Saint-Jean became a faculty of the University of Alberta in 1977. Established in Pincher Creek in 1908, Saint-Jean moved to the present site in 1911. Over the years, Saint-Jean served many purposes and had many different names. It began as Juniorat Saint-Jean. It then became Collège Saint-Jean, Collège universitaire Saint-Jean, Faculté Saint-Jean and it is now called Campus Saint-Jean. But whatever changes, one thing remained constant: the people of Saint-Jean have always loved to sing.
In 1932, choral singing gained importance at Saint-Jean for several reasons, one of which was the arrival at the Collège of Father Charlemagne Jacques an expert in Gregorian chant. At that time, the Catholic Church was expressing a renewed interest in Plainsong.
The history of Collège Saint-Jean’s choir and that of CHFA, the French radio station are intertwined. CHFA was established in 1949 as a private station mainly through the efforts of the franco-albertan community who had furnished the necessary funds. The station was inaugurated on November 20th at the Garneau Theatre in Edmonton and Collège Saint-Jean’s choir was amongst the invited artists.
The 65 member choir had just returned from a month-long tour of Quebec. The choir had been invited to Quebec by Mgr Ferdinand Vandry, the rector of l’Université Laval. The tour was a great success. The choir visited 16 different cities and performed 59 official concerts for approximately 33,000 spectators.
Over the years, Saint-Jean has had many choirs. For example, in 1950, Les Troubadours, under the direction of Father Douziech were very popular. In 1963, for the first time in its history, Saint-Jean organized a mixed choir under the direction of Albert La France.
After a 14 year hiatus, the Saint-Jean choir was re-established in 1995 by Laurier Fagnan. That same year, the new choir was invited to participate in the christmas concert of the University of Alberta’s Concert Choir at Convocation Hall.
Under the direction of Laurier Fagnan, Saint-Jean’s new choir has quickly made a name for itself. Their 1998 christmas concert was held at the Winspear Center and was attended by more than 1500 people. The Saint-Jean choir shared the stage with the Da Camera Singers also under the direction of Laurier Fagnan.
In 1998, the Faculté’s choir officially adopted the name Chorale Saint-Jean. The choir which includes students and staff of the Faculté as well as members of the francophone community launched its first CD in 1999, the year of CHFA’s 50th anniversary. The recording was one of CHFA’s major anniversary projects.
During Alberta’s centennial year, Chorale Saint-Jean completed a 10-day tour of Quebec. In the hope of recreating the 1949 tour, the choir visited many of the same cities. The choir sang before large crowds of people and every concert ended with a standing ovation and an invitation to return. For the people of Quebec, Chorale Saint-Jean was not only a good choir, it was also the symbol of the vitality of the French community in Alberta.
Chorale Saint-Jean’s reputation continues to grow as do its hopes and dreams. The choir is already planning a return trip to Quecbec, another CD and of course many other concerts.