Franco-Canadian Folk Music | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Franco-Canadian Folk Music

Written literature tends to be the work of a relatively affluent intellectual elite. This is the reason why literature made its appearance in Canada only when the historical circumstances became favourable.
Written literature tends to be the work of a relatively affluent intellectual elite. This is the reason why literature made its appearance in Canada only when the historical circumstances became favourable. The literature of the oral tradition, however, is a body of verbal and musical material transmitted and continually recreated by the people, combining enduring traditional elements with recent local variants, and sometimes wedding new texts to existing tunes. Thus, there can be no question of iconoclastic breaks with the past, as there may be in written literature. The first generation of French-Canadians perpetuated the traditional culture which had been part of their intellectual heritage, whether European or American. Furthermore, the forefathers of these settlers had lived in France when the songs of the oral tradition originated. Indeed, some of them may even have been the original composers and authors, and their descendants may still live in Canada. For there are songs in Canada, eg, 'Bal chez Boulé', 'Les Raftsmen', and 'Vive la Canadienne', which are in the purest medieval tradition. Such songs represent a cultural heritage which French-Canadians share with all French-speaking countries.

However, a traditional song is not necessarily the exclusive property of one ethnic group: one finds parallel versions of numerous songs not only in French, but also in English, German, Spanish, and other languages. Such songs have had a larger circulation than was believed by the first folklorists of the 19th century, who attributed to them a local or at least national origin. One can understand that researchers working in a given region may have been inclined to make a special case for their own regions in publishing provincial collections which contributed to a regionalist ideal. In the 20th century, however, we know that all francophone countries have a repertory of songs in common. The fallacy of the regionalist approach has been publicized to such a degree that it no longer is permissible to divide these poetic-lyrical materials geographically. Instead they must be classified according to more logical principles. Consequently, a better idea of French folksong in Canada has been obtained through the study, within a historical perspective, of early evidence and through the results of investigations and recent studies carried out in research centres.

In the same way that they preserved their language, the first French settlers in America continued to sing folk and art songs as they were sung in France, perpetuating the francophone repertoire, and at once conserving it and enriching it. This was done so naturally that it went unnoticed for a long time. Foreign visitors who heard the singing of the voyageurs - the canoeists, the coureurs de bois, the fur traders of the north - were the first to draw attention to it. The voyageurs sang to set the rhythm of their paddles and to give themselves courage. Their songs excited the admiration of 18th- and 19th-century travellers.

The Irish poet Thomas Moore, who sailed from Kingston to Montreal in August 1804, marvelled at the sight of these men rowing together and singing in chorus against the magnificent panorama of the St Lawrence River. So enthralled was he that he memorized several of their songs in order to teach them to his sister. It was during this journey that he composed his 'Canadian Boat Song'. In 1817 John Bradbury mentioned that in the course of his journey he had heard canoeists sing 'Trois Beaux Canards' (Travels in the Interior of America, in the Year 1809, 1810 and 1811, London 1817; 2nd edn 1819, pp 20-1). During Captain John Franklin's expedition to the Arctic Lieut George Back collected voyageur songs and sent them to Edward Knight Jr in March 1823. Knight provided piano accompaniment for the melodies, and George Soane and J.B. Planche wrote English texts which they thought more representative than the original lyrics; the results were published in London with the title Canadian Airs (1823). John Mactaggart discovered a 12-verse version of the 'Fille au cresson' (Three Years in Canada, London 1829, vol 2, pp 255-6). Before 1830 Edward Ermatinger, an English emigrant of Swiss and Italian descent, collected the melodies and complete texts of 11 canoeists' songs. The Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto) owns a manuscript, signed by Edward M. Hopkins (1861), containing nine songs which appear to have been copied from Ermatinger. The New York weekly The Albion, 19 Nov 1836, published an unattributed version of 'À la claire fontaine' under the title 'Original Canadian Boat Song'; the words were in French and the music included a piano accompaniment.

Many other people have noted down songs in their travel diaries, among them Mrs Jameson (Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada, London 1838, vol 3, pp 111-13), James H. Lanman ('The American fur trade,' Merchant's Magazine and Commercial Review, New York September 1840, p 189), R.M. Ballantyne (Hudson's Bay, Edinburgh 1848), John Jeremiah Bigsby (The Shoe and Canoe..., London 1850, vol 2, pp 81, 321-2), and Johann Georg Kohl (Kitchi-Gami, London 1860). Kohl recounts the legend of Cadieux ('Petit Rocher de la haute montagne') and quotes several lines from the lament. Among other foreigners who observed this folkloric survival in Quebec were several from France, including Alexis de Tocqueville, Alphonse de Puisbusque, Xavier Marmier, who published Chant populaires du Nord... (Paris 1842), and Jean-Jacques Ampère.

