Société musicale Ste-Cécile

Société musicale Ste-Cécile. A 50-voice amateur mixed choir founded 15 Dec 1869 in Quebec City by Antoine Dessane. Dessane, the organist at St-Roch Church at the time, served as the society's president and director until his death in 1873.

Société musicale Ste-Cécile

Société musicale Ste-Cécile. A 50-voice amateur mixed choir founded 15 Dec 1869 in Quebec City by Antoine Dessane. Dessane, the organist at St-Roch Church at the time, served as the society's president and director until his death in 1873. The society then was reorganized by Célestin Lavigueur, who gave it a constitution and the motto 'Te Deum laudamus!' However, as early as 1872 Nazaire LeVasseur had almost complete responsibility for directing it, and he remained its director until 1890. In 1881, at the invitation of the organist Adolphe Hamel, the society left St-Roch for St-Patrice Church. The same year it published the Historique de la Société musicale Sainte-Cécile de Québec, which recorded its activities in detail. It is not known what became of the society after 1890.

The repertoire consisted mainly of masses by Gounod, Haydn, Mozart, Rossini, and Weber, as well as those by Gustave Gagnon, J.-B. Labelle, and J.-J. Perrault. These works were performed at Easter and as part of such special celebrations as the Feast of St Cecilia and the pilgrimage to Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré. In 1874 the society began presenting some of the works with instrumental accompaniment, presumably with the assistance of the Septuor Haydn and the Union musicale de Québec, which took part regularly in the society's events. (An orchestra of the Société Sainte-Cécile was established ca 1870 but lasted only two years; it was under the successive direction of Célestin Lavigueur, Frédéric Geay, and Calixa Lavallée.)

One of the many masses premiered in Quebec City by the society was Rossini's Petite messe solennelle. It was warmly received despite the fact that the scores, ordered from Belgium in December 1879, arrived only three weeks before Easter. 'The choir was large and the music powerful,' wrote Le Provincial (20 Mar 1880). Participating were Frantz Jehin-Prume, Calixa Lavallée, and Arthur Lavigne (conducting the orchestra), J.-A. Defoy (piano), and Alexandre Defoy (harmonium). On 20 Nov 1881 Gounod's St Cecilia Mass, the first work in the society's repertoire, was revived at St-Sauveur Church.

The Société Sainte-Cécile occasionally sang in the parishes around Quebec City (Ange-Gardien, Deschambault, St-Michel-de-Bellechasse, Ste-Marie-de-Beauce). It also organized moonlight musical excursions on the St Lawrence River on board the Union and the Saguenay. It gave about five concerts a year, presenting excerpts from operas and operettas (Il Trovatore, Hervé's Le Petit Faust) and vocal works by Halévy, Mendelssohn, Thomas, and others. Félicien David's La Perle du Brésil was performed 12 Mar 1878 with 'ensemble playing of the highest order,' according to the anonymous author of the Historique.

The society should not be confused with the Société Ste-Cécile of the Séminaire de Québec, which originated in 1833. Another Société Sainte-Cécile was founded and directed by A.J. Boucher in Montreal in 1860-1; it presented four concerts, singing among other works Rossini's Stabat Mater.


Further Reading

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