Le Passe-Temps

Le Passe-Temps. Montreal periodical devoted to music, literature, theatre, fashion, and sports. Its issues ran from no. 1, 2 Feb 1895, to no. 923, December 1949. (Issues which would have been 859, March 1933, to 863, July 1933, were not published, and there was a 10-year gap between issue 881, Jan 1935, and 882, Jan 1945.) Music was predominant, qualifying Le Passe-Temps as the longest-lived Canadian music periodical, a longevity record still unsurpassed in 1991. It was issued twice a month until ca 1926 and monthly thereafter.

The founder and owner-editor was Joseph-Émile Bélair (b St-Paul-de-Joliette, Que, 1866?, d Montreal 26 Apr 1933), a printer, ca 1892, with Le Monde of Montreal and an amateur flutist. He also invented a music engraving process that was inexpensive and quick. After Bélair's death, which resulted in the publication gap after issue 858, Eddy Prévost became the owner-editor, publishing under the name Éditions du Passe-Temps, Inc. Prévost later shared his work with his brother Roland.

Designed as a periodical for the whole family, Le Passe-Temps concentrated on a range of leisure activities, from fashion reports to puzzles (often musical). In a section variously titled 'Supplément musical' (1899), 'Partie musicale' (1900-7), and 'Album musical' (1908-49), the periodical published vocal and instrumental pieces, most of which also were issued for sale as separate sheet music by Bélair and later by Éditions du Passe-Temps. Many of these were French salon and operatic pieces of the day, but in the early decades there was a fair amount (though less than half) of Canadian music, including pieces or songs by Claude Champagne, Alexis Contant, J.-J. Gagnier, Jean-Baptiste Labelle, Jean-Baptiste Lafrenière, Ernest Lavigne, Calixa Lavallée, Arthur Letondal, Rodolphe Mathieu, Georges Milo, Henri Miro, Joseph-I. Pâquet, Frédéric Pelletier, J.-Amédée Roy, Georges-Émile Tanguay, Charles Tanguy, Benoît Verdickt, and Joseph Vézina.

Under Prévost's editorship, arrangements of Canadian folksongs by Alfred La Liberté and Henri Miro were featured, and the composers (in addition to non-Canadians) included Alexander Brott, Claude Champagne, Maurice Dela, Andrée Desautels, Hector Gratton, J.-J. Gagnier, Eugène Lapierre, and André Mathieu. Usually the pieces were short and within the capacities of amateur performers. Altogether there must have been about 4000 pieces, and although many were reprints from foreign plates, this remains an impressive number in Canadian music publishing.

Also featured in the periodical were biographical sketches, lessons in the rudiments of music, brief chronicles of Canadian musical life, concert reviews (under various headings, eg, 'Soirées, concerts, etc.,' 'Théâtres et concerts,' and 'Dans le monde artiste'), but rarely long articles. One of the contributors during the Bélair era was Gustave Comte (1874-1932) whose column 'L'Art et les artistes' was a regular feature. During the Prévost régime Le Passe-Temps had New York and Paris correspondents, and published articles by the noted French musicans Isidor Philipp and Maurice Dumesnil. Between 1947 and 1949 J.-J. Gagnier wrote a series of short memoires entitled 'Pointe sèche et crayon gras.' There was no all-Canadian coverage and Le Passe-Temps was never intended to be a scholarly publication. One exceptional issue was the special Lavallée number, no. 864, August 1933.

Despite its attractive format and the cheerful cover drawings on the 1945-9 issues (all but three by Jacques Gagnier), the periodical could not maintain itself in the post-war era. Only six issues appeared in 1948, and three in 1949.