New Year's Day songs

New Year's Day songs. Song parodies or original songs published, at least in the Quebec press between 1767 and 1919, for New Year's day. The words and the music (from 1830 mostly) were the subject of a special presentation, thanks to the use of greatly varied ornamental motifs.

New Year's Day songs

New Year's Day songs. Song parodies or original songs published, at least in the Quebec press between 1767 and 1919, for New Year's day. The words and the music (from 1830 mostly) were the subject of a special presentation, thanks to the use of greatly varied ornamental motifs. These couplets were meant to be 'presents from the boy who brings the gazette to the faithful, ' or even 'an hommage from the newsboy to subscribers'. According to M. Chauveau, 'in times past one let in the poor little messenger boy of the new year, all shivering with cold; he was made to sing his song [...] and he was rewarded with a few cakes or even a glass of soda over and above the mandatory presents. Also, one often read as the last verse of poetry, such as those published in the Quebec Gazette, 1767: He now, with kind Acceptance, prays - His verses may be crown'd - And many happy New-Year's Days - Delight his F[r]iends around; And that not one of them may know - A Want to make him sad - Or generous Present to bestow - To make the News Boy glad'..In addition to wishes and requests, such diverse themes as politics and patriotic expressions (the text of 'Sol canadien, terre chéri' first appeared in the form of New Year verses), customs and traditions, literary subjects, etc.

Numerous Canadian poets contributed to the enrichment of the genre, including Louis-Honoré Fréchette, François-Xavier Garneau, Napoléon Legendre, and Benjamin Sulte. The same holds true for such composers as Napoléon Aubin, Jean-Baptiste Labelle, and Nazaire LeVasseur, among others; their music, invariably in strophic form, was unpretentious. The explanation for poets' and musicians' interest in this minor genre is undoubtedly found in the belief that their ancestors (forefathers) had always observed a New Year's Day ceremony in their new country, which they had inherited from the Gauls. The latter 'made each other small gifts of mistletoe' blessed by the Druids while singing a kind of cantique with the refrain: 'Au gui l'an neuf!,' which would explain, maintains the anonymous author of L'Abeille canadienne, both the presents and the New Year's day songs. This interpretation, of nationalist bent, can be problematic : although less numerous, the New-Year Verses of the Printers Lad also began to appear in Quebec newspapers in 1767, without it being specified, it is true, that these were musical pieces.


Further Reading

  • L'Abeille canadienne, 4 Jan 1834

    Carrier, Maurice and Monique Vachon. Chansons politiques du Québec, 2 vols (Montreal 1977, 1979)

    Chauveau, M. 'Étude sur les commencents de la poésie française au Canada et en particulier sur les poésies de M. François-Xavier Garneau,' Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada for the Years 1882 and 1883, vol 1 (1883)

    CMH, vol 7

    Music Publishing in the Canadas