Conrad Laforte. Ethnologist, librarian-archivist, teacher, born Kénogami (Jonquière), Que, 10 Nov 1921, died Québec 4 Sep 2008; BA (Laval) 1946, BLS (Montreal) 1949, L LITT (Laval) 1968, diplôme d'études supérieures (Laval) 1970, PH D (Laval) 1977. He was educated at the Petit séminaire in Chicoutimi, at Laval University, and at the University of Montreal. He was librarian-archivist 1951-75 and secretary 1973-5 of the Archives de folklore of Laval University.
In 1954 Laforte began an important ethnographic study in Quebec, collecting some 150 hours of recordings of songs, dance tunes, stories, and legends, some of which were published in the Cahiers of the Archives de folklore (1970-2, vols 10, 12, and 14) and in the Cahiers d'histoire (1970, no. 22). In 1953 he began to compile a Catalogue de la chanson folklorique française which grew until it contained more than 80,000 listings. A selection of these was published (Quebec City 1958) and earned him the 1959 Prix Raymond-Casgrain. Upon its appearance the selection was hailed by Roger Lecotté in the Bulletin folklorique d'Île-de-France (Oct-Dec 1958) as an 'indispensable catalogue for all researchers'; the introduction, Lecotté said, demonstrated the author's conscientiousness and his scientific abilities: 'It is clear, logical, critical, in a word, authoritative'. A six-volume complete, descriptive edition of the catalogue (see General Bibliography), was published in Quebec City between 1977 and 1987. The Catalogue's classification system was adopted by the National Museums of Canada (Canadian Museum of Civilization), the University of Moncton, the University of Sudbury, and the Phonotèque nationale in Paris.
Research and Teaching
Laforte in 1956 classified the songs collected by Édouard-Z. Massicotte at the Montreal City Library and those collected 1959-62 by Marius Barbeau for the National Museum of Canada. He did research 1964-5 in Paris on a Canada Council grant and took part in numerous ethnological conferences. At Laval University, he taught 1965-73 in the department of Canadian studies and 1973-88 in the history department, and was director 1981-3 of the undergraduate program in arts and civilization. In 1988 Laforte organized at Laval University the International Congress of ballads and folksongs for the International Society of Ethnology and Folklore.
Recognition and Awards
He was a member of several professional associations and has given numerous papers for various societies. He has contributed to many collections and periodicals in Canada and abroad, notably to the Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraires du Québec (Montreal 1978, 1980) and to EMC. In 1982, Laforte was elected member of the Royal Society of Canada.
He has been acknowledged as a pioneer in the study of French folksongs and was awarded the Marius Barbeau medal in 1999.
A street in Québec City (rue Conrad Laforte) was named after him.
Among Lafort’s writings are :
Conrad Laforte, La Chanson folklorique et les écrivains du XIXe siècle (en France et au Québec), (1973);Menteries drôles et merveilleuses (1978)
Survivances médiévales dans la chanson folklorique (1981)
'Réponse de M. Conrad Laforte, de la Société royale du Canada,' Presentation to the Royal Society of Canada, 38, 1982-3
- and Roberge, Carmen. Chansons folkloriques à sujets religieux (Quebec City 1988)
Poétiques de la chanson traditionnelle française : classification de la chanson folklorique françaises 2nd ed (1993);
La chanson de tradition orale: une découverte des écrivains du XIX siècle en France et au Québec (1995); Visions d’une société: Par les chansons de tradition orale à caractere epique et tragique (1997).