From the numerous testimonies of foreign travellers, Conrad Laforte has compiled the 'Répertoire authentique des chansons d'aviron de nos anciens canotiers (voyageurs, engagés, coureurs de bois),' (Présentation à la Société royale du Canada, 1982-3). These rugged workers adapted medieval dance songs, mostly recounting feminine misadventures, to the rhythm of their paddles. These same voyageurs, engaged in fur trading, and the later foresters (loggers, raftsmen) sang of the hardships of their labours. A collection of these songs was published in 1982 by Madeleine Béland and Lorraine Carrier-Aubin (Chansons de voyageurs, coureurs de bois et forestiers).

Canadian writers, like their French contemporaries, had developed the habit of quoting songs for the sake of local colour. Whereas European writers used the songs to evoke the peasantry in their stories, Canadians did so to depict the coureurs de bois and the voyageurs of the north. Philippe-Joseph Aubert de Gaspé (both father and son), Patrice Lacombe, and several other novelists employed this literary device. Popular song collections devoted considerable space to voyageur songs, whose rhythms and tunes conveyed so well the movement of the canoe paddles.

In England, Germany, Italy, and Spain, major collections of songs and patriotic or popular ballads had been compiled since the early 19th century. It was only in 1853, however, that in France the minister of worship and public education, Hippolyte Fortoul, asked the philology section of the country's Committee on Language, History, and the Arts to undertake a broad survey aimed at collecting all French folksongs. Jean-Jacques Ampère was assigned to draft the Instructions relatives aux poésies populaires de la France which appeared in August of 1853 in Paris. The Journal de Québec published parts of this document 27, 29, and 31 Dec 1853 and 10 Jan 1854. An immediate response was the publication in 1854 in Quebec City of a 104-page supplement to the Chansonnier des collèges which consisted mostly of folksongs. Ca 1856 J. & O. Crémazie published a collection of seven Chants canadiens, with piano accompaniments thought possibly to be by Antoine Dessane. In 1856, after Fortoul's death, the committee abandoned its work and the survey was cancelled. Thus frustrated, researchers in all of the French provinces published regional collections, and in Paris, Champfleury, with the help of J.-B. Weckerlin, published Chansons populaires des provinces de France (1860), a collection which, divided into sections by province, seemed to be a sample of the work left incomplete by the government committee. Since Canada was not represented, a Canadian, François-Alexandre-Hubert LaRue, was moved to publish the article 'Les chansons populaires et historiques du Canada' in Le Foyer canadien (1863). The article showed that songs considered characteristic of a particular province were commonly sung with variants in French Canada. A significant repertoire was listed, but without the music. The canny Champfleury was quick to reply: he sent a letter insisting on the necessity of including the tunes. LaRue conveyed this to Ernest Gagnon, who thereupon set about the publication of his collection Chansons populaires du Canada (Quebec City 1865).

A musician and occasional polemicist, Gagnon had just taken an active part in the campaign for the restoration of Gregorian chant, prompted in Quebec by the 1860 Paris publication of Father Pierre-Minier Lagacé's work Les Chants d'Église, harmonisés pour l'orgue suivant les principes de la tonalité grégorienne. In the 'General Remarks' prefacing Gagnon's collection, one finds the continuation and conclusion to this debate. The entire work serves to demonstrate that the songs of Canada's country people are not vestiges of barbarism and ignorance but a perpetuation of one of the noblest genres of musical art, Gregorian tonality, with its modal scales and particular rhythm. Chansons populaires du Canada was not, therefore, merely the work of a folklorist intent on assembling all the popular songs of a given region, but rather that of a musician prepared to uphold a thesis on folk music compared to Gregorian chant. Gagnon thus alerts his readers: 'The number of our folksongs is without limit. This volume contains only one hundred which I have chosen from among the best known and from those which present a particular type'. From a musical point of view, Gagnon was an innovator. In France, musicians such as Weckerlin published folk tunes with overblown piano accompaniments. Latterly these musicians have been criticized for this very unscientific practice. Ernest Gagnon was one of the first to oppose it, presenting folk melodies without accompaniment. He writes that harmony 'must be added to folksongs only with much discretion and taste'; that, very often, 'it lessens the charm and hinders the rhythm, even if it does not completely destroy the modality'; and that 'in the present climate of scholarship it often is considered much preferable that harmony not appear at all'. Out of regard for authenticity, Gagnon even notated appoggiaturas. But as some singers and voice teachers complained, he removed these embellishments for the second edition (1880). Gagnon's work, containing 104 songs and 122 tunes, was offered as a gift to the subscribers of Foyer canadien. The collection was published over six issues, February 1865 to February 1867. The delay which affected the last two sections allowed the author to make additions; to draw parallels with French collections by Bujeaud (1863-4), Durieux and Bruyelle (1864), Damase Arbaud (1862-4), and H. Murger (Les Vacances de Camille, no date); and to add variants provided by last-minute contributors and informants.

