Jacques Hélian

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Jacques Mikaël Der Mikaëlian better known as Jacques Hélian (born in Paris, 7 June 1912 - died 29 June 1986), was a famous French orchestra conductor for French music-hall.

Born of an Armenian father (descendant of Armenian bourgeoisie) and a French mother, at 16 he entered school of dentistry, but left his studies to pursue his love of music studying saxophone with Raymond Legrand, and married Legrand's sister Marcelle. He commenced his musical career playing saxo alto, saxo baryton and clarinet in Roland Dorsay's orchestra and later in Jo Bouillon orchestra and in Ray Ventura's orchestra. He also performed in French live radio broadcasts releasing a number of recordings before World War II. Called for military service in 1939, he became a prisoner of war until his liberation in March 1943 for health reasons. After his release, he formed a small orchestra and performed on radio.

After the liberation of France from Nazi occupation, Jacques Hélian gained huge popularity, replacing Raymond Legrand's fame. His tune "Fleur de Paris" (with lyrics from Maurice Vandair, and music by Henri Bourtayre) became a virtual "hymne of liberation" for France. All music broadcasts would start and end with "Fleur de Paris".

Between 1945 et 1949, Jacques Hélian recorded more than 70 songs for Columbia Records, with "C'est Si Bon" (music by Henri Betti) gaining international fame. "Place Pigalle" was written by Alex Alstone and recorded by Maurice Chevalier in 1946 with Hélian's orchestra. He collaborated with composers like Henri Bourtayre ("Chanteville", "La Marchina", "Soleil levant") and Loulou Gasté ("Le Porte-Bonheur", "Chica! Chica!", "Au Chili", "Les Pompiers du Mexique"). Jacques Hélian's continued his highly-followed radio performances, and organized galas and musical tours throughout France with artists that gained big following after appearing with his orchestra including Francine Claudel, Zappy Max, Jo Charrier, Ginette Garcin and others. En 1947, a singer, guitarist and composer known as Jean Marco1 (real name Jean Marcopoulos), quickly became the signature voice of Hélian's orchestra until his tragic death in a road accident on 24 June 1953. Jean-Louis Tristan and Lou Darley succeeded Jean Marco and Claude Evelyne as lead singers.

Hélian's "Étoile des neiges" sung by "The Hélians" female choir became one of his biggest successes ever with a gold accreditation. In 1951, he received the Grand Prix du Disque from Académie Charles Cros for his song "Tout est tranquille".

Between 1949 and 1956, the best of French and European jazz artists paraded with his orchestra including Christian Garros, Gérard Lévecque, André Paquinet, George Cloud, Fernand Verstraete, Marcel Bianchi, Pierre Gossez, Janot Morales, Sadi, and from the other side of the Atlantic, jazzmen like Ernie Royal, Al Mone, Bill Tamper, Don Byas, Kenny Clarke and Sonny Grey, making his band one of the most known names of "big band" in Europe. His music was used in a number of films like Cœur de coq (1946), Pigalle-Saint-Germain-des-Prés (1950), Musique en tête (1951) and Tambour battant (1952). The permanent orchestra's grande finale was on 15 March 1957.

He made various appearances until the beginning of the 1980s, but with much lesser following. His works are considered references for the best of "big band" orchestras in French music-hall. He died in Paris on 29 June 1986 at the age of 74. His works were featured as "Les Années Jacques Hélian" in the film Vive la vie.

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