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Hercule Lavoie, performer and teacher (fl. 1919-1928)

Hercule Lavoie  

Hercule Lavoie was one of the most active performers on the Quebec lyric scene during the 1920s and participated in a wide variety of musical events.

In February 1919, he sang in the opera Carmen, with Sarah Fischer and Cédia Brault. The following month, he took the role of Frédéric in Lakmé and then performed as Valentin in Faust. In November 1919, with the Association d'opéra de Montréal, he performed as Albert in Werther and Ambroise in Mireille. He sang leads with the Société canadienne d'opérette, starring in Les Moulins qui chantent (1923), Rêve de valse (1924), La Hussarde (1926), Le Beau Voyage (1926), Le Roman de Suzon (1926) by Henri Miro and Les Pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) (1929). He was also a soloist in the première of Henri Miro's Vox populi, at the Monument National theatre on November 6, 1928, surrounded by 150 choir members and a 65-piece orchestra conducted by Jean Goulet.

Frequently invited to concerts, he performed, in 1921, with Marie-Anne Asselin, Émile Gour, Blanche Gonthier and bass Germain Lefebvre, in a series of concerts held in Montréal and other cities in Quebec. In April 1923, he sang with soprano Camille Bernard and pianist Aldéa Lussier at a concert in the Salle Lafontaine.

Drawn to radio, Lavoie, along with Hector Pellerin, Alexandre Desmarteaux and Blanche Gauthier, took part in one of the very first radio broadcasts at CKAC (Montréal) on September 27, 1922. In the fall of 1928, he took part in the troupe Concerts lyriques Frontenac with Émile Gour, Jeanne Maubourg, Armand Gauthier and Léonide Létourneux. The troupe's goal was to make the lyric repertoire more accessible to a large segment of the population. With an orchestra of 12 musicians and choirs conducted by Henri Miro, these artists performed excerpts from operas on radio, broadcast from the Brasserie Frontenac studios. The troupe performed Lolita, an opera by Henri Miro in September 1928, Armand Robi's Les Cloches de Corneville and Carmen in October, and Mireille and Vox populi, another work by Henri Miro, in November.

In September 1918, Lavoie and other artists founded the Association des chanteurs de Montréal in the Cercle Papineau hall, to inform lyric artists of employment opportunities in the field. In 1922, as director of the Montreal Publicity Association, he organized, for the association's bi-monthly dinners, lyric concerts at the Queen's hotel. At the same time, he gave performance courses in his studio at 212 Champ-de-Mars Street in Montréal.

The baritone was also active in the quartet Quatuor de Montréal, which he formed in August 1919 with Émile Gour, Joseph-Henri Thibodeau and Ulysse Paquin. In 1928, he recorded with the Quatuor Notre-Dame, which consisted of Émile Gour, Charles-Émile Brodeur and Paul Mireault, conducted by Guillaume Dupuis. These two ensembles performed folk songs, religious airs and popular melodies.

On March 27, 1924, Lavoie recorded "L'amour pardonne", the first of some 70 popular songs that he recorded for the Starr company until 1928. A preferred performer of composer Roméo Beaudry, he was first to perform "L'amour se souvient", "J'ai toujours vingt ans", "La Chanson du prisonnier" ("The Prisoner's Song") and, especially, "Ange de mon berceau" and "Ne fais jamais pleurer ta mère", two of the biggest hits of the decade.

For more information on Hercule Lavoie's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.

Robert Thérien, music researcher, Montréal