Les Rhapsodes

Les Rhapsodes. A non-professional mixed choir founded under the name L'Écho in 1962 in Quebec City by Pierre Fréchette. The name Les Rhapsodes was adopted in 1964, and the group received its provincial charter in 1970.

Les Rhapsodes

Les Rhapsodes. A non-professional mixed choir founded under the name L'Écho in 1962 in Quebec City by Pierre Fréchette. The name Les Rhapsodes was adopted in 1964, and the group received its provincial charter in 1970. It began with 15 singers, and grew to 30 in 1965; after 1980, the number remained steady at about 50 until the late 1990s, when their numbers grew to 80. The first concert was given in August 1963 in Victoria Park in Quebec City.

Beginning in 1964, the choir recorded several programs for CBC Radio's "A Cappella" series. In addition, it sang at Expo 67 and toured Quebec that year. It won first prize 1970-5 in the Canadian Music Competitions and participated in the 1976 Ontario Choral Federation's Choirs in Contact event in Hamilton. During the 1980s, the choir established its own publishing house. In 1988-9, Les Rhapsodes began to offer a regular season comprising three programs, presented at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, the Théâtre Périscope and the Institut Canadien. Many Quebec artists have taken part in these concerts: the sopranos Hélène Fortin, Lyne Fortin, Hélène Lacasse and Adrienne Savoie, the mezzo-soprano Renée Lapointe, the tenors René Boutet and Richard Duguay, the baritone Jean-François Lapointe, the basses Michel Cervant and Mario Tremblay, the organists Louise Fortin-Bouchard, Sylvain Doyon and Richard Paré, and also the Ensemble Nouvelle-France and the Ensemble Luthissimo. In 1990, the choir performed Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with the Orchestre des jeunes du Québec, conducted by Alfredo Silipigni.

At first the group sang mainly popular, folk, and religious songs, but its repertoire was expanded 1971-8 under the energetic direction of Louis Lavigueur, who added works ranging from Renaissance to contemporary, and conducted premieres of Canadian works including Gilles Ouellet's Invocation (1975) and André Picard's Fanaison (1976). The repertoire of the group also includes opera: in 1984, it presented Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice directed by Bertrand Guay, a production that was revived in 1987.

Lavigueur followed two previous directors, Fréchette 1962-70 and Michel Keable 1970-1, and himself was succeeded by Fred Mooney (organist, b Guelph, Ont 7 March 1948) in 1978, Gisèle Pettigrew 1978-87, and André Chiasson 1987-.

Chiasson proved an effective and consistent conductor for the ensemble. Though he did not make fundamental changes as Lavigueur did, his term saw the growth of the choir by 30 voices; the recording of the choir's best-known album, Noël, Christmas, Weihnachten, for Analekta in 1994; and the Prix d'Excellence des arts et de la culture in January 2000. The last few concerts under Chiasson, which included Mozart's Requiem, Handel's Messiah, and Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms performed with l'Ensemble vent et percussion de Québec, were critical and popular successes.

In September 2000 David Rompré, conductor of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra chorus, took over. Rompré brought a higher profile to the choir, which performs three times per year, principally in the St-Dominique Church or the Chapelle Historique du Bon Pasteur. Among the choir's notable recent performances were Concert de Noël with pop singer Roch Voisine in December 2000; and the premieres of two works by Marc Gagné (his Christmas fable Le Père Noël, la Sorcière et l'Enfant in 2002, which was later broadcast on Radio-Canada, and his opera Héloïse et Abélard in 2006). Les Rhapsodes also put on concert versions of Carmen in 2002 and Dido and Aeneas in 2004.


Further Reading

  • La Rochelle, Suzanne. "Les Rhapsodes," À L'Écoute, mars 1983

    "Les Rhapsodes de Québec: L'énergie de durer." Chanter, vol 20, no. 2, Dec 1993