THE CHORUS, A CULTURAL ORGANIZATION
The contribution of the choir Les Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse
to the promotion of music in the town of Sainte-Thérèse.
A reflection on the benefits of choral singing.
By: Jean-Pierre Guindon.
A choir is a cultural organism. Its members contribute to the transmission of a heritage and linguistic heritage. Choristers assimilate choral works related to the history, literature, geography and biographies of composers. It is in this direction that Jean-Pierre Guindon has made a contribution to the development of choral singing for over sixty years. In this regard, the choir Les Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse, which he founded in 1961, has served as a place of cultural and musical anchorage in the Teresian and regional milieu.
Arrival of Jean-Pierre Guindon in Sainte-Thérèse
In 1960, Jean-Pierre Guindon was studying. He began working part-time in Sainte-Thérèse following a recommendation from Fernand Graton that he attend the Blue and Gold Choir at the University of Montreal. Mortgageed by a health problem, Fernand Graton suggested that Jean-Pierre Guindon be nominated to teach in his place a music history course * to students at the Sainte-Thérèse seminary. He did the same with Bishop Laurent Pressault who wanted to reorganize the parish choir. The factory council invites the young student in conducting * and singing at the conservatory to meet him. His services were retained and he was entrusted with the task of master of the chapel. The name of this post will become that of director of the Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse, a post he will hold for 38 years. *
The first years, a choir in the church
When Jean-Pierre Guindon undertook to direct the choir of the parish of Sainte-Thérèse in January 1961, a dozen male voices provided liturgical service in the church every Sunday. A secular choir directed by Julien Bélair had just ended its activities. Pierrette Martin had been one of them. She will join the Singers during all the years that Jean-Pierre Guindon will assume the direction. Pierrette Martin, Julien Bélair, endowed with a magnificent bass voice, and about fifteen female voices join these men. It was necessary to have the authorization of the parish priest to add female voices. Between 1961 and 1965, these thirty choristers continued to sing Gregorian music. A polyphonic repertoire of motets and masses is set up with works by Palestrina, Perosi, Refice, Yon, etc. In 1965, the musical directives of the Vatican Council 11, badly interpreted in the majority of parishes, will overturn a long tradition of the choir in the church. Therefore, the emphasis will be on the participation of the crowd that we want to sing and the choir will take part in only a few major celebrations per year.
* Note: Jean-Pierre Guindon was taking private conducting lessons with Fernand Graton and was preparing a master’s degree in music history under the direction of Andrée Desautels. Since 1957, he has directed the choir of Notre-Dame-du-Bel-Amour parish in Montreal.
The choir is structured
From 1961, the choir was structured. Mr. Fredéric Paré becomes the first president. Inspired by the name of Les Chanteurs de Saint-Eustache de Paris, Jean-Pierre Guindon proposed the name of Les Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse which was retained by the board and all the members. The name made it possible to identify the choir both with that of the parish and the city. Internal regulations are drawn up. At the end of 1964, Jean-Pierre Guindon finished his studies at the Conservatory of Music of the province of Quebec in Montreal. That same year, in September, Mr. Roger Harel retained his services at the Commission scolaire de Sainte-Thérèse to teach music in the two high schools of Saint-Gabriel and Notre-Dame. He also asked him to organize the teaching of music in primary schools, a task accomplished until June 1968.
Synergy of the choir with the Teresian milieu
From its foundation, the choir has worked in synergy with the community at the parish, municipal and school level. Several notables will support the establishment of the choir in different ways. Jean Marchand, principal of Saint-Gabriel school, and Jacques Saint-André, principal of Lionel-Bertrand school, are both members of the choir. Roger Harel, director general of the Commission scolaire de Sainte-Thérèse and churchwarden at the parish of Sainte-Thérèse, appreciates the collaboration of the Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse and the young chef who is in charge of it. The mayors Robert, Blanchard and later Élie Fallu **, personally follow the choir’s activities and intervene to ensure that the city financially supports musical projects. Lionel Bertrand, director of the Voix des Mille-Iles newspaper, obviously a man
open to culture, regularly writes columns devoted to the various activities of the Singers. These articles help to make the choir known and to educate the public in the Sainte-Thérèse region about classical music. The parish priest, Mgr Laurent Pressault, during all the years of his cure, provides unwavering support to the choir. It should be remembered that the Christmas and Easter masses in the magnificent enclosure of the Church of St. Therese always attracted hundreds of faithful.
