Alouette Vocal Quartet/Quatuor Alouette

Alouette Vocal Quartet/Quatuor Alouette. Unaccompanied male ensemble whose repertoire consisted entirely of French-Canadian folksongs. It was founded in 1930 by Roger Filiatrault, baritone, and André Trottier, bass, who were joined by Jules Jacob, tenor, and Émile Lamarre, bass, and by Oscar O' Brien, who served the quartet as arranger and artistic director. Its name was derived from the title of the most popular of French-Canadian folksongs. The quartet's first concert, 29 May 1932 in Montreal, was an immediate success, and the ensemble soon was called upon to fill engagements in Canada and abroad. In 1934 it was Canada's official delegate to France for the celebrations marking the fourth centenary of the discovery of Canada. In 1937 the quartet gave 35 concerts on a tour of France and Belgium. It frequently performed in the USA, mainly in New York, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, and Philadelphia. In 1945 it went to Brazil, where it drew an enthusiastic response both from the public and from musicians, including the composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. The quartet's radio broadcasts numbered in the hundreds. It was heard over both the CBC and private stations, especially CKAC, in whose popular weekly series 'Les Amours de Ti-Jos' it took part for about 10 years. In 1955 it celebrated its 25th anniversary with several TV appearances, notably on the CBC's 'Porte ouverte'. Filiatrault succeeded O' Brien as artistic director in 1945, and there also were some changes in personnel. The quartet's activity gradually decreased until it dissolved in the mid-1960s.

The group's repertoire consisted of hundreds of French and Canadian folksongs, some from the repertoire of Charles Marchand and the Bytown Troubadours. The harmonizations or arrangements were made by Roger Filiatrault, Pierre Gautier, Oscar O' Brien, Geoffrey O' Hara, Amédée Tremblay, and others. The quartet's performance was remarkable for its vocal consistency, striking a balance between the authentic expression of folk song and the aesthetic control of art song. The ensemble aroused the admiration of Arturo Toscanini, Désiré Defauw, Marius Barbeau, and Wilfrid Pelletier. The last-named, in a letter dated 26 Dec 1949, declared: "For me, you are the roots of all that is most beautiful in our land. Our history, our old homes, our mountains live in your interpretations of our folklore."

The Alouette Vocal Quartet made several recordings for Victor and Bluebird; a list appears in Pionniers du disque folklorique québécois. A number of these were reissued on an LP, Quatuor Alouette (RCA LCT-3002). Six songs from La Légende dorée were released in 1948 on three 78s (RCA CP-6). Documents about the activities of the Alouette Vocal Quartet are held at the Archives de folklore of Laval University (Roger-Filiatrault Collection).