Founded in Québec City in 1978 by flutist and musicologist Louise Courville, the Ensemble Nouvelle-France is an instrumental ensemble dedicated to early music from Québec. It became the ensemble-in-residence at the Musée de l'Amérique francophone in Québec City in 1992. Although its repertoire includes some European compositions, the ensemble centres mostly on works written in New France from its founding to the end of the 19th century. These consist of sacred music, folk songs, concert music, patriotic songs, military music, and dance and recreational music.
Structure and Membership
The ensemble was first active as a trio (Trio Nouvelle-France, 1977–81) comprising, in addition to Courville, gambist Lorraine Pouliot and harpsichordist Richard Paré. Subsequent members have included, among others, Jocelyne Leduc (cello), Lorraine Brunnemer (viola da gamba), Ariane Dind (harpsichord), Hermel Bruneau (viola da gamba), Nicole Trottier (baroque violin), Pierre Bouchard (harpsichord, piano), Jean-François Plante (oboe), Frédérique Beaulieu-Asselin (cello) and Monique Rancourt (piano).
The group consists of a core of four or five musicians: voice; modern and period flute; keyboards (harpsichord and organ); guitar; and viola da gamba. Occasionally it includes baroque violin and cello, baroque percussion and other vocalists. Many of the works performed by the ensemble are reconstructions of old damaged or unreadable scores, which are prepared by Courville, who does the contextual research, and Pierre Bouchard, who physically reconstructs the parts.
The group has toured throughout Québec and the rest of Canada (most notably under the auspices of the Jeunesses Musicales of Canada/Youth and Music Canada), as well as in the US and Europe. It has been heard many times on CBC Radio and Radio-Canada, and has contributed music to several films by the National Film Board.
The ensemble represented Québec City when it was declared a world heritage treasure by UNESCO in 1986, and it presented Joseph Quesnel's opera Colas et Colinette at the inauguration of the Musée de la civilisation in Québec City (1988). It has performed for Queen Beatrix of Netherlands, at the opening of many historic sites in Québec, and at the Congress Palace in Paris on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.
In 1997, the ensemble began the ambitious project of creating an anthology of early music from Québec by recording L'Époque de Julie Papineau (1795–1862). They have since released six other CDs in this series: Victoires et Réjouissances à Québec (1690–1758) (1998); Nativité en Nouvelle-France (1998); L'Épopée mystique de Marie de l'Incarnation (1999); Les Amours (2004); La Belle Époque (2007); and L’orgue 1753, Victoire sur… le temps (2011).
In 2002, the group, along with guest musicians, performed and recorded Courville's composition L'Oratorio de Marie-Madeleine, whose texts come from the apocryphal Gospel according to Mary Magdalene.
In 1994, the group was awarded a Prix d'Excellence de la Culture by the Fondation de l'Opéra de Québec for its performance of Pierre de la Garde's 1748 opera-ballet, Agelé.