À la claire fontaine is an old French song formally entitled La chanson des voyageurs. The song originated in France and was brought West by the coureurs des bois and the first French explorers. This love song was later used by the voyageurs as a means of expressing their sense of belonging to and their love for La Nouvelle-France. This song symbolizes the beginning of la chanson française in Alberta.
Francophones love music and singing has always been an important part of all of the Francophone community’s large and small celebrations.
One of the objectives of the Association des éducateurs bilingues de l’Alberta (AEBA-1946) was the organization of various cultural activities including large festivals of song which brought together thousands of young Franco-Albertan students from all over the province.
In 1967, the choral organization À coeur joie organized large concerts featuring the numerous existing Franco-Albertan choirs. In 1970, with the help of a government grant, 21 singers from the different Franco-Albertan choirs participated in the Choralies internationales held in Quebec. Three years later, Edmonton’s francophone community hosted the third Choralies internationales. The names of Rousseau, Potvin, Landry, Fagnan, Levasseur, La France and Gervais are well known in the field of choral direction.
The students at Collège Saint-Jean loved to sing and organized many different choirs over the years. These groups included the 65-member choir who toured Quebec in 1949, the popular Les Troubadours and Saint-Jean’s first mixed chorus organized in 1963 under the direction of Albert La France. After a lengthy hiatus, Chorale Saint-Jean was re-established under the direction of Laurier Fagnan in 1995. This choir launched its first CD in 1999 to mark the French radio station CHFA’s 50th anniversary. Chorale Saint-Jean also completed a 10 day tour of Quebec in 2005.
Jean Létourneau is well-known as one of the former artistic directors of the Edmonton Opera Society. The names of classical singers such as Vallée-Jalbert, Mercier, Lorieau, Déry, Tellier-Bouret,Turgeon, Rijavec and Kubash, are all symbols of excellence.
In 1967, a seven-member female vocal group called Les copines was very popular. The band called Les Mickis was also well appreciated by the youth of the day. Many young Franco-Albertans became well-known pop singers during the late ‘60s and these included Michelle Diamond, Paulette Lorieau, France Levasseur, Ghyslain Bergeron, Jean-Claude Lajoie, René Aubin and Gabrielle Bugeaud. As of the late 80’s many Franco-Albertan singers such as Jacques Chauvin, Crystal Plamondon, Pierre Sabourin, Marie-Josée Ouimet, Joël Lavoie and Ronald Trembley recorded albums and CD’s of original music most of which became quite popular especially in Western Canada.
Many of these young singers were winners of the Gala albertain de la chanson which was established in 1989 to mark CHFA’s 40th anniversary. Edmonton Chante, the French community’s Festival de la chanson française was created in June 2004. Since its inception in 1995, the main goal of the Centre de développement muscial (CDM) is the development of new talent in the francophone community. On October 29 2005 some thirty artists of the CDM celebrated the association’s 10th anniversary in front of a packed audience at la Cité francophone.
Franco-Albertans love to sing and they are good at it. This is an area which is brimming with promise and it will be interesting to see what the future brings.