Roch Lyonnais

Roch Lyonnais, (Bossu or Bossue, dit Lyonnais) (also known as Joseph-Roch). Violin maker, musical instrument dealer and repairer, instrumentalist, composer, teacher, conductor, b Quebec City 28 Dec 1849, d there 1 Jan 1921.

Lyonnais, Roch

Roch Lyonnais, (Bossu or Bossue, dit Lyonnais) (also known as Joseph-Roch). Violin maker, musical instrument dealer and repairer, instrumentalist, composer, teacher, conductor, b Quebec City 28 Dec 1849, d there 1 Jan 1921. He owed his craft and musical skills to his father, Joseph, and to his uncle Séraphin-D. Vachon, who gave him lessons in violin playing. He evidently studied several specialized books on instrument making and was strongly influenced by them. Thus, after giving up manufacturing violins because of competition, he built 1871 the first accordion made in Canada and a trapezoidal violin 1879 based on the Savart model; he also designed and produced 1865-80 a bagarina and various mechanical instruments. His innovative mind was demonstrated in 'The influence of music,' a well-documented lecture which he delivered in December 1879 at Biddeford, Me, and in which he exhorted doctors not to neglect the therapeutic nature of music; he supported his case by quoting and identifying evidence going back to ancient times. He translated J.-B. Logier's treatise on harmony, System der Musikwissenschaft (Berlin 1827), into French as 'Règle fondamentale de l'harmonie' (apparently unpublished). According to A.G. Lyonnais, he taught the techniques of all kinds of instruments to over 500 pupils.

Roch Lyonnais himself played violin, viola, cello, and occasionally saxophone in Quebec City in the orchestras of Hamel, Lavigueur, Vachon, and Thibault. He founded and conducted the Lyonnais orchestra 1872-82. In 1873 he was appointed conductor for the French theatre company Maugard. In 1881 he became conductor of a band which included some members of the Lyonnais orchestra. In 1891 he founded and directed the Zouaves du Sacré-Coeur Band. These activities were pursued alongside his instrument making, which he practised from 1868 until his death; after 1906, however, he limited himself to repair work and to operating a theatre-costume rental business. He was also a composer and publisher. A list of his vocal and instrumental works (polkas, waltzes, and quadrilles), both in manuscript and published, was compiled by Nazaire LeVasseur. More recently, his 'Chant du marin' was published in CMH (vol 7). Erudition, diversity of talents, skill, and ingenuity seem to have been combined in the personality of Roch Lyonnais, one of the most engaging figures in late-19th-century Quebec City.

See also Pierre-Olivier Lyonnais (his great-uncle), Léon II Lyonnais (his brother), and Cyrille-Roch Lyonnais (his son).


Further Reading

  • David, L.O. 'Roch Lyonnais,' Opinion publique, vol 2, 14 Sep 1871

    Lyonnais, A.G. Généalogie de la famille Lyonnais (Ottawa 1901)

    LeVasseur, Nazaire. 'Musique et musiciens à Québec,' La Musique, vols 1, 2, 1919, 1920

    - Réminiscences d'Antan (Quebec City 1926)

    Massicotte, Édouard-Z. 'Violons et luthiers,' BRH, vol 41, Apr 1935

    Royer, Henri. 'Lutherie à Québec,' R Saint-Grégoire, Mar 1951

    - 'Mosaïque québécoise,' Cahiers d'histoire, 13, 1961

    Émond, Vivianne. '"Musique et musiciens à Québec: souvenirs d'un amateur" de Nazaire LeVasseur (1848-1927): étude critique,' M MUS thesis, Laval University 1986