Les Disciples de Massenet

Les Disciples de Massenet. A 65-voice mixed choir founded in Montreal 4 Feb 1928 by Charles Goulet. He named it after the composer of La Navarraise, the opera in which he had made his 1923 debut as a baritone at the Théâtre royal, Liège. The choir gave its first public performance 17 Apr 1928, and in the autumn of 1930 it took part in the CPR Festivals in Quebec City. Its performance in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 at the 1936 Montreal Festivals initiated a long association with the festivals. With the CSM orchestra the choir sang Boris Godunov, The Damnation of Faust, and Mozart's Requiem, among other works, under such conductors as Beecham, Busch, Defauw, Klemperer, Krips, Markevitch, Monteux, Ormandy, Pelletier, and Stassevich. Its Fauré's Requiem received the American Recording Society prize for the best North American choral recording of 1942.

In 1950 the choir performed in Europe, singing, among other works, Fauré's Requiem at Notre-Dame Church, Paris, and it also reached the finals at a festival in Lille. The following year it won first prize at the Chicagoland Music Festival. It made a second European tour in 1960, giving 16 concerts in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Monaco. Goulet's successors have been Léon Plante (1963-70), René Lacourse (1970-80 and 1988-), Claude Létourneau (1980-3) and Marjorie Tanaka (1983-8). The choir gave 10 concerts in France in 1974 at the invitation of the French government and took part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. At a 1978 concert marking its 50th anniversary the choir performed Dvořák's Stabat mater; on this occasion Gilles Potvin commented in Le Devoir (Montreal, 27 Nov 1978), 'The time-honoured qualities of the Disciples - precision, strength and style - were present throughout this performance'.

In 1983 the choir made a fourth tour in France, and the following year took part in the MSO's presentation of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 at the Montreal Forum. The year of their 60th anniversary (1988) was celebrated, in particular, by a concert given at the Montreal Cathedral.

René Lacourse (b St-Hubert, near Montreal, 13 May 1931) studied singing with Louis Bourdon (1950-6), and with Jacques Gérard until the latter's death in 1957. In 1969 he sang in the Canadian premiere of Lutoslawski's Paroles tissées with the SMCQ. Lacourse also studied conducting with Michel Perrault (1965-6). In 1965 he became choir conductor for the Montreal Festivals, and was responsible for the MSO choirs starting in 1967. He has also been choir conductor at the Opéra du Québec (1971-5), at the Opéra de Montréal (1980-6) and for the Festival Ottawa productions at the NAC.