Claremont — When Pierre Bourque’s wife died two">

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Audio Slideshow: ‘It’s Not Just Karaoke’

  • Chris Crews of Claremont plays up his rendition of Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath during his first song of the night at Karaoke Night in the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. Crews' girlfriend and mother come almost every week to watch his spirited performances. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Chris Crews of Claremont plays up his rendition of Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath during his first song of the night at Karaoke Night in the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. Crews' girlfriend and mother come almost every week to watch his spirited performances.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Brad Aubin of Springfield, Vt., takes his turn at the microphone during Karaoke Night at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. The son of Ron, and the stepson of Cher, Brad works for Ron and Cher's company, Green Mountain Entertainment, and hosts a Karaoke Night at the Cave in Lebanon, N.H.. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Brad Aubin of Springfield, Vt., takes his turn at the microphone during Karaoke Night at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. The son of Ron, and the stepson of Cher, Brad works for Ron and Cher's company, Green Mountain Entertainment, and hosts a Karaoke Night at the Cave in Lebanon, N.H..

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ron Aubin of Claremont checks the order of songs before looking them up on his computer during the beginning of Karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. One "round" of singing may have 35 individual singers, with some first rounds taking over two hours. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Ron Aubin of Claremont checks the order of songs before looking them up on his computer during the beginning of Karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. One "round" of singing may have 35 individual singers, with some first rounds taking over two hours.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Julia Cole of Springfield, Vt., leans on her husband Daniel's shoulder while slow dancing to a country song during Karaoke Night at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, NH on June 19, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Julia Cole of Springfield, Vt., leans on her husband Daniel's shoulder while slow dancing to a country song during Karaoke Night at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, NH on June 19, 2013.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Trudy Decato of Windsor, center, applauds along with the rest of the crowd after a singer finished their song during Karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, NH on June 19, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Trudy Decato of Windsor, center, applauds along with the rest of the crowd after a singer finished their song during Karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, NH on June 19, 2013.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cher Aubin sings her rendition of Heart's All I Wanna Do (Is Make Love To You) while her husband and business partner, Ron, acts out the song with a cartoonish rubber chicken at the end of a set of Karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. The couple met when Ron started taking singing lessons from Cher. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Cher Aubin sings her rendition of Heart's All I Wanna Do (Is Make Love To You) while her husband and business partner, Ron, acts out the song with a cartoonish rubber chicken at the end of a set of Karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. The couple met when Ron started taking singing lessons from Cher.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chris Crews of Claremont plays up his rendition of Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath during his first song of the night at Karaoke Night in the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. Crews' girlfriend and mother come almost every week to watch his spirited performances. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Brad Aubin of Springfield, Vt., takes his turn at the microphone during Karaoke Night at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. The son of Ron, and the stepson of Cher, Brad works for Ron and Cher's company, Green Mountain Entertainment, and hosts a Karaoke Night at the Cave in Lebanon, N.H.. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Ron Aubin of Claremont checks the order of songs before looking them up on his computer during the beginning of Karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. One "round" of singing may have 35 individual singers, with some first rounds taking over two hours. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Julia Cole of Springfield, Vt., leans on her husband Daniel's shoulder while slow dancing to a country song during Karaoke Night at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, NH on June 19, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Trudy Decato of Windsor, center, applauds along with the rest of the crowd after a singer finished their song during Karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, NH on June 19, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Cher Aubin sings her rendition of Heart's All I Wanna Do (Is Make Love To You) while her husband and business partner, Ron, acts out the song with a cartoonish rubber chicken at the end of a set of Karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, N.H., on June 12, 2013. The couple met when Ron started taking singing lessons from Cher. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

— When Pierre Bourque’s wife died two years ago, he struggled with depression. “I was alone a lot,” he said. “I had the two cats at home and that was it.”

Then a friend invited him to karaoke at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont. Before long he took the stage, where he found that singing Coldplay’s Viva la Vida and Lady Gaga’s Poker Face to a cheering crowd was therapeutic.

“My new life is karaoke,” he said. “It gives me life. It truly does.”



On Wednesday nights, a predominantly older crowd shows up at the Imperial early, eager to get in the queue to sing. Once onstage under the colorful lights, with the music blaring, they don’t just read the lyrics from the prompt screen, they perform — dancing from one end of the stage to the other, interacting with the audience and the hosts, and singing soulfully into the microphone.

“People are passionate when it comes to karaoke,” said Cher Aubin. She and her husband, Ron, have been hosting the show at the Imperial Lounge for seven years.

“Some people say, ‘It’s just karaoke.’ But for a lot of people it’s not just karaoke,” said Ron. “People here are all like family.”

Throughout the night, karaoke singers walk or dance around the room, exchanging greetings and hugs before settling down in groups at the bar or small tables that line the dance floor. “You come in here and you’re hugging 15, 20 people before you get to sit down,” said Tessie Kostandin, of Claremont, who has been coming to karaoke night at the Imperial since it began. “Everybody knows each other and they support each other. Even if you can’t hold a tune.”

For Lizz Ellis, of Keene, N.H., the folks at karaoke night are “like a second set of mom and dad.” Her rendition of Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You is a crowd favorite, and she dedicates it to the loved ones she’s lost, including her parents.

Ellis’s karaoke “family” has been present for some important moments in her life. In 2011, her boyfriend proposed to her during a karaoke contest at the Imperial. After singing Marry You by Bruno Mars, he surprised her with a ring. “The whole place knew about it,” Ellis said. “He went down on one knee and the whole place went nuts. This place has brought so many people together.”

There seems to be something in the air at the Imperial. Patricia Hornback has been coming to karaoke for only three weeks, and already she’s met someone special. She doesn’t recall what her boyfriend, Herb Guyatt, sang on the night they met. “My head was in such a spin, I can’t remember,” she laughed.

But for those who don’t find love at karaoke night, there is a taste of stardom. “Most people are not in bands and don’t have the opportunity to get into a band,” said Ron Aubin. “It’s their chance to get up there and be a star for four minutes.”

It’s this momentary celebrity, in front of a supportive crowd, that keeps Pierre Bourque coming back. “There’s no such thing as failure except not getting up there and trying,” Bourque said. “You’ve got to go back to your regular life when you sit down, but while you’re there, you are a rock star.”