Musicians and folksong specialists immediately hailed the collection as a model and a French classic in the genre. Canadian writers and men of letters proudly praised it. Over the years it grew in favour among musicians and received similar acclaim among folklorists. As early as 1884, Anatole Loquin grouped it without reservation among French collections ('Notes et notules sur nos mélodies populaires,' Mélusine). Even in the 20th century, in his appreciation of Ernest Gagnon, Patrice Coirault wrote: 'Along with the works of Bujeaud, Smith, and several others, this excellent artistic collection compiled by a musician-folklorist is one of the original solid pillars on which the monument of our poetic-musical treasure of oral tradition was built' (Notre Chanson folklorique, Paris 1941). On this point Coirault is in agreement with French folklorists. No subsequent serious work on popular song has been written in France without mentioning Gagnon's collection. Summing up the praise and appreciation emanating from both France and Canada, Thomas Chapais declared: 'Everything has been said of his book Chansons populaires du Canada, which one can call, in its genre, a national monument, and which revealed to France, perhaps more than any other undertaking, the marvellous fact of French cultural survival in Canada' ('Ernest Gagnon,' Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Ottawa 1916). In 1989, Gordon E. Smith completed a PH D thesis at the University of Toronto entitled 'Ernest Gagnon (1834-1915): musician and pioneer folksong scholar'.

There were many other song collectors in Quebec in the 19th century. Among at least 17 extant manuscript collections (a listing of which is found in La Chanson folklorique et les écrivains du XIXe siècle by Conrad Laforte, 1973), may be mentioned Benjamin Sulte's 'Chansons populaires' (1858) and, the most important, 'Annales musicales du Petit Cap' compiled after 1865 by Mgr Thomas Hamel, held at the archives of the Séminaire du Québec. About 30 small printed song-books share the same period, but most have no music and mix literary songs with folksongs; among them are La Lyre canadienne (Quebec City 1847), Le Chansonnier des collèges (Quebec City 1850, 1854), and Recueil de chansons canadiennes et françaises (Lovell 1859). Gagnon's collection was, without doubt, the greatest. Indeed, the intellectual élite of Canada thought that it comprised the total of the songs in the country. It was 72 years before another folksong collection of this importance was published.

Several study projects were carried out, however. In the newspaper Le Français (Paris 1874), Edme-Jacques-Benoît Rathery published 'Chants populaires des Canadiens français'. In 1896 William Wood, an English Canadian, undertook a survey of French song in Canada for the Royal Society of Canada. There was also a study by Ernest Myrand on the Noëls anciens de la Nouvelle-France (1899). In 1909, at Harvard U (Cambridge, Mass), Cyrus MacMillan wrote 'The Folk Songs of Canada,' an 1109-page dissertation which deals exclusively with French songs in Canada.

Marius Barbeau, who in 1911 had been engaged as an anthropologist by the Canadian government, had been put in charge of North American Indian studies. At a convention Franz Boas, a US colleague who was investigating European influences among American Indians, roused Barbeau's interest in the French folklore perpetuated in Canada by asking whether the French Canadians had preserved their formal oral traditions and whether Canada still had old songs and legends. In response Barbeau began collecting popular tales in Quebec as early as 1914. It was in 1916 that he made his first folksong recordings. A few preliminary investigations persuaded him that there were songs not only unpublished but not collected by Gagnon. He first surveyed Charlevoix county, travelling there by boat and bicycling through the countryside with an Edison gramophone and wax cylinders securely tied to the luggage-rack. The invention of sound recording brought a scientific accuracy to the preservation of sound documents, making them relatively permanent and renewable. The Edison invention permitted the making of recordings on wax cylinders, although they could accommodate only very brief items. Consequently, Barbeau recorded only one verse of a song and set down the others in a notation of his own devising. He continued his research in Charlevoix and the Gaspé during the summers 1916-20 and succeeded in making an extraordinary 3000 sound recordings.

On his return, Barbeau informed newspapers and journals of his findings and imparted his enthusiasm to other researchers. In 1917 he met the archivist of the Montreal Court House, E.-Z. Massicotte, who formerly had been interested in folksong collecting. Barbeau took along a gramophone and left it behind following a fruitful meeting. Thus encouraged, Massicotte returned to the field and between 1917 and 1921 made about 1400 wax cylinder folksong recordings for the National Museum (Canadian Museum of Civilization). One of Massicotte's informants, Vincent Ferrier de Repentigny, eventually produced an unprecedented 10 recordings more than Barbeau's most prodigious informant, François Saint-Laurent. Another collector inspired by Barbeau was the Franciscan Father Archange Godbout, who recorded 215 songs in the Sorel, Bagot, Dorchester, and Portneuf counties between 1917 and 1919. Still another was Adélard Lambert (b St-Cuthbert, near Sorel, Que, in 1867, and raised in the USA). During frequent visits 1919-28 to his birthplace he recorded 367 songs.

In 1924, through the courtesy of Senator Pascal Poirier, Barbeau's collections grew richer by 110 sung pieces hand-notated on Prince Edward Island by Father P. Arsenault, the parish priest of Mont-Carmel, assisted in the music by Father Théodore Gallant, the parish priest of Sturgeon. Among other occasional contributors who transmitted songs to Barbeau were Jean-M. Lemieux, Georges Mercure, J.-E.-A. Cloutier, Mme C. Cyr, Charles Marchand, Gustave Lanctot, and Philippe Angers. More than 5000 folksongs and variants in wax-cylinder recordings were assembled by Barbeau at the National Museum in addition to nearly 5000 in manuscript (not recorded), a total of some 10,000 versions of traditional songs.

