Those who study music-making in Canada at the beginning of the 20th century may find themselves in the same position as the archeologist who, by some incredible stroke of luck, finds the vestiges of another civilization beneath recently discovered ruins, yielding a richer cache of artifacts. There is still much digging to be done before we can find that richer cache and write the history of music in Canada as it really was. For many years, it was thought that the only music to come out of Canada was drawing room music, music meant to entertain, music that was at best quaint and genteel, at worst insipid and hopelessly conventional. To take up the words of Léo-Pol Morin, the music may have resisted itself.

This unsophisticated music, aimed at a general audience, was widely distributed in entertaining magazines. Sandwiched in between the social column and heart-wrenching serials, these charming melodies were meant to help families get through a dreary Sunday afternoon or a long winter’s evening. It is not surprising that these pieces survived the decades, albeit with a little dust. But while many thought they were writing music, real musicians worked in the dark, writing music that ended up in drawers, finding it hard to interest publishers or an audience and often earning their keep by working at a completely different job. Here are three such composers, forgotten or unknown, which we have sought to bring forth from the shadows.

– translation, Patricia Abbott


1. Philosophie

2. Ici-bas

3. Enfant, si j’eatais roi

4. Mon secret

5. Marguerite

6. Impromptu

7. Orgueil

8. Mon bouquet

9. When love is lost

10. Some Day


11. Chanson triste

12. Les lucioles

13. Soirs d’automne

14. Le sabot noir


15. Imogen’s Wish

16. Oranges, sweet oranges

17. My Mother Sea

18. I saw thee on thy bridal day

19. A Prison Song

20. At Sunset