Joseph Saucier, baritone and choirmaster (1869-1941)

Photograph of Joseph Saucier 

Joseph Saucier is believed to be the first French-Canadian artist to make a recording in Canada (circa 1904). He was born in Montréal in February, 1869. He first studied music with his father, a renowned pianist, organist and teacher, and performed publicly as a pianist at the age of ten. He also took lessons from the pre-eminent Montréal piano instructor, Dominique Ducharme. At the age of 18, prompted by friends who appreciated his voice, he decided to pursue a singing career rather than the piano. He began to study voice with Achille Fortier and Paul Wiallard. Before long, he was sought after to sing with various choirs, performing as a soloist at St. James's Cathedral and the church Le Gesù, as well as with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. By 1897, he was the organist and choirmaster at St-Louis du Mile-End Church in Montréal. In the same year, he left Montréal to study voice with Auguste-Jean Dubulle at the Conservatoire de Paris. While in Europe, he sang with success in concerts held in London and Paris.

He returned to Canada in 1902, to sing the role of Satan in Le Paradis perdu by Théodore Dubois, presented by Laval University as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. He returned briefly to Paris, coming back to Montréal in the spring of 1903 and taking a position as choirmaster at Immaculée-Conception Church. He married Octavie Turcotte, who was a niece and student of Dominique Ducharme and a pianist who would accompany him in concerts and on many of his recordings. In 1907-08, and again in 1911-12, he served as president of the Académie de musique du Québec. He was one of the soloists for the premiere performance of Alexis Contant's oratorio Les Deux Âmes, in 1913. In 1923, he sang the part of the High Priest in Samson et Dalila, in Worcester, Massachusetts, one of his few forays into opera. From 1927 to 1936, he was choirmaster at St-Louis-de-France Church in Montréal, where he had performed as a soloist in 1914.

Joseph Saucier died in Montréal on April 20, 1941. An avenue in that city was subsequently named for him.

Selected recordings available

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  • Hoffmann, Frank W. ; Carty, D. ; Riggs, Q. Billy Murray : the phonograph industry's first great recording artist. Lanham, Md : Scarecrow Press, 1997. x, 544 p. AMICUS 14865920
  • "Joseph Saucier" [textual material] at Library and Archives Canada
  • Moogk, Edward B. Roll Back the Years : history of Canadian recorded sound and its legacy : genesis to 1930. Ottawa : National Library of Canada, 1975. xii, 443 p. AMICUS 80154. Also published in French under the title: En remontant les années : l'histoire et l'héritage de l'enregistrement sonore au Canada, des débuts à 1930
  • Sandwell, B.K. The musical red book of Montreal : a record of music in Montreal from 1895 to 1907. Montréal : F.A. Veitch, 1907. 229 p. AMICUS 25116559
  • "Saucier". Encyclopedia of music in Canada. Edited by Helmut Kallmann et al. 2nd ed. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1992. xxxii, 1524 p. AMICUS 12048560
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