Barbeau and his contributors sent some of these to newspapers and journals. A group of songs collected by Massicotte was published in the Journal of American Folk-Lore in 1919; Massicotte also published several songs (with annotations) in the Bulletin des recherches historiques.

Massicotte and Barbeau organized the 'Soirées du bon vieux temps478c,' devoted to folksongs, folktales, and folkdances; these took place in Montreal in 1919 at the Salle St-Sulpice (renamed BN du Q) and met with great success. For the CPR Festivals in Quebec City in 1927 and 1928, Barbeau organized several concerts featuring some of his and Massicotte's musical informants, who competed for the audiences' attention alongside famous artists. The performances gave Barbeau and his contributors the opportunity to introduce the results of their research to the public at large and above all to composers, who soon saw the attraction of arranging them for choir or for voice with piano accompaniment. The songs even were assembled into ballad operas by Louvigny de Montigny (Le Bouquet de Mélusine, 1928, Montreal, New York 1928) and Healey Willan (L'Ordre de Bon Temps). In 1929 and 1930 for the CPR Barbeau and Graham Spry arranged concerts of Canadian music in which professional artists, among them Rodolphe Plamondon, popularized folksongs throughout Canada.

At the same time Barbeau was preparing a collection, Romancero du Canada, which came out in 1937 and represented 21 years of investigation and research. The title of the work surprised his contemporaries, who, sharing Frédéric Pelletier's view, would have preferred Florilège to Romancero; but Barbeau wanted to underline the scientific method he had borrowed from his French model, Georges Doncieux's Romancero populaire de la France (Paris 1904). However, instead of making a strict application of the method employed by Romance language experts, which at that time consisted of restoring original forms through the construction of a critical text obtained from all the known versions, Barbeau composed his text exclusively from Canadian versions. This approach responded to the work's objective of providing a text aesthetically appealing to both the general public and the performing artists. Tunes were chosen not from among the earliest known (as in the French model) but from among the most beautiful. Barbeau's approach and Doncieux's concurred, however, in the notion that no attempt should be made to assemble 'approved' composites from the existing melodic variants. Barbeau concluded his book with rhythmic formulae and musical analyses prepared in collaboration with the noted French musicologist Marguerite Béclard d'Harcourt, who also provided the preface. The collection was greeted with pride by French Canadians. Frédéric Pelletier set the tone with these words: 'Let us salute the man who has made us aware of the true nature of the treasure inherited from France - a treasure the French have forgotten they possess, and one which we have transformed in accordance with our own genius' ('Un livre que nous devrions tous nous procurer,' Montreal Le Devoir, 8 May 1937).

After this first volume Barbeau continued to accumulate collections for the National Museum and to organize researchers, offering them encouragement, advice, and help. He never gave up the idea of publishing the complete repertoire of French folksongs in Canada. New collections were added (including two posthumous works prepared by Lucien Ouellet): Alouette in 1946, Le Rossignol y chante in 1962, En roulant ma boule in 1982 and Le Roi boit in 1987. Some 1100 songs from Barbeau's collections were transferred from the wax cylinders to glass recordings for the Library of Congress in Washington. From these recordings, Marguerite and Raoul d'Harcourt derived Chansons folkloriques françaises au Canada (1956). Barbeau also took Laura Boulton throughout the province of Quebec so that she might establish a source collection of French sound recordings for the museum of Columbia U, New York. Barbeau's collections, and those of his colleagues and disciples, have been maintained and expanded by the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies, an organization affiliated with the Canadian Museum of Civilization and set up by Carmen Roy. In Littérature orale en Gaspésie (1955) Roy published many songs taken from her collection of several thousand pieces. The Marius Barbeau Documentation Center, founded in Montreal in 1977, has made every effort to 'promote and to encourage the recognition, preservation and transmission of Quebec folklore as its priority, while still devoting special attention to foreign folklore. The Center, which is affiliated with the folk dance troupe Les Sortilèges, has published popularized works in Publications Chant de mon pays, as well as records and cassettes.

In Quebec City, studies have been carried out at the Archives de folklore of Laval University under the leadership of Luc Lacourcière, who received encouragement from Bishop Félix-Antoine Savard and Marius Barbeau. Lacourcière, who in turn trained numerous disciples, elevated the study of folklore to the level of post-graduate research and teaching. Following the example of Barbeau he recorded over 2000 folksongs in Charlevoix and New Brunswick. He then introduced a new method of analysis and presentation of critical texts. This method consists of composing an aesthetically pleasing version from Canadian versions only. But Lacourcière's improvement on Doncieux's technique consists of giving within a scientific framework all the variants and all the melodic versions, thus permitting a complete restoration of each original version. The best examples of the application of this method are Lacourcière's in 1946 of 'Les Écoliers de Pontoise' and Barbeau's in 1947 of 'Trois Beaux Canards' (92 Canadian versions).

