Works resulting from the Chung-Wai Chow and John Wright
Art Song Mentorship Program for Composers
Par-delà nos champs et nos rives
by Laurence Jobidon
Completed in 2023 as part of CASP’s 2021 Art Song Composer’s Mentorship Program. Mentor: Luna Pearl Woolf.
A cycle of three songs on the poems of Blanche Lamontagne:
I. La Fileuse
II. Chanson de mer
Premiered at Montreal’s Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur on March 9, 2023, by Mishael Eusebio (ténor) and Christopher Gaudreault (piano).
Blanche Lamontagne (1889-1958) was the first Québécoise women poet to publish poetry under her own name, assuming thus her femininity in her creative work. Her poems, heavily rooted in her native Gaspésie and a part of regional literature, incited many women poets to follow in her footsteps (Èva Sénécal, Léonise Valois…).
The cycle starts with La fileuse (The Spinner), a poem opening on the image of a desolated land through the winter. In this landscape, emerges the figure of a woman farmer, spinning wool. Through this simple gesture, the spinner is presented as the sole guardian of the inalterable link between farmers and the land. Through this simple gesture, not only does she preserve this link, but she restores life to the land.
We then leave the land for the shores with Chanson de mer (Sea Song). Written in the structure of French- Canadian folk songs (or “chansons à répondre”), this melody shines light on the folkloric dimension of Lamontagne’s poetry. Gazing at the horizon, we intently follow the silhouette of a boat, hoping it will bring back a loved one. As in all chansons à répondre, this gaze is implicitly a collective one, and it gently encourages seamen to set sail and hasten their return. Alas, the boat is not the one, as we discover while the musical discourse moves from rhythmical to tender folksong influences.
Finally, in Regrets, the poet looks back with nostalgia at the simpler times of her youth, and especially at the sense of peace and quiet stemming both from land and sea. This need to reminisce is propelled by the contact with the city, a city-ocean formed by a thousand drops of unexpressed human suffering. It is this suffering that becomes unbearable and fuels the need to get back to the landscape of her youth, thus serving as a poetic thesis to her regional posture. Musically and emotionally, this melody has the most complex trajectory, as we are invited to move from nostalgia to a sparkling joy, to a rhythmical cynicism, before trying to reach again – without much success – a sense of lost serenity.
– L. Jobidon
For more information about the score, please contact Laurence Jobidon, the composer.