À Saint-Malo, beau port de mer

"À St-Malo, beau port de mer." In his collection Alouette (Montreal 1946) Marius Barbeau says that this work song "bears the name St-Malo only in Canada. In France it is known under the title 'Bateau du Blé et la dame trompée' and the towns that figure in the first couplet are Nantes and Bordeaux.

"À St-Malo, beau port de mer"

"À St-Malo, beau port de mer." In his collection Alouette (Montreal 1946) Marius Barbeau says that this work song "bears the name St-Malo only in Canada. In France it is known under the title 'Bateau du Blé et la dame trompée' and the towns that figure in the first couplet are Nantes and Bordeaux." In Canada "C'est à Bordeaux, beau port de mer" also is sung. Of a bright and lively character, the song comes from the northwest of France and is thought to have become popular because of the 1837 rebellion, when St-Malo and patriotism were synonymous. The words appear to have been published for the first time by F.-A.-H. LaRue in Le Foyer canadien, vol 1 (Quebec City 1863), and the music in the Chansons populaires du Canada (Quebec City 1865) by Ernest Gagnon. É.-Z. Massicotte collected a variant of the song in which the refrain appears as follows: "J'ai vu le loup, le renard, le lièvre; j'ai vu le loup, le r'nard passer" (I've seen the wolf, the fox, the hare; I've seen the wolf, the fox pass by). The song served as the inspiration for the second of Ernest MacMillan's Two Sketches for Strings for quartet or orchestra (1927), and the melody provides the theme for the third movement of Morley Calvert'sSuite from the Monteregian Hills (1962) for brass quintet. Claude Champagne and Hector Gratton have made four-voice arrangements of it. The song was recorded by Édouard LeBel on a 78 (HMV 63402) and subsequently on LPs by Jacques Labrecque (Pathé AT 1029) and Alan Mills (Folk FW 3000), among others.


Further Reading

  • Barbeau, Marius, and Sapir, Edward. Folksongs of French Canada (New Haven 1925)