Subsequently, studies of the utmost diversity have proliferated. Jeannine Bélanger in 1946 demonstrated the archaic character of versification in folksongs. At Laval University Alfred Pouinard wrote a doctoral thesis entitled 'Recherches sur la musique d'origine française en Amérique du Nord, Canada et Louisiane' (1950). Claude Prey conducted a textual and musical analysis of 'Trois Beaux Canards' in 'Formation et métamorphoses d'une chanson: le canard blanc' (1959), a master's thesis presented at Laval University. In 'Civilisation traditionnelle des Lavalois' (1951), Sister Marie-Ursule published 115 songs, of which about 20 of the tunes were collected by Alfred Pouinard and the remainder by François Brassard. Brassard is the author of numerous articles, including 'Refrains canadiens de chansons de France' (1946), in which he shows how a song is renewed through its refrains. Elizabeth Brandon's doctoral thesis, 'Moeurs et langue de la paroisse Vermillon en Louisiane' (Laval University 1955), is devoted largely to songs. Russell Scott Young, a US student at Laval, in his 'Vieilles chansons de Nouvelle-France' (1956), presented a sample of 50 songs, chosen from his collection of 727 pieces compiled in the province of Quebec. In this work, Young deals with the problem of rhythm in musical transcriptions. In Charlevoix and Acadia (New Brunswick), with Luc Lacourcière and Bishop Savard, Roger Matton conducted research for the recording Acadie et Québec. He then notated the melodies of the songs from Shippagan collected by Dominique Gauthier and presented them in Chansons de Shippagan (1975). In the introduction Matton provides a musical analysis of the 70 songs in this collection.

In 1953 Conrad Laforte undertook an inventory of folksongs with a view to setting up an index-card catalogue of all the French songs in North America; he later added songs from French-speaking Europe (France, Belgium, Switzerland). He derived from this Le Catalogue de la chanson folklorique française (partial edition, 1958) in which songs are classified in alphabetical order by title. By 1980 the catalogue exceeded 80,000 entry cards. The critical study of so many songs, in itself an unprecedented undertaking, has allowed Laforte to develop the global perspective essential in establishing a methodical classification of folksongs, something he has accomplished in Poétiques de la chanson traditionnelle française (1976). The word 'poétique' is used here not in the philosophical sense or to connote versification, but in its meaning of compositional technique and literary movement. These 'poétiques' serve as an introduction to the complete edition of the Catalogue de la chanson folklorique française (1977-87) which comprises six volumes, one each for 'chansons en laisse,' strophic songs, songs in the forms of dialogue, enumerative songs, short songs, and 'chansons sur les timbres'.

The main characteristic of the 'chansons en laisse' is that they contain a 'laisse' (an old French epic verse) ordinarily obtained by suppressing temporarily the refrain and the repeats. These songs, sung in unison, were used to accompany walking, round dances, and group work. Themes and motives are often medieval, several possessing a religious content or an epic character. Others are heroic-comical songs, those about wedding nights and unhappily married women ('maumariées'), about jealous husbands and cuckolds, and about the joys of marriage. The most archaic among them include the themes and motives of the bouquet (laurel wreath), the harvest, birds, shepherds and shepherdesses, amorous advances, feminine misadventures, marriageable daughters and weddings, suitors, erotic fantasies or lampoons, feast days and tricks.

Strophic songs, which do not contain 'laisses' but are made up of an indeterminate number of fixed-form strophes, are mainly narrative; they may have an epic character or religious themes, or may be simply romantic or comical. One also finds in this group songs that are more or less narrative and deal with idyllic or bucolic love, seasonal songs (hunting, New Year's day, mardi-gras), the travelling cycle (departures, homecomings, deserters, sea voyages, 'coureurs de bois,' lumber-yards, logging, military life, boredom, and messages), songs on civilian life and social conditions, songs for special occasions (weddings, etc), and songs of drunkards and drinking.

Songs in the form of dialogue are sung by two people answering each other: the beautiful maiden and her lover, the shepherdess and her gallant, mother and daughter, mother (or father or priest) and son, father-confessor and maiden, husband and wife, historical and legendary figures, personifications, and finally an individual and a group.

In enumerative songs, the enumeration provides the complete structure. Enumerated items may be numbers in decreasing order (songs of tenor, of nine), in increasing order (hours, days, weeks, months, seasons, years, and ages; letters, vowels, and the alphabet; clothes; members and parts of the body and remedies; the members or dismembering of animals, birds, or fish; professions and labours; the qualities of men and women; lists of animals and birds, containers, or contents). Enumerations may be based on verbs, actions, and many other subjects of all kinds such as whimsical elements and cock-and-bull stories, telling lies, proper names, houses, families, places, villages, cities, countries, foods, colours, maps, trees, musical instruments and, lastly, ambiguities.

