"Alouette!" | The Canadian Encyclopedia



"Alouette!" The most popular Canadian folksong. It also has become a symbol of French Canada for the world, an unofficial national song identifiable from the first few measures of its lively chorus in 2/4 time. Marius Barbeau is of the opinion that "Alouette" originated in France, but James J. Fuld, in The Book of World-Famous Music (New York 1966), points out that the first written version, "Alouetté," appeared in A Pocket Song Book for the Use of Students and Graduates of McGill College (Montreal 1879). The song was published later as "Alouette" in the McGill College Song Book (Montreal 1885). The first known printed version in France dates from 1893: it appeared in Julien Tiersot's Revue des traditions populaires, vol 8 (Paris). The words and music are found in many anthologies and collections in Canada, the USA, and even Europe, notably in William Parker Greenough's Canadian Folk-life and Folk-lore (New York 1897). Several versions exist in Canada. Marius Barbeau summarizes the different texts in a work appropriately named Alouette (Montreal 1946). However, in all versions of the song, with its enumerations and frequent recapitulations, the idea remains the same: the lark's feathers are plucked from its head, wings, back, tail, and so on.

Composers in both Canada and France have made use of the song - eg, the Frenchman H. Maurice Jacquet in his Rhapsodie sur un chant canadien for piano (Édition Belgo-Canadienne 1925) and Eldon Rathburn in his Variations and Fugue on Alouette (1953) for small orchestra. Several arrangements and harmonizations have been made for vocal and instrumental ensembles. Charles W. Sabatier's song 'L'Alouette,' however, has no connection with the folksong, nor do the various Alouette Reels. As is only fitting, the Alouette Vocal Quartet has recorded the song (issued as a 78 on Bluebird B-1256 and reissued on the LPs RCA 1032 and RCA CGP 140). Other recordings have been made by Aglaé, the Choeur des chanteurs d'Acadie, the Chorale de l'Université St-Joseph, Éviola Gauthier, Jacques Labrecque, Charles Marchand and his Bytown Troubadours, and Alan Mills. In 1978 the Quebec group Garolou recorded it for an LP (London LFS 9027). Edith Fowke included it in The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs (Harmondsworth, England 1973).

The name Alouette has continued to be used extensively for commercial purposes.