Celine Dion will make a special appearance in Las Vegas tonight (Feb. 3) to honour her late husband, René Angélil. The Canadian singer will lead a special service of remembrance at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, where she has performed for the past five years. Celine will be joined onstage by her son René-Charles, her husband's brother Andre and René's three eldest children, Anne-Marie, Patrick and Jean-Pierre. She is expected to speak briefly during the service, which will be broadcast live online.
The couple's friend Robin Leach reports in the Las Vegas Sun that a casting of René's hand will play a poignant role in the Celebration of Life service. He recalls a special tradition that the longtime partners performed before Celine started her show. "Every night seconds before [Celine] went onstage at the Colosseum, René and she always held hands for a few moments to wish her a great performance. It wasn’t necessary for them to speak." When René became too sick to make the journey to the theatre, a gold casting of his hand was made and then was "perched on a pedestal in a darkened private corner of the stage where [Celine] made her entrance," says Robin.
AEG Live’s senior vice-president John Nelson shared with Robin that, "The hands are very significant. They held a microphone that he talked into regularly. While Celine performed, René sat there in the dark at the soundboard. His voice went into her ear monitors," adding, “When this ‘Celebration of Life’ came to perspective, a gold hand seemed to be the right choice to perpetuate his memory as a link to the past and a good omen for the future.”
Robin reports that more than 1,200 people are expected to attend the service and that every speaker "will be invited to grip that gold hand or knock on the wood pedestal. After the closing video salute to René, the audience also will be invited onstage to briefly touch the hand." Canadian music producer David Foster is scheduled to say a few words.
Following René’s death at 73 on Jan. 14, it was announced that in addition to a funeral service in Montreal, René would be honoured with a special memorial in his adopted home.
As challenging as these past few weeks have been for Celine, 47, she has found solace in the love and support she has received from fans. "My family and I are deeply touched by the outpouring of love and support from so many people who have touched our lives during these past few days. We have felt your love for René, and your prayers and compassion have helped us during this most difficult time... more than you'll ever know. I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said in a statement.
René was Celine's number-one fan and supporter. She admitted that it was on his instructions that she resumed her residency last August and even through all his health struggles, he encouraged his wife to do what she loved. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the “A New Day” singer will continue to his wishes and return to her show as soon as she feels able to do so. After cancelling performances in late January, Celine is scheduled to take the stage again on Feb. 23. Although there has been no announcement to the contrary, her fans will surely understand should she require more time to grieve and be with her sons.