** Élie Fallu was a professor at the seminary and the director of the Singers became his colleague at Cegep in 1968.
The choir develops:
While continuing to provide an occasional liturgical service at the Church of Sainte-Thérèse The years 64-67 were rich in stimulating experiences. In 1964, the choir recorded a program on Radio-Canada radio for the program Chorales du Canada français, The program was produced by Gilles Poirier. The latter, satisfied with the quality of the recording, invites the choir to participate in the concert for the inauguration of studio twelve in the Radio-Canada building. In 1967, it was the year of the World Expo in Montreal. On this occasion, the choir is wearing a magnificent costume, the most beautiful in all of its history, designed and made by Micheline Lefebvre, member of the choir. On the Expo site, the choir presents to many visitors two concerts composed of various pieces from Quebec folklore. It features, among others, the Canadian Suite by Claude Champagne and arrangements of folk songs by Gabriel Cusson.
Jean-Pierre Guindon, professor at Cegep Lionel – Groulx
In 1968, Jean-Pierre Guindon was hired as a music teacher at Cegep Lionel-Groulx and appointed provincial coordinator of music education in Cegeps at the Quebec Ministry of Education. One day a week is released from teaching to accomplish this task. Bishop Charles Valois, CEO of Cegep asks him to prepare the file for obtaining a professional concentration in music. This project ended in 1980. Monsignor Valois wanted a full component of arts education at Cegep Lionel-Groulx. Professional concentrations of theater and visual arts were already in place.
His arrival at the cegep gives the Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse the opportunity to have a free rehearsal room in the building on condition of accepting students and staff members. This last condition is to the advantage of the choir, which gains both musically and in terms of numbers. A student, who became a cardiologist in Sherbrooke, still says that concerts at Place des Arts are among the most beautiful moments of his life.
Major events in the history of the choir:
In 1968, Marcel Laurencelle, director of the professional choir of the O.S.M. former professor of Jean-Pierre Guindon at the Conservatory, after coming to listen to a rehearsal of the choir in Sainte-Thérèse, recommends to the direction of the Orchester symphonique de Montréal and its artistic director Franz-Paul Decker to invite Les Chanteurs de Sainte- Thérèse to sing Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony at Place des Arts in Montreal and in Ottawa to participate in the inauguration of the National Arts Center. This collaboration with the O.S.M. will last until 1980. The number of singers increases in proportion to new musical challenges. The Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse had about a hundred choristers at that time. In Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts in Montreal, the choral works prepared by its director are successively conducted by internationally renowned conductors such as Franz-Paul Decker, James Conlon, Raphaël Frübeck de Burgos, Jean Martinon. They will perform in turn: the 9th Symphony, the Choral Fantasy and Fidelio by Beethoven, the Creation by Joseph Haydn, l’Enfance du Christ and the Requiem by Hector Berlioz, the War Requiem by Benjamin Britten, Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, Manuel de Falla’s Vida Breve, Johannes Brahms’ German Requiem. On May 4, 1970, we find the choir, under the direction of Alexander Brott at the head of the Mc Gilll orchestra, which performs Beethoven’s oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives in the Marie-Reine-du-Monde cathedral. .
The musicians of the Orchester symphonique de Montréal in Sainte-Thérèse
Starting in 1968 and for several years, a collaboration with the musicians of the Orchester symphonique de Montréal began, under the direction of Jean-Pierre Guindon and coordinated by Giulio Masella (several musicians were former study colleagues of Jean -Pierre at the conservatory). They will accompany the choir mainly in the church of Sainte-Thérèse, but also in Saint-Jérôme,
Terrebonne and Saint-Eustache. Among other concerts, let’s highlight that of Mozart’s Requiem which attracted nearly 2,000 listeners to the Church of Sainte-Thérèse.
On September 10, 1984, upon the arrival of Pope John Paul 11 in the Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral in Montreal, the choir, accompanied by an orchestra, gave a large concert under the direction of Jean-Pierre Guindon. It was the evening before mass at Jarry Park. The next morning, still directed by Jean-Pierre Guindon, the choir and a group of brass joined the group of 3000 choristers who sang during the mass presided over by the Pope.
On November 30, 1984, at the Notre-Dame basilica, accompanied on the organ by Aline Daveluy, he recorded the great mass in E minor by Raymond Daveluy for Radio-Canada.
