Union musicale de Québec

Union musicale de Québec. Choral society founded 20 Sep 1866 in Quebec City and active until at least the 1920s.

Union musicale de Québec

Union musicale de Québec. Choral society founded 20 Sep 1866 in Quebec City and active until at least the 1920s. Ephrem Dugal (b St-Michel-de-Bellechasse, Que, 23 Dec 1835, d there 29 Jun 1905), a founding member, was its president for nearly 40 years, as well as being choirmaster at St-Jean-Baptiste Church from 1871 until his death.

The inaugural concert 22 Nov 1866 presented the 12th Mass, falsely attributed to Mozart. The choir and the soloists, Elzéar Déry and Napoléon Legendre, were accompanied by a small orchestra which included Arthur Lavigne, Célestin Lavigueur, Nazaire LeVasseur, Joseph Vézina, and other city musicians. A concert band was established in 1870 when eight brass players became members. The band's numbers slowly increased, largely through the assistance of regimental musicians. The conductors were Vézina, Ernest Lavigne, and, from 1876 until after 1922, Georges Landry. The original library of the Union musicale was destroyed by fire in 1881.

For several decades the Union musicale was the only choir in Quebec City presenting the great choral masses (eg, Beethoven's Mass in C, Cherubini's Coronation Mass for Charles X, Haydn's Imperial Mass, Schubert's Mass in E Flat, and Weber's Mass in G), and the operettas and oratorios of French composers such as Félicien David (La Perle du Brésil in 1878), Dubois, Franck, and Gounod. The Union musicale's repertoire also contained Joseph-Julien Perrault'sMesse de Noël and excerpts from Guillaume Couture'sJean le Précurseur. These large-scale works generally were offered with orchestral accompaniment.

Calixa Lavallée's Cantata in honour of the Marquess of Lorne and Princess Louise was presented 20 Apr 1879, and Lavallée conducted Gounod's Messe solennelle de Sainte-Cécile 22 Nov 1879. A mass by Ambroise Thomas was given 22 Nov 1891 on the choir's 25th anniversary. Its 50th anniversary, 22 Nov 1916, was marked by the Canadian premiere of Franck's oratorio Les Béatitudes, repeated 13 December. After the premiere of Massenet's La Vierge 14 Apr 1919, the critic Octave Bourdon remarked on the quality of the performance given by the 'imposing array of choristers and instrumentalists' (La Musique, April 1919).

The position of conductor-organist was held by Gustave Gagnon 1866-76, Joseph Otten 1876-8, and Georges Hébert 1878-1917; J.-Arthur Bernier was appointed organist in 1917. Petrus Plamondon was president 1870-2 and Ernest Gagnon honorary director 1866-76.

The Union musicale sang the services (including that for St Cecilia's Day) at St-Jean-Baptiste Church 1867-79 and from 1882 until after 1922. Between 1879 and 1882 it performed in the churches of St-Patrice, St-Roch, and Bon Pasteur, among others. In addition it presented several concerts with the Société musicale Sainte-Cécile from 1869 until some time after 1885.


Further Reading

  • LeVasseur, Nazaire. 'Musique et musiciens à Québec,' La Musique, vol 4, Sep-Oct 1922

    Émond, Vivianne. '"Musique et musiciens à Québec: souvenirs d'un amateur" de Nazaire Levasseur (1948-1927): étude critique,' M.MUS thesis, Laval University 1986