, “she really enjoys going into things and challenging herself… she wasn’t afraid to make mistakes,” Atkinson said.

“She would laugh if something didn’t work out the way she wanted it to, instead of getting mad at herself.” She was just very, very positive.

Randolph’s professors are “very shaken,” Atkinson said, and she is personally “at a loss for words,” she said last week.

Bonnier also had a very close circle of friends and was close to his family. Atkinson said she also couldn’t help but think about the people who witnessed the attack, who she said must be “forever changed” by the experience.

People who looked at her YouTube videos to remember her admitted it was strange. “The lyrics seem to have a whole new meaning,” some wrote.

But the numbers continued to climb, more than doubling the following week after his death.

Atkinson said that while she still hasn’t been able to bring herself to watch the videos herself, following her student’s death, she thinks Bonnier would like people to like them.

“I think she would take a kick out of it,” she said.

“The thing about singing is that it’s so vulnerable, and it allows people to show something of themselves that people don’t see otherwise,” she added.

“This is something she has done throughout the pandemic and which I think gave her a lot of joy.”

Maybe the videos just give people a little glimpse of what it was like to know Romane Bonnier, and it’s no surprise that they don’t want to stop watching.

“She was just a real light. And people felt good when they were around her, ”Atkinson said.

“I was grateful to have had her in my life. “

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