In November 1985, at Notre -Dame basilica, the professional choir of Radio-Canada and Les Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse, prepared by its director, participated in the creation of Jacques Hétu’s Missa pro trecentesimo anno. The work is recorded and broadcast by Radio-Canada during a concert accompanied by the Orchester Métropolitain under the direction of Otto-Werner Müller ***.
As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Radio-Canada, the Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse, organists Hélène Panneton and Réal Gauthier, and a brass ensemble conducted by Jean-Pierre Guindon present a Christmas concert in Saint- Jean-Baptiste of Montreal. The program included works by Schütz, Purcell, Langlais, Healey Willan and popular hymns harmonized by Raymond Daveluy.
Another concert called ‘Le pari des orgues’, with the Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse under the direction of its director, will take place in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church to raise funds for the restoration of the organ in 1989. During this concert, the choir sings the grand solemn mass of Louis Vierne. It was Olivier Latry, holder of the great organ of Notre-Dame-de-Paris cathedral, who accompanied on the great organ.
*** Otto – Werner Müller taught German repertoire and conducting
to Jean-Pierre Guindon at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec in Montreal.
He also taught orchestra conducting to Michel Brousseau in New York,
the current director of the Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse
In June 1991, during a free concert, the 30th season of Les Chanteurs was marked by the performance of a Te Deum for choir and orchestra commissioned from the great Quebec composer Clermont Pepin. The work, under the direction of Jean-Pierre Guindon, premiered in the church of Sainte-Thérèse, was then recorded by Radio-Canada in the church of Saint-Augustin. The work will be shown in Europe.
A collaboration with the Orchester symphonique de ville Laval
Between the years 1994 and 1997, a collaboration was established between the Singers and the O.S.L. Two prestigious Quebec conductors, Jacques Lacombe and Jean-François Rivest, will lead the choir prepared by its director. Other works are added to his repertoire: The Cantata pour une joie by Pierre Mercure and the Christmas Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse took part in three trips to France which allowed several choristers to discover and increase their cultural knowledge. The stays were appreciated and several singers could testify to unforgettable experiences. During the first, they visited the cathedral of Chartres, the abbey of Solesmes, the castles of the Loire, Saint-Malo, Mont- -Saint-Michel, the castle of Versailles and Paris. They sang in a few of these places. The second took place in Brittany where they gave five concerts. The third took them to the Choralies internationales de Vaison-la-Romaine en Provence, a festival where Jean-Pierre Guindon has been invited four times to conduct workshops. On their return from Vaison, they were welcomed in Annecy, a town twinned with that of Sainte-Thérèse. Other trips fostered good friendships in the choir and created an atmosphere conducive to work. This was the case during the year-end getaways to Lac Georges, Lac Magog, Sainte-Côme and a concert at Grand Fall in New Brunswick.
The contribution of boards of directors, organists and pianists
The success of Les Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse is certainly attributable to the dozens of choristers who have joined over the years. Choral singing is a hobby, but the goal is to achieve excellence in performance. It is admirable that these amateurs agree to comply with the musical requirements demanded of them by mastering the repertoire. The success of the choir is also attributable to the chairmen of the board of directors who have succeeded one another throughout its history. We must pay tribute to (Frédéric Paré, Claude Charron, Bernard Lemieux, Aimée Burroughs, deceased) Robert Fortin, Claude Corbeil, Michel Brunet, Jacques
Lemieux, Gaétan Lamontagne and Nicole Veckemans. Each of them contributed to the advancement of the choir according to their particular talents.
The choir was also musically supported by highly skilled pianists and organists. We name Thérèse Labelle, Bruno Decelles and Michelle Quintal, organists at the Church of Sainte-Thérèse, and pianists Nicole Beaudoin, Johanne Forget and Danielle Maisonneuve. Danielle is still in office. Weeks after weeks, patiently, measure by measure, they accompany the choristers. These accompanying pianists play an essential role with the choir director and are valuable and indispensable musical accomplices.