Short songs are by nature of restricted dimensions. They are sub-divided into three groups: songs sung by adults to children (lullabies, hymns and prayers, nursery rhymes); songs sung by children (sung stories, sung-game formulas for skipping or playing fives, active rounds and other children's rounds); and songs sung by both children and adults (mnemonic songs for dancing melodies ['chansons timbres'], the sound of hunting horns and the language of bells, short parlour songs, canons, trick songs, songs from popular tales, seasonal songs, isolated song fragments, medleys, cries of pedlars and of marketplaces and fairs, rallying cries, bird songs, and animal cries [fauna], incantation formulas). The repertoire of the first two groups is called the Enfantines. In 1990, the third group was the subject of a work in progress. Volume 5, devoted to Enfantines, introduces the use of texts, also constituting a collection of short songs. It contains more than 10,000 versions of 1381 children's songs collected by observers of oral tradition. The producers of records and collections designed for children have too often used the repertoire of adult songs. Since they no longer understand their meaning, they proclaim them to be children's songs and some even go as far as stating that they are only good to lull them to sleep. Thus do we find in the usual repertoire offered to children such watered-down adult songs as the cuckold song 'Marianne s'en va-t-au moulin', or one of the most licentious with double meanings, 'Il était une bergère'. And yet there exist thousands of real children's songs that educators can use.

'Chansons sur les timbres' are songs in which new words are adapted to pre-existing melodies. Among them are parodies, farcical songs, historical songs, neighbourhood stories such as fires, drownings (laments), and murders, political and electoral songs, anthems, and Christmas carols. A general index of the names of 'airs de timbres' with references to the melodies has been added to the beginning of the sixth Catalogue.

All the songs in the Catalogue have been classified according to their poetical characteristics; for each song, the author has provided a substantial bibliography (for both North America and Europe) and all details pertinent to the music. Since the first edition of the Catalogue, the majority of the new collections give title and call number cross-references. Studies of song groups have begun to be published. Survivances médiévales dans la chanson folklorique by Conrad Laforte, published in 1981, analyzes the versification and themes of the Middle Ages in the 'chansons en laisse'. Anthologies of the lyric poetry in this category were in progress in 1990. Other anthologies with an introductory study present particular song groups, for example Chansons de voyageurs, coureurs de bois et forestiers by Madeleine Béland and Lorraine Carrier-Aubin (1982), and Chansons folkloriques à sujet religieux by Laforte and Carmen Roberge (1988); a collection of Chansons strophiques à caractère épique et tragique was in progress in 1990.

The Archives de folklore are at present part of the Archives of Laval University. Also located in that same institution is the (CÉLAT) Centre d'études sur la langue, les arts et les traditions populaires des francophones en Amérique du Nord (Research Centre on the language, arts, and popular traditions of francophones in North America), an organization which employs a group of young researchers. Other Canadian universities also have opened folk-music research centres. In Acadia the collection of the journalist Joseph-Thomas Leblanc, compiled with the help of the newspaper La Voix d'Évangéline (1938-41), was added to the collection of Fathers Arsenault and Gallant of Prince Edward Island. The year 1942 saw the publication of the first volume of Chansons d'Acadie, (seven volumes had appeared by 1990) consisting of songs collected at Cheticamp (Cape Breton) by Father Anselme Chiasson, with musical transcriptions by Brother Daniel Boudreau. Father Anselme subsequently set up at the University of Moncton an ethnographic museum and archive department which were the predecessors of the Centre for Acadian Studies. In 1946 Geneviève Massignon, while conducting research to document her work on Acadian speech, recorded 240 songs; the recordings were deposited at the Phonothèque nationale in Paris. Numerous songs have been collected and published by Luc Lacourcière, Bishop Savard, Roger Matton, and Dominique Gauthier. Also worthy of mention are Helen Creighton in Nova Scotia and Kenneth Peacock in Newfoundland. In their search for English folksongs, both collected several French ones. At Memorial U a Franco-Newfoundland Research Centre, headed by Gerald Thomas, has collected an impressive number of folksongs among the French population of Port-au-Port and has published the catalogue Songs Sung by French Newfoundlanders (1978). In Ontario Germain Lemieux, the director of the Centre franco-ontarien de folklore of the University of Sudbury, collected among the French population of northern Ontario over 3000 songs, some of which he published in the two-volume study Chansonnier franco-ontarien (1974, 1975). In the department of folklore of the University of Sudbury, Jean-Pierre Pichette and his students continue to work in this field as well. Sudbury is located near the old route followed by the voyageurs of Canada, the employees of the Grand Portage fur trading post on Lake Superior, and the coureurs de bois. This water route originated in Montreal, continued upstream along the Ottawa River to Mattawa and through Lake Nipissing and the French River, reached the north of Lake Huron by way of Sault Ste Marie, emerged near Grand Portage to the west of Lake Superior, and from there reached the Red River. Hence, along this route and in Manitoba there are descendants of these former voyageurs of the 'upland country' who were so famous for their songs. A collection entitled Chansons à répondre du Manitoba (1979) testifies to the continuing vitality of this tradition. All the above-mentioned research centres are active in both research and teaching, thus ensuring not only the maintenance of the repertoire but also an opportunity for scholarly study.

