Quatuor Alouette, circa 1943
This a capella (without instrumental accompaniment) vocal ensemble, made up of Roger Filiatrault, Jules Jacob, Émile Lamarre and André Trottier, sang French-Canadian folk songs exclusively.
Roger Filiatrault, baritone (1905-1973)
Roger Filiatrault was born in Montréal on February 5, 1905. He started out as a pianist and violinist, before making his professional debut as a baritone with the Société canadienne d'opérette in 1924. He studied piano and voice with Salvator Issaurel in Montréal, followed by voice with Désiré Demest and choral direction with Désiré Defauw and Joseph Jongen at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels (1926-1928). Filiatrault subsequently traveled to Paris to continue his studies in voice physiology. Upon returning to Montréal in 1930, he founded the Quatuor Alouette, which was active for three decades. He also taught voice at a number of institutions in Montréal and Ottawa during the 1940s and 1950. Roger Filiatrault died in Lesage, Quebec on April 27, 1973.
Jules Jacob, tenor (1906-1969)
Jules Jacob was born in Saint-Prosper-de-Champlain, near Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1906. After studying voice with Salvator Issaurel and Alice Raymond, he joined the Quatuor Alouette at its inception, in 1930. He was very active on the radio as well, appearing regularly on the programs "Le réveil rural" (1937-1967) and "Le quart d'heure de la Bonne Chanson" (SRC, CKAC, 1939-1952). Jules Jacob's stage career included work with the Variétés lyriques, the Société des Concerts symphoniques de Montréal and the Opera Guild. Jules Jacob replaced Ludovic Huot as a member of the Trio lyrique in 1939 while continuing to sing with the Quatuor Alouette into the 1960s. Jules Jacob passed away in Montréal on January 16, 1969.
Émile Lamarre, bass (1886-1963)
Émile Lamarre was born in Saint-Rémi-de-Napierville, Quebec, on September 25, 1886. He studied voice with Céline Marier and toured throughout the United States with the Bennett troupe. After a stint with the Quatuor Canadien, he performed regularly with the Société canadienne d'opérette during the 1920s and later joined the Quatuor Alouette. Émile Lamarre died in Montréal on February 21, 1963.
André Trottier, bass (1901-?)
André Trottier was born in Grondines, Quebec, in 1901. He studied in Trois-Rivières and Québec, and was employed in a bank from 1920 to 1923, while performing as an actor and singer. He later worked in Montréal as a public servant, while studying voice with Alexandre Clerk (1923-1925) and Alice Raymond (1925-1929) and performing in a number Société canadienne d'opérette and Opéra Français productions.
The Quatuor Alouette
The Quatuor Alouette began in 1930, when Oscar O'Brien asked André Trottier and Roger Filiatrault to arrange some folk-music selections inspired by the work of folk artist Charles Marchand, who had died a few months earlier. In early 1931, Jules Jacob and Émile Lamarre completed the quartet, and Oscar O'Brien took the helm as artistic director. The Quatuor Alouette adopted a repertoire consisting exclusively of French-Canadian folk songs and gave its first concert on May 29, 1932, at Mechanics' Hall, in Montréal; it was an immediate success. The ensemble performed in Ottawa and Toronto in 1933 and, in the same year, was heard on the radio for the first time (CKAC, CMM). The following year, the quartet took its first tour, to the eastern United States (New York, Maine and New Hampshire). The group represented Canada at the official ceremonies held in Saint-Malo, France, to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Canada by Jacques Cartier, and also gave concerts in Paris, Rouen and Le Havre, as well as in Dinard, Britanny.
In 1936, the Quatuor Alouette hosted its own series of 26 programs on Radio-Canada (SRC). Over more than 30 years, this vocal group appeared regularly on a number of programs, including "Le réveil rural" (SRC 1937-1967), "Les amours de Ti-Jos" (CKAC 1938-1945, CKVL 1945-1947), and "Le quart d'heure de la Bonne Chanson" (SRC, CKAC, 1939-1952). The ensemble toured France and Belgium a second time, in 1937. In 1940, they appeared on "The American School of the Air," on CBS. The following year, they were invited to New York, to appear on "Treasury Hour - Millions for Defence," with contralto Marian Anderson and an orchestra directed by Benny Goodman.
In 1942, the Government of Quebec sent the Quatuor Alouette to sing at the National Folk Festival, held in Washington. The group returned to the same event in 1943, this time in Chicago and Philadelphia. The Quatuor Alouette gave a recital at the Town Hall in New York, in October 1943, and its first large-scale recital in Montréal in 1944. Roger Filiatrault took over from Oscar O'Brien as music director in 1945, when the latter entered the monastery of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. In September of that same year, the Quatuor Alouette travelled to Brazil, where it proved a big hit. In Canada, the ensemble appeared at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (March 947), at the Eaton Auditorium, in Toronto (December 1947), and at the Seville Theatre (September 1950). The Quatuor Alouette disbanded in the mid-1960s.
The archives of the Quatuor Alouette are preserved in the Roger Filiatrault fonds at Laval University's Archives de folklore, in Québec. A few unreleased songs by the ensemble can be found in the transcripts for the radio program "Le quart d'heure de la Bonne Chanson," which are held by the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, and on some SRC broadcast disks.
Source: Unpublished research notes by Robert Thérien, music researcher, Montréal