Musical expansion in the schools of Sainte-Thérèse
The choir Les Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse has largely contributed to establishing favorable circumstances for musical development in the Teresian region. Indirectly, the cultural influence of the choir has made the community aware of music. In 1980, after twelve years of waiting and waiting, the music department of Cegep Lionel-Groulx was founded, which provided young people with professional training. Jean-Pierre Guindon, the founder, will take over the management of this department until his retirement in 1995. In 1984, another project, which he had been promoting since 1964, led to the establishment of the Mgr school. Philippe-Labelle, today the Vaillancourt school, a musical school for elementary-level students. This program will continue at the Sainte-Thérèse high school where a musical concentration will be set up. During the same years, at the Domaine Vert, in collaboration with Yvon Labrie, musical activities were set up during the summer holidays.
A trip by Jean – Pierre Guindon to Romania
Jean-Pierre Guindon recalls how the memories of a trip he made to Romania in 2003, more specifically in the city of Brasov where he was invited to conduct a concert in the cathedral (the four motets and the Requiem by Maurice Duruflé and the Mass at the cathedrals of Charles Gounod) marked him. During this same trip, invited by the Romanian Ministry of Musical Education to judge a choral singing competition and introduced music teachers to the Quebec choral repertoire, he attended a performance of folk dance troupes made up of ‘students. Seeing these young people from 8 to 16 years old dancing to the rhythm of Romanian dances and singing the songs of their country accompanied by various instruments, he wondered about what the school could do in Quebec in relation to its folkloric heritage. The following year of this trip, Romanian choristers came to Quebec. When they returned from a concert in Ottawa, on the bus that brought them back to Montreal, they sang from memory, for two hours a varied polyphonic repertoire.
What does the future hold for us?
In recent years, Jean-Pierre Guindon has continued to promote the project of making children sing more. It appeared to him that if a choir had its place in each school and that if each school board in Quebec set up a master’s degree (choir made up of the best elements), the French language would gain in quality thanks to the memorization of Quebec and French folklore. as well as songs by chansonniers from French-speaking countries. As adults, let us not forget that in order to ensure continuity and maintain the cultural identity that defines us, it is our duty to transmit a quality language to future generations. Even though real efforts are being made in some places, there is not yet a willingness on the part of school leaders to study this issue. Children sing less and less and, when they do, it is to imitate singers who are not always good role models. We are a long way from the musical heritage that appeals to our Quebec identity and delves into the heart of our roots, folklore and chansonniers such as Leclerc, Vigneault, Ferland, etc. Yet all societies have inherited songs for all life circumstances: lullabies, nursery rhymes, funeral and wedding songs, drinking and dancing songs, songs that convey human beliefs and values. Choral singing is a wonderful way to transmit this heritage. Music contributes to cultural development and choral singing, among all existing cultural vehicles, is surely one of the best tools to do so. Huge work remains to be done, particularly in elementary schools in the region and in Quebec. The presence of the Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse reminds us that musical culture is still alive in the city of Sainte-Thérèse. Let us hope that future generations will pursue this goal.
The singers of Sainte-Thérèse
Some excerpts from newspaper reviews
Beethoven’s Oratorio and the Art of Lois Marshall
Christ on the Mount of Olives
Management: Alexander Brott
La Presse, May 4, 1970, Claude Gingras
“The large mixed choir sang with astonishing discipline, indicating that the work had been prepared with great care. ”
The Gazette, France Goltman, May 4, 1970
“The choir entered with a colorful fringe as she soared above the ensemble. There was a section that was sligtly mysterious in the melodic when the men sang alone »
The Montreal Star, May 4, 1970, Eric McLean
“Ranged in front of the grand altar, all of whom seemed to be well-prepared for the performance…”
Management: Franz-Paul Decker
La Presse, December 16, 1970, Claude Gingras
“I insist on the quality of the choir, composed of amateurs no doubt, but absolutely professional in character”
La Vida Breve by Manuel de Falla
Management: Rafael Frübeck from Burgos
Le Devoir, March 5, 1970 by Jacques Thériault
“The O.S.M. had never behaved so well. The choristers sang with more consistency and power than usual. We also felt a great spontaneity among them ”.
Management: Franz-Paul Decker
A Requiem more peaceful than terrifying, the result of a compromise,
La Presse, April 18, 1973
“The interpretation offered to us by Franz-Paul Decker and his choral and instrumental strengths is perfectly in place.”
The Montreal Star, April 18, 1973
Eric Mc Lean
“There was a quantity of good choral singing…”
Note: Throughout the twelve years of his participation in concerts with the Orchester symphonique de Montréal, the reviews have always been rave.