Richard Grégoire | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Richard Grégoire

Richard Grégoire, composer, arranger (born 18 May 1944 in Montréal, Québec).

Richard Grégoire, composer, arranger (born 18 May 1944 in Montréal, Québec). Grégoire has left his mark on the world of film and television in Québec and Canada through his many musical creations, the best known of which is probably the theme for the popular Québec television series Les filles de Caleb (1990). He has also composed the themes for several films by Québec directors Yves Simoneau, Robert Ménard, Jean Beaudin and Charles Binamé.

Education and Early Career

By the time he was five, Grégoire had already begun to show an interest in music. His first instrument was the accordion. Especially gifted and stimulated initially by popular music, he was introduced to the classical repertoire at age 19, when he began studying music at the Université de Montréal. There he also discovered contemporary music, thanks to Serge Garant. Grégoire earned his university degree in 1968. In 1969, the Pro Musica Society and the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec performed and recorded his Cantata for solo soprano, 12 voices, organ, guitar and percussion.

In 1969 and 1970, having received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the government of France, Grégoire worked and studied with the Groupe de recherches musicales (Group for Musical Research) in Paris, under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer. While in Paris, Grégoire explored electroacoustic music with the French public radio and television network (Office de radiodiffusion-télévision française), took courses in musical analysis and composition with Gilbert Amy, and participated in the creation of a collective electroacoustic piece that was performed at the Avignon Festival in 1969. In 1971, Grégoire began working as an arranger, orchestrator and music director and made his mark in the performing arts, the recording industry, television, and advertising.

In 1974, Grégoire’s composition Trajet, a piece for one or more saxophones, was performed at the Université de Montréal, where he taught in the Faculty of Music from 1971 to 1976. As an arranger, he worked with such figures as Édith Butler, Jim and Bertrand (Jim Corcoran and Bertrand Gosselin), Pauline Julien, Diane Juster, Jacques Michel, the Séguins (Richard and Marie-Claire) and Fabienne Thibeault, as well as for CBC/Radio-Canada. He also began composing music for television dramas: in 1978, his score for Le deuxième coup de feu, a play in four acts, written by Robert Thomas and broadcast on Radio-Canada, received the Canadian Music Council grand prize for best original music in a drama or documentary program.

Musical Compositions for Film and Television

After working with Lewis Furey, for whom he orchestrated the scores for the films Night Magic and Maria Chapdelaine(directed by Gilles Carle), Grégoire met the director Yves Simoneau, who invited him to compose the music for his brand-new thriller Pouvoir intime (1986). This offer let Grégoire realize his dream of creating the scores for feature films. Simoneau and Grégoire soon developed a close chemistry and a productive partnership, both in films such as Les fous de Bassan (1987), Dans le ventre du dragon (1989), Perfectly Normal (1990) and Ignition (2001) and on television with 36 Hours To Die (1998), Nuremberg (1999-2002) and Napoléon (2002).

In the course of his career, Grégoire has composed the music for numerous award-winning Québec films, including Exit (1986), T’es belle Jeanne (1988), Cruising Bar (1989) and L’enfant d’eau (1995), by Robert Ménard; Les Bottes (1987), a medium-length film by Michel Poulette that earned Grégoire his first Prix Gémeaux; Being at Home with Claude (1992), the music for which earned him a Genie Award, Shehaweh (1992), for which he won another Prix Gémeaux; Souvenirs intimes (1999), by Jean Beaudin; Léolo (1992), by Jean-Claude Lauzon; Octobre (1994), by Pierre Falardeau; and C’était le 12 du 12 et Chili avait les blues (1994) and Le cœur au poing (1998), by Charles Binamé. However, Grégoire became best known to the general public for his music for the television series Les filles de Caleb, which ran on Radio-Canada in 1990–91 (as well as in France, in 1992–93, under the title Émilie, la passion d’une vie).

In a 1996 interview, Grégoire recalled that when the production house Cité Amérique approached him about writing the music for Les filles de Caleb, he was heavily involved in a musical project that involved travelling back and forth between Montréal and Toronto. But his wife, who had read the novel by Arlette Cousture on which the series was based, reminded him how large Les Filles de Caleb loomed in the Québec imagination and insisted that he consider the opportunity. In creating his demo music, Grégoire therefore drew his inspiration from the summary of the plot and the psychological portraits of the characters that his wife had given him. Far from trying to please the selection committee at any cost, Grégoire submitted his demo without any particular expectations. Much to his surprise, he was chosen for the composing assignment. The series, directed by Jean Beaudin, became an enormous success on Québec television; its music earned Grégoire both a Félix Award and a Prix Gémeaux in 1991.

In his creative process, Richard Grégoire has always placed great stress on atmosphere, which he regards as the crucial link in a composition. Drawing inspiration from the period in which a work is set (Marguerite Volant) or the psychology of its characters (L’enfant d’eau), he has shown a remarkable talent for manipulating and combining a variety of soundscapes.

Awards and Recognition

From the late 1970s on, Richard Grégoire became one of the most important Québec composers of music for films. When he retired in 2004, he received the Prix Hommage, a lifetime achievement award, at the Jutra Awards (now the Gala du cinema québécois) for his contribution to the Québec film industry. Every year since 2006, the Foundation of the SPACQ (professional society of songwriters and composers of Québec) has presented the Richard Grégoire Award to recognize a composer of music for film or television.