Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
March 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia




Chansons. The Canadian chanson (song) came originally from old France, where it had a long and glorious history, similar to that of the ballad in England ; but in Canada it took on, in course of time, local colour, and eventually a purely Canadian chanson was evolved. The songs sung by the Canadian voyageurs were of such an enchanting character that Thomas Moore, the author of The Canadian boat song, bore witness, when he travelled by canoe from Kingston to Montreal in 1803, that their simple motif gave him "a pleasure which the finest compositions of the great masters had never given him." The task of collecting and preserving these songs fortunately began early. Dr. Hubert Larue published more than eighty years ago his Chansons populaires et historiques du Canada (Quebec, 1863); and soon afterwards Ernest Gagnon, the organist of the basilica of Quebec, published his Chansons populaires du Canada (Quebec, 1865 ; 2nd ed., 1880; 3rd ed., 1894; 4th ed., 1900; 5th ed., Montreal, 1908; 6th ed., 1913). Some of these were translated into English by William McLennan in his Songs of Old Canada (Montreal, 1886). More recently thousands of these chansons have been preserved by E. Z. Massicotte and M. Barbeau by means of phonographic recording, and the records are housed in the Victoria Memorial Museum at Ottawa. A number of these have been published in the Journal of American folk-lore, in the Bulletin des recherches historiques, in a volume published by the Société Historique de Montréal, entitled Veillées du bon vieux temps (Montreal, 1919), and in M. Barbeau and E. Sapir, Folk-songs of French Canada (New Haven, 1925). For a recent account of the Canadian chanson, see V. Morin, La chanson canadienne (Trans. Roy. Soc. Can., 1927).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., pp. 33-34.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College