Music in Trois-Rivières

Founded on the north shore of the St Lawrence River in 1634 by Sieur de Laviolette as a trading post. The town, located between Quebec city and Montreal derived its name from the three mouths of the St Maurice River, on which it is located.
Founded on the north shore of the St Lawrence River in 1634 by Sieur de Laviolette as a trading post. The town, located between Quebec city and Montreal derived its name from the three mouths of the St Maurice River, on which it is located.

Trois-Rivières, Que

Trois-Rivières, Que. Founded on the north shore of the St Lawrence River in 1634 by Sieur de Laviolette as a trading post. The town, located between Quebec city and Montreal derived its name from the three mouths of the St Maurice River, on which it is located. It became a municipality in 1845 and had a total population of some 128, 888 by 1986. Renowned at first for its forges, the city is an industrial centre known for its paper manufacturing.

Musical life does not appear to have been very vigorous at the beginning of the 19th century, if one is to judge by the comments of John Lambert, a visiting traveller: 'The amusements of Three Rivers consist of the before-mentioned parties (tea parties, conversazioni, and petits soupers) and a few dances in the winter. Sometimes assemblies are held at one of the taverns, in which there is a subscription ball once a fortnight during the winter season... Concerts and plays are unknown in Three Rivers, unless sometimes a few strollers arrive from the States and pass through the town on their way to Quebec City' (Travels through Canada and the United States of America in the Years 1806, 1807 and 1808, vol 1, London 1816, p 496).

However, the historian Benjamin Sulte, in his Mélanges historiques (vol 19, Montreal 1932), refers to the presence of five 'master-singers,' including a Monsieur Leclerc and a Dr Charles Alavoine, both ca 1730, as well as Jean-Baptiste Badeaux, a 'good singer' ca 1754, and his son Joseph 'possessing a powerful voice.' The latter's son, Dr Georges-Édouard Badeaux, was active ca 1830-70. Sulte also mentions a clarinetist named Hippolyte Godin.

At the Ursuline Convent (founded in 1697) and the seminary (opened in 1860) music presumably was taught. Beginning in 1872 a local orchestra performed at the town hall, accompanying a choir in works by Mozart and Rossini. A pianist from Trois-Rivières, Bernadette Dufresne (1873-1923, a pupil of Calixa Lavallée in Boston), gave a recital in 1899 with the violinist J.-J. Goulet. In 1901 the Cathedral's grand organ (a Casavant) was inaugurated. Its first regular organist was Mme Ph. Aubry. Among those who followed her in the position were Nazaire Marchand, J.-François Paradis, and Bernard Piché.

At the Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Allégresses Church, J.-Antonio Thompson was organist from 1916 until his death in 1974. For 58 years Thompson was an exceptional force as teacher, band conductor, and choir director. In 1930 he succeeded Giuseppe Agostini as conductor of the Philharmonie de La Salle and he began giving free lessons in solfège. He founded the Choeur Thompson (1941) and the vocal quartet Les Chevaliers du guet and was music director of radio station CHLN 1937-9. In 1956 his son Claude became the director of the Petits Chanteurs de Trois-Rivières, a choir school whose performing group has been heard on CBC radio and in numerous public concerts.

The Union musicale was founded in 1878 and, as early as 1909, an ensemble of some 20 musicians bearing the name of the Trois-Rivières Symphony Orchestra presented two concerts and Le Désert by Félicien David. The violinist Joseph Gélinas (who had founded a string quartet in 1937) reorganized the orchestra in 1943 and acted as conductor. His successors were Edwin Belanger 1946-7 and Jean-Yves Landry 1947-9. In 1978 a young composer, Gilles Bellemare, revived it under the name Orchestre régional de Trois-Rivières and assumed conducting duties. A municipal band was directed 1889-1914 by Henri Weber and later by Émile Quiquemberg.

Another guiding spirit was Father Joseph-Gers Turcotte (b Trois-Rivières, 1887-1975), choirmaster at the cathedral and the seminary, teacher, pianist, composer, and graduate of the Schola cantorum of Rome. In 1910 he presented Gounod's Jeanne d'Arc at the seminary and later, in 1913, Joseph by Méhul.

