Légaré, Ovila

Ovila Légaré. Folklorist, singer, actor, script-writer, host, b Montreal 21 Jul 1901, d there 19 Feb 1978. Ovila Légaré became deeply interested in Quebec's traditional music and began playing the violin. Having injured his hand while working as a printer, he turned to the theatre and to singing. He did some amateur acting in Drummondville, Que, and became known in Montreal as a singer and square dance "caller."

Légaré was active as an actor in theatre, radio, and, later, TV, until his death. He wrote and took part in many series, the most famous of which was "Nazaire et Barnabé," 1939-58 on radio station CKAC, Montreal. His stature as an actor was also confirmed in dramatic works. In the early 1940s he played leading roles in such Canadian films as Le Père Chopin, Le Curé du village, La Forteresse, and Un Homme et son péché. On CBC TV he became a top star in the series "Le Survenant" by Germaine Guèvremont.

Légaré's career as a folklorist gained momentum when he appeared in the Veillées du bon vieux temps at the Bibliothèque St-Sulpice (BN du Q), then at the Monument national, beginning in 1920, and in the evening concerts produced by Conrad Gauthier, starting in 1927. That year, Légaré met Charles Marchand, who helped him to perfect his style. His popularity grew through radio and recordings. On radio he served with extraordinary zest as host for many folk music programs.

Légaré made 19 78s for Starr Gennett and nine for Columbia, accompanied in turn by Blanche Gauthier, the Henri Lacroix trio, Juliette Béliveau, and La Bolduc. La Bolduc made her first recordings with Légaré; she also accompanied him on the violin and jew's harp.

Three of Légaré's songs, "Dans l'temps du Jour de l'An," "La Bastringue," and "Chapleau fait son Jour de l'An," were extremely successful and established his reputation. The economic situation in 1930 inspired him to write "Faut pas s'faire de bile," another song that was popular and that Bruno Roy called "a jewel of originality, true to tradition" (Panorama de la chanson au Québec, Montreal 1977). Several of his songs were assembled in Les Chansons d'Ovila Légaré, with a preface by Tex Lecor (Montreal 1972). Légaré's song "Des mitaines pas de pouces" was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010.

The complete list of Légaré's 78s may be found in Pionniers du disque folklorique québécois. In addition, he made the LPs Ovila Légaré et ses chansons (Lon MB-10) and Tout l'monde "swing" avec Ovila Légaré (Lon MB-27).