Le Rossignol y chante

'Le Rossignol y chante'. According to Marius Barbeau, the proper title of a song also known by its refrain, 'Gai lon la, gai le rosier.

'Le Rossignol y chante'

'Le Rossignol y chante'. According to Marius Barbeau, the proper title of a song also known by its refrain, 'Gai lon la, gai le rosier.' There are several songs which employ the image of the nightingale bearing a message of love, among them 'J'ai cueilli la belle rose', 'Rossignol du vert bocage,' 'Rossignolet des bois,' and 'Au bois du rossignolet.'

Ernest Gagnon in Chansons populaires du Canada (Quebec City 1865) maintains that 'Le Rossignol y chante' comes from the French provinces of Saintonge and Bas-Poitou which provided Canada with many settlers between 1640 and 1680. The song was collected ca 1830 by Edward Ermatinger, a fur trader employed by the Hudson's Bay Company in western Canada. His version, which he obtained from Canadian voyageurs in Oregon, differs from the one published by Gagnon in 1865. Another variant, with the title 'Par derrièr' chez mon père,' is given by Marguerite and Raoul d'Harcourt in Chansons folkloriques françaises au Canada (Quebec City 1956). It is interesting that in the text the French line 'Je donnerais Versailles, Paris et St-Denis' became in Canada 'Je donnerais Québec, Sorel et St-Denis' and even returned to France in this form.

Joseph Saucier, one of the first Canadians to record the song, made a 78 of it in 1904 (Col E-2364). The Alouette Vocal Quartet also recorded it on a 78 (Bluebird B-1256) and the Chorale de l'Université St-Joseph recorded it on LP (Col FL-234). Claude Champagne made two four-part arrangements of the song, both performable by either mens' or womens' voices. Le Rossignol y chante is also the title of a collection of folksongs by Marius Barbeau (Ottawa 1962).


Further Reading

  • JAF, 264, Apr-Jun 1954