Marius Barbeau also collected dance tunes played on such musical instruments as the violin, the accordion, the harmonica, the jew's harp, and even 'mouth reels' in which instrumental sounds are imitated by the mouth to accompany dancing. The Archives de folklore of Laval University have also preserved a good number of these tunes collected by Luc Lacourcière and his collaborators. In 1990, following Jean Carignan who mostly played Irish jigs, fiddlers and accordionists released numerous records (see Fiddling). Simonne Voyer has included cotillons and quadrilles tunes in her work La Danse traditionnelle dans l'est du Canada (1986). The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presented an exhibition 1980-1 entitled 'The Illustration of the Folksong in Quebec'.

Brief mention must be made of the concert performers who have succeeded in the artistic use of folksongs, notably Charles Marchand and the Bytown Troubadours, the phenomenal 'personnage' La Bolduc, the Alouette Vocal Quartet, Eugène Daigneault, Ovila Légaré, Jacques Labrecque, Hélène Baillargeon, Alan Mills, Pierre Daigneault, Raoul Roy, Edith Butler, and many others. See Folk-music-inspired composition for a list of the numerous musicians who, like Oscar O'Brien and Victor Bouchard, have composed piano accompaniments or, like François Brassard, have made arrangements for choir. Among the most famous of many orchestrations of traditional melodies are Sir Ernest MacMillan's Two Sketches for Strings, Claude Champagne'sSuite canadienne, François Brassard's Suite villageoise, and Roger Matton's L'Escaouette. It would be of interest likewise to examine the originals used in the composition of these major works. Each song may be looked upon as a document, both a work admirable on its own account, and a marvellous source of inspiration.

See also the entries for the songs 'Ah! Si mon moine voulait danser,' 'À la claire fontaine,' 'Alouette!' 'À St-Malo, beau port de mer,' 'Bal chez Boulé,' 'Bonhomme! Bonhomme!' 'Un Canadien errant,' 'C'est la belle Françoise,' 'C'est l'aviron,' 'Dans les prisons de Nantes,' 'Dans Paris y a-t-un brune,' 'D'où viens-tu bergère?' 'La Guignolée,' 'Isabeau s'y promène,' 'J'ai cueilli la belle rose,' 'Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre,' 'Marianne s'en va-t-au moulin,' 'Papillon, tu es volage,' 'Petit Rocher de la haute montagne,' 'Les Raftsmen,' 'Le Rossignol y chante,' 'Vive la Canadienne,' 'V'là l'bon vent!,' 'Youpe! Youpe! Sur la rivière!'


Acadie et Québec. Songs collected by Roger Matton. 1959. RCA LCP-1020/RCA CGP-139

Barde: Barde. 1977. Direction DLP-10-006

C'est dans la Nouvelle-France. Songs collected by Marc Gagné. (1979). Tamanoir TAMX-27005

Chants et danses du Québec. Jean Carignan, Aldor Martin et al. Chant du monde GVLDX-74408

Comment ça flippe. Acadian music from PEI. 1981. Les productions de l'Île ILE-1002

Eritage. Eritage. 1979. Les Disques Son d'Or Enrg. SD-2000

Images. Barde. 1978. Poly 2424-188/Flying Fish FF-217

Ma mie tant blanche: 'Chansons Folkloriques Acadiennes/Acadian Folk Songs'. Charlotte Cormier voice, Donald Deschênes guitar. 1983. Centre d'études acadiennes CEA-1001

Music from French Newfoundland. Pigeon Inlet PIP-734

Le Rêve du diable. Le Rêve du diable. (1976). Le Tamanoir TAM-27001

Rivière jaune. Le Rêve du diable. (1977). Le Tamanoir TAM-27009

La Ronde des voyageurs. Eritage. 1982. Fogarty's Cove FCM-006

Songs and Dances of Quebec. Collected by Sam Gesser. 1956. Folk FW-6951

Songs of French Canada. Collected by Laura Boulton, Sam Gesser and Carmen Roy. 1957. Folk FE-4482

Suivant l'étoile du nord: 'La tradition acadienne/The Acadian Song Tradition'. 1983. Centre d'études acadiennes CEA-1002

Sur la Côte Nord: Folklore Music of Northern Québec. 1979. Music Gallery Editions MGE-17

La Veillée des veillées. Groupe de Portneuf, Jean Carignan et al. 1975. 2-Kébec-Disc KD-928-29

Also several recordings by the the folklore troupe La Bottine souriante, including Les Épousailles (1981, Gamma GS-256)

The Patrimoine Series (1982-), devoted to Franco-Canadian culture and directed by Jacques Labrecque, comprises sections on folk musicians, folksongs, folktales, folklegends, and childrens' songs, author-composers, historical documents, and poetry. Several of the 15 recordings already released by 1991 include a guide or a pamphlet with texts, music and information on the songs.