Arthur Plamondon opened a voice studio in 1915, and in 1919 the Association lyrique was founded 'to develop local talents, display them on home ground and give the public an opportunity to enjoy them.' In addition to concerts, the association presented Les Cloches de Corneville by Planquette and, later, Si j'étais roi, by Adam.

The tricentennial festivities in 1934 were an occasion for celebration in which music played an important role. Father Turcotte organized a 700-voice choir which took part in concerts and shows of a historical character. Concerts were held in the La Salle auditorium and later at the Capitol Theatre, which opened in 1928 with a season of French operetta. Roger Filiatrault opened a voice studio in 1936; among his pupils was Irène Allard-Moquin, who sang Debussy's La Demoiselle élue with the CSM (MSO) orchestra.

The Concert Society, affiliated with Community Concerts, was organized in 1939 but met with competition from the Club musical, which presented Canadian artists exclusively. In 1942 Anaïs Allard-Rousseau combined these endeavours to form Les Rendez-vous artistiques, which presented internationally known artists such as Raoul Jobin and Malcuzynski. The same year she founded the André-Mathieu Club for young people, which in 1950 became the local branch of the JMC (YMC), a movement of which she was the national president 1954-6.

At the beginning of the century, Trois-Rivières began to be visited by the leading Canadian and foreign artists, eg, Théodore Botrel, Albert Chamberland, Edmond Clément, Alfred Cortot, Béatrice La Palme, Albert Larrieu, F.-X. Mercier, Léo-Pol Morin, Rodolphe Plamondon, the Dubois String Quartet, Jean Riddez, Émile Taranto and Eugène Ysaÿe.

Opened in April 1964 as a preparatory school, the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Trois-Rivières was inaugurated as such in 1967 and directed successively by Czeslaw Kaczynski, Raymond Daveluy, Armando Santiago, Georges Savaria, Roger Bédard, Jean Charron and Michel Kozlovsky. The Music section of the UQTR, which began in 1969, was directed by Jean Chatillon, succeeded by Jacques Larocque and Lorraine Casaubon. The Music department of the Trois-Rivières Cegep (concentration pre-university) was founded by Claude Allaire in 1969, succeeded by Claude Parenteau and Pierre Gouin. The Pro Organo Mauricie Society, founded in 1971 by Noëlla Genest and Jean Girouard, presents an annual concert series in Trois-Rivières and surrounding regions. A Cultural Centre, complete with a modern hall, houses most of the musical events. The Capitol Theatre in 1979 was renovated by means of a public subscription and was renamed the Salle J.-Antonio-Thompson.

At Cap-de-la-Madeleine, the neighbouring town, the Maîtrise Notre-Dame-du-Cap, founded in 1963 by Pierre Loranger, provided the music service for the liturgical offices of the basilica until 1988. Having become independent under the name Maîtrise du Cap-de-la-Madeleine, it now performs regularly in concerts. Raymond Perrin became its director in 1986. From 1969 to 1988, Noëlla Genest organized 'Les récitals d'été du Cap' given by different organists at the basilica organ. Gilles Rioux, the regular organist, took charge of the series in 1989.

Among musicians born in Trois-Rivières or in the region are Gaston Arel, Nick Ayoub, Paule-Aimée Bailly, A.J. Boucher, Gilles Carpentier, Maurice De Celles, Gilles Desrochers, Josephte Dufresne, Graziella Dumaine, Ernest and Gustave Gagnon, Jacques Hétu, Jules Jacob, Pauline Julien, Marie Laferrière, Jean-Yves Landry, Alphonse Lavallée-Smith, Gilles Manny, Sister Marie-Stéphane, Alphonse Martin, François-Xavier Mercier, Raymond Perrin, Guy Piché, Léon Ringuet, Myke Roy, Claude Thompson, and Pierre Vidor.

Further Reading

  • Thompson, J.-Antonio. Cinquante Ans de vie musicale à Trois-Rivières (Trois-Rivières 1970)

    Quintal, Michelle. 'La vie musicale dans la région des Trois-Rivières,' Sonances, vol 7, Autumn 1987