François-Xavier Mercier

François-Xavier Mercier (Merçay). Tenor, teacher, b Quebec City, 13 Aug 1867, d Quebec City 22 Dec 1932. He sang in Quebec City from his early childhood, especially at the Church of the Congregation of Notre-Dame (now Jacques-Cartier).

François-Xavier Mercier

François-Xavier Mercier (Merçay). Tenor, teacher, b Quebec City, 13 Aug 1867, d Quebec City 22 Dec 1932. He sang in Quebec City from his early childhood, especially at the Church of the Congregation of Notre-Dame (now Jacques-Cartier). He performed as a soloist in the hall of the Académie commerciale and thus came to the notice of the school's director, who accepted him as a non-paying student at the institution and in 1891 found a position for him as bookkeeping teacher at the Collège Mont-St-Louis, Montreal. Mercier lived 1892-4 in Toronto, where he studied elocution with J.H. Cameron and solfège with Adèle Lemaître. In Boston he performed the role of the Duke in Rigoletto at Castle Square but soon returned to Toronto to open a voice studio.

By means of a subscription and the proceeds of some concerts given at Massey Hall, Mercier went to Paris and studied voice for five years with Jacques Bouhy and solfège and stage techniques with T. Valdejo. In January 1899 he was chosen from among 18 tenors to sing at the Opéra-Comique; he made his debut in Méhul's Joseph. Le Gaulois commented: 'Mercier's tone was superb. A powerful voice, perfect diction, expressive features; he is actor and singer rolled into one.' Later he sang in Carmen, Mireille, and Manon.

In 1901 Mercier performed in Faust, Les Huguenots, Carmen, Roméo et Juliette, and Le Roi d'Ys at Covent Garden, London, in casts which included Calvé, Journet, Melba, Plançon, Scotti, and Tamagno. He returned to Paris to learn the role of Arnold in William Tell, which he later sang in Bordeaux and in Rouen, where according to Le Nouvelliste, he received seven curtain calls for his performance of the aria 'Asile héréditaire.' After singing in Faust, L'Africaine, Les Huguenots, Sigurd, and La Juive on tour in France, he visited Italy and Switzerland. He repeated his roles in Les Huguenots at The Hague and William Tell at Spa with Noté. In December 1906, while preparing for a season at the theatre in Lyons, he had to return to Quebec City because of his mother's death. In 1907 he sang in Toronto and in Quebec City, and that November he left once again for Paris. Mercier spent the 1908-9 season in Constantine (Algeria), where he triumphed in Les Hugenots, and then in Werther, Carmen, La Navarraise, I Pagliacci, Marie-Magdeleine, Sigurd, and Hérodiade. In Algiers and Oran, he sang William Tell and La Juive. His next undertaking was to participate in 22 opera and oratorio concerts at Queen's Hall, London, under Sir Henry Wood. After another tour of France and Algeria, he returned to Quebec City in August 1913 with his wife, the singer Isabelle de Besson (Mlle Jeynevald), whom he had met in Constantine and married in Lyons in 1909.

In 1914 Mercier founded the Institut d'art vocal. He taught there until his death. In 1931 he was named honorary president of the newly founded Association des chanteurs de Québec. He wrote a series of articles, 'Classement et pose de la voix,' which appeared in La Musique in 1919, and in 1923 he published Souvenirs de ma carrière artistique, reprinted under the title 'Gerbe de souvenirs' in his study Technique de musique vocale (Quebec City 1928). He composed numerous songs, including 'Ce que je chante,' Opus 65, which was published in 1918, and 'France et Canada,' Opus 106, published in 1929. A number of his works are held at the ANQ in Quebec.


Further Reading

  • Art Musical, Sep 1898

    Ristark, A. 'Un ténor canadien,' P-T, 220, 29 Aug 1903

    Morgan, H.J. Canadian Men and Women of the Time (no publisher; no place of publication 1912)

    Caouette, J.-B. 'M. F.-X. Mercier,' La Musique, 9, Sep 1919