Lists of recordings of Franco-Canadian folk music are located in Pionniers du disque folklorique québécois, in various catalogues published by the CSMT and in that of Festival Records of Vancouver associated with the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

See also Raoul Roy; Discographies for Jacques Labrecque, Alan Mills, and the Montreal Bach Choir.


Chants canadiens (Crémazie 1856?)

Gagnon, Ernest. Chansons populaires du Canada (Quebec City 1865-7, 1880, 1894, 1900; Montreal 1901, 1908, 1913, 1918, 1925, 1930, 1935, 1940, 1947, 1952, 1955)

Robertson, William Graham. French Songs of Old Canada (London 1904)

Prévost, Paul-Émile. Chansons canadiennes (Montreal 1907)

Tiersot, Julien. Forty-Four French Folk-Songs and Variants from Canada, Normandy and Brittany (G. Schirmer 1910)

Barbeau, Marius, and Massicotte, E.-Z. 'Chants populaires du Canada,' JAF, vol 32, Jan-Mar 1919

Barbeau, Marius, and Sapir, Edward. Folk Songs of French Canada (New Haven, Conn, 1925)

Barbeau, Marius. Chansons populaires du vieux Québec/Folk Songs of Old Quebec, National Museum Bulletin No. 75 (Ottawa 1935)

- Romancero du Canada (Montreal, Toronto 1937)

Leblanc, Joseph-Thomas. 'Nos vieilles chansons acadiennes,' La Voix d'Évangéline (Moncton 1938-41)

Chiasson, Anselme, and Boudreau, Daniel. Chansons d'Acadie, 7 vols (1-4 Montreal 1942-8; 5 Moncton 1979; 6,7 Chéticamp, NS 1983-5)

Barbeau, Marius. Les Enfants disent (Montreal 1943)

- Alouette (Montreal 1946)

- et al. Come A Singing! National Museum Bulletin No. 107 (Ottawa 1947, 1973)

Lemieux, Germain. Folklore franco-ontarien, Chansons, 2 vols (Sudbury 1949, 1950)

Marie-Ursule, Sister. 'Civilisation traditionnelle des Lavalois,' Archives de folklore, vols 5-6 (Quebec 1951)

D'Harcourt, Marguerite and Raoul. Chansons folkloriques françaises au Canada (Quebec City, Paris 1956)

Young, Russell Scott. 'Vieilles chansons de Nouvelle-France,' Archives de folklore, vol 7 (Quebec City 1956)

Barbeau, Marius, et al. Roundelays - Dansons à la ronde, National Museum Bulletin No. 151 (Ottawa 1958)

Barbeau, Marius. Jongleur Songs of Old Quebec (Toronto 1962)

- Le Rossignol y chante, part one of Répertoire de la chanson folklorique française au Canada, National Museum Bulletin No. 175 (Ottawa 1962, 1979)

Roy, Carmen. Saint-Pierre et Miquelon: une mission folklorique aux îles... (Ottawa 1962)

Lemieux, Germain. Chansonnier franco-ontarien, 2 vols (Sudbury 1974, 1975)

Gauthier, Dominique, and Matton, Roger. Chansons de Shippagan, Archives de folklore, vol 16 (Quebec City 1975)

Cormier, Charlotte. Écoutez tous, petits et grands: Chansons de Pré-d'en-Haut (Moncton 1978)

Ferland, Marcien. Chansons à répondre du Manitoba (St Boniface 1979)

Arsenault, Georges. Complaintes acadiennes de l'Île -du-Prince-Édouard (Montreal 1980)

Brassard, François. Chansons populaires recueillies et harmonisées pour choeur à voix mixtes (Alliance des chorales du Québec 1980)

Barbeau, Marius. En roulant ma boule, part two of Répertoire de la chanson folklorique française au Canada, ed Lucien Ouellet (Ottawa 1982)

Béland, Madeleine, and Carrier-Aubin, Lorraine. Chansons de voyageurs, coureurs de bois et forestiers (Quebec City 1982)

Deschênes, Donald. C'était la plus jolie des filles, repertoire of songs of Angéline Paradis-Fraser (Montreal 1982)

Chiasson, Anselme. Tout le long de ces côtes, folksongs of the Magdalen Islands (Puclications Chant de mon pays 1983)

Gagné, Marc, and Poulin, Monique. Chantons la chanson, recordings, transcriptions and annotations of songs and instrumental pieces (Quebec City 1985)

Barbeau, Marius. Le Roi boit, part three of Répertoire de la chansons folklorique française au Canada, ed Lucien Ouellet (Ottawa 1987)

Labelle, Ronald, ed. La Fleur du rosier, Acadian folksongs collected by Helen Creighton (Sydney, NS 1988)

Laforte, Conrad, and Roberge, Carmen. Chansons folkloriques à sujet religieux (Quebec City 1988)

Roberge, Carmen. Nos ancêtres chantaient, songs collected at Albanel (Albanel, Que 1989)

Further Reading

External Links