Montagnards

Montagnards. Name adopted by various Montreal and Quebec City choral societies in the wake of a tour across Quebec (August 1856) by the Montagnards basques, a French company directed by Alfred Rolland.

Montagnards

Montagnards. Name adopted by various Montreal and Quebec City choral societies in the wake of a tour across Quebec (August 1856) by the Montagnards basques, a French company directed by Alfred Rolland. This group was enormously successful, particularly in the harmonized songs 'La Chasse aux Isards' and the 'Tyrolienne des Pyrénées' from which the famous refrain 'Halte-là, les montagnards sont là!' remained engraved in people's memories.

On 13 Feb 1861 François Benoît (1824-77), choirmaster at St-Pierre Church, founded the Société musicale des montagnards canadiens in Montreal. By 1863 this choral group numbered 26 members and had presented eight concerts. It seems that Les Orphéonistes de Montréal, a 30-voice choir also directed by Benoît, replaced the Société musicale des montagnards canadiens ca 1864. It is known that the Orphéonistes sang in St-Hyacinthe in September 1866.

On 17 Apr 1876 Benoît re-established the Montagnards group, beginning with 16 voices. The number of members soon rose to 21. In 1875 another group, 12 members of the Notre-Dame Church choir of Montreal, formed the Choeur montagnard under the direction of F.-A. Lavoie. These new Montagnards wore costumes: wide white trousers and dark violet Montagnard caps and vests with white facings. 'They thrilled the crowds who flocked to hear them through the majesty and power of their songs,' reported Le Canada musical (1 Nov 1875).

Arthur Renaud (b Montreal 1851, d Verdun, Montreal, 1934; choirmaster at St-Joseph Church in 1878, St-Gabriel Church in 1879, Ste-Anne Church in 1880, and later at Ste-Cunégonde and St-Henri churches) founded the Chorale des montagnards, also known as the Montagnards canadiens, in Montreal ca 1878. This 25-member group adopted as its costume grey stockings, trousers, and jackets, and grey felt hats with red feathers. The repertoire included religious and secular works, individual programs depending on whether the choir was contributing its services to charity events or was appearing in concert. The soprano C. Leblanc, the tenor Édouard LeBel, and the deep bass Hormisdas Saint-Cyr were soloists with the Montagnards on several occasions. In 1897 the Guide de Montréal referred to them as a 'very popular and very well-known institution.'

The name of the Montagnards was adopted also by various choral groups in small localities (eg, in L'Assomption, Que, in 1866). As late as 1881 the Batiscan choir performed the successful works of the Montagnards basques repertoire.


Further Reading

  • Massicotte, Édouard-Z. 'Le chant des Montagnards,' BRH, vol 34, 1928

    - 'Les Montagnards,' 'Les Montagnards sont là!' ibid, vol 38, 1932

    - 'Encore les montagnards,' ibid, vol 39, 1933