Clémence DesRochers. Monologuist, comedian, singer-songwriter, actress, broadcaster, artist, b Sherbrooke, Que, 23 Nov 1933; honorary doctorate (Sherbrooke) 1994. Her activities as an actress have claimed the greater part of her career, but her monologues and songs have brought her name to a vast public. It was Jacques Normand who introduced Clémence DesRochers to the public 1958-9 at his Montreal cabaret, the St-Germain-des-Prés. In 1959 DesRochers was a member of the group Les Bozos. She opened some boîtes à chansons in Montreal and in the suburbs (La Boîte à Clémence, La Barre 500 and, with Yvon Deschamps, Le Fournil). In 1964 she wrote the libretto for Pierre Brault'sLe Vol rose du flamant, considered the first musical comedy written in Quebec. Brault subsequently composed the music for most of her songs. In 1966 DesRochers took part, along with Claude Gauthier, Pauline Julien, and Gilles Vigneault, in a show at the Olympia in Paris.
Among her works are the books and lyrics for numerous revues: La Grosse Tête (music by Brault, 1967), Les Girls (music by François Cousineau, 1968), La Belle Amanchure (music by Jacques Crevier, 1970), and C'est pas une revue, c't'un show (1971). These shows were presented in a small hall, Le Patriote à Clémence, located above the Patriote in Montreal. Les Girls, in particular, which toured Quebec, made a profound mark on the history of Quebec entertainment and, before the feminist wave of the 1970s, was the first show entirely produced by Quebec women to poke fun at women's issues. The five "Girls," Clémence DesRochers, Chantal Renaud, Diane Dufresne, Paule Bayard and Louise Latraverse, angered some by shattering the genteel image traditionally imposed on actresses and female singers.
DesRochers was inactive 1971-2 but returned in 1973 to work as host and author for CBC TV. She appeared 1975-6 at Le Patriote and the Outremont cinema in Montreal, at the Grand Théâtre in Quebec City, and at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. An irony of sorts, Le Monde aime mieux Mireille Mathieu (1975) was Clémence DesRochers' first great recording success. A tour took her to northern Quebec in 1976. From 1976 to 1979 her appearance as host of CBC's "Trouvailles de Clémence" confirmed her success as a popular figure. In 1977 she presented Mon dernier show, at the Outremont, anouncing her retirement from the stage. In early 1980, Renée Claude premiered the show Moi, c'est Clémence que j'aime le mieux, composed of her songs, which was performed again at the Petit Champlain de Québec and at the Transit in Old Montreal, and recorded on LP Pro-Culture (PPC-6016). Contrary to her previous announcement, Clémence made a stage comeback in 1980 in Montreal, at the Théâtre du Nouveau-Monde and subsequently at l'Arlequin, with C'est mon dernier show 2. This was followed by Plus folle que jamais (1983), Le Derrière d'une étoile (1985), and J'ai show (1989). She had recorded the program "Superstar" at the CBC in 1981. DesRochers continued to work with Radio-Canada in the late 1990s, hosting the programs "Les p'tits bonheurs de Clémence" (1995-8) and "Le monde de Clémence" (1999).
In her monologues and songs, this artist, affectionately called Clémence by everyone, handles satire and caricature zestfully, and her humour can be caustic; but she can be candid, too, and tender, even romantic. In La Presse (Montreal, 4 Mar 1976), the critic Georges-Hébert Germain paid her this tribute: "Again, it was you who perfected the formula for the monologue and the show. You remain the most brilliant portraitist of the Quebec woman. You're like a mirror in which she can see herself, admire herself, or make herself beautiful once more as required. The soul of Quebec is revealed in your monologues and songs...our realities, our dreams, our emotions." Luc Plamondon, who compares her to Germaine Guèvremont and Michel Tremblay, has written that she was "the first to write in the spoken Quebec language, structured coherently and transposed to a poetic level" (preface to J'hais écrire by Clémence DesRochers, Montreal 1986). Among her most successful songs are "L'Homme de ma vie," music by Pierre Brault; "Avec les mots d'Alfred," by Marc Larochelle; "La Chaloupe Verchères," by Gaston Brisson; and "La Vie d'factrie," by Jacques Fortier. Frequent reference has been made to the connection between her songs and that of the group Beau Dommage of the 1970s . Edith Butler, Renée Claude, Jacqueline Dulac, Lucille Dumont, Louise Forestier, Pauline Julien, Claude Léveillée, Marie Savard and Fabienne Thibeault have performed her songs. She is the author of some ten books published in Montreal (1966-86) of short stories, poems, songs, monologues, drawings, excerpts from her revues, and a play (La Deuxième, commissioned in 1976 by the students of the National Theatre School).
For her contributions to theatre and music, DesRochers has been honoured by the Government of Quebec (Prix Denise-Pelletier, 2005), the Governor General (Governor General's Performing Arts Award, 2009), the Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec (Prix Sylvain Lelièvre, 2009), and SOCAN (Lifetime Achievement Award, 2009). DesRochers is both a Chevalier de l'Ordre national du Québec (2001) and an Officer of the Order of Canada (2010).
Clémence DesRochers vol 1. 1962. Sel M 298.047/ Alouette SAD-520
Le Vol rose du flamant. 1964. RCA PCS 1024
Clémence sans pardon. 1966. Gamma GM-104
La Belle Amanchure. 1971. Tremplin TNL-2001
Il faut longtemps d'une âpre solitude pour assembler un poème à l'amour. 1973. Poly 2424 087
Comme un miroir. 1975. Franco FR-793
Je t'ecris pour te dire. 1974-5. Franco FR-79
Mon dernier show. 1977. 2-Franco FR-41001
Les Chansons retrouvailles. 1981. EG 00
Plus folle que jamais. 1983. EG 002
See also Discography for Chansonniers.
Boucher, Denise. "La fantaisie faite femme, Clémence DesRochers," Châtelaine, 9 Sep 1971
Dostie, Bruno. "Seriously speaking: Quebec's funniest lady," Canadian Composer, 126, Dec 1977
Pedneault, Hélène. Notre Clémence, tout l'humour du vrai monde (Montreal 1989)