The upright grand piano in our living-room was given a good work-out most days when I was a kid, if not from older brother Craig or me (our sisters never took to it) then most certainly from Mom’s many piano students on weekdays after school, evenings and the occasional Saturday. Piano music, therefore, is something I have always appreciated – and in most every genre of music.
I latched onto a recording artist during the 1970s and claimed his music as my own. In fact I just came across his most recent recording on iTunes. Prolific and well-loved Québec musician André Gagnon, not to be confused with impressionist André-Philippe Gagnon, was born 2 August 1939 in Saint-Pacôme-de-Kamouraska, one of nineteen children!
The artwork on the cover of Gagnon’s album, Le Saint-Laurent, coupled with the very dramatic music of the title track, convey so well the ever-changing light, wind and colours of the widening river here with rolling hills adding to the beauty.
Hand-in-glove with Le Saint-Laurent (1977) is Neiges, released in 1975, which introduced Gagnon to more fame in Canada outside Québec. Incidentally, even at times when Gagnon appears to have vanished from the public eye here, he has maintained a very busy performance relationship with the people of Japan. These two albums have travelled with me over the years in their LP, cassette, CD and now mp3 formats. Also, if you’d like to get a sense of him in concert (which I’d highly recommend), he recorded a concert in Montréal a few years ago when the Bell Centre was named for the Molson family or their famous products. I actually prefer the live version of Neiges as it, and all selections from other albums played that night, was souped up with some brilliant orchestration!
While a student at Niagara College I chose Gagnon as my subject for a music feature assignment. In addition to highlighting his music, his record company (STAR, a division of Polydor) sent me an interview he had done with a Montréal radio personality which I was able to edit into my program.
I had the pleasure of seeing him live on two occasions, in the early eighties, back when I was playing the aforementioned albums over and over again.
The first time was at Massey Hall in Toronto, my first-ever visit there, on a date with a female co-worker from St. Catharines. Of course that hall is pretty magical, as it was that evening. The next time, if I’m not mistaken, was at Brock University in St. Catharines. The music was fantastic but the concert ended a little strangely when the audience seemed more interested in getting home than anything else. He acknowledged a couple of us yelling for more and sent us home happy with an encore.
Back when I first became a fan I was aware that he lived in a beautiful home on square Saint-Louis between the bohemian rue Prince-Arthur, the Latin Quarter, and the lovely public square. It was no accident that his residence was once home to iconic, tragic nineteenth-century Québec poet and friend-in-history Émile Nelligan . He and famed playwright Michel Tremblay would later collaborate on a modern opera, Nelligan, featuring some of his more well-known poems, a recording of which was later issued.
Well, as we used to say in the newsroom, talk about “burying the lead”!
André Gagnon has returned to the recording studio after seven years away from the environment. The result? Les chemins ombragés (Shady Lanes), beautiful music he says was inspired by nature. Gagnon performs both solo and accompanied by l’Orchestre Symphonique de Trois-Rivières, under the direction of Jacques Lacombe (who also conducted an orchestra assembled for the Molson Centre concert).
D i s c o g r a p h y
This is a list of André Gagnon’s albums. He also had several successful singles which were not part of an album release.
André Gagnon – Piano et orchestre
Une voix, deux pianos
Pour les amants
Mes quatre saisons
Let It Be Me
Projection / Les forges de St-Maurice
Les grands succès d’André Gagnon
Virage a gauche
Les grands succès/Greatest Hits
Comme dans un film
Des dames de coeur
Nelligan (with Michel Tremblay)
Les jours tranquilles
Musique (Coffret de collection)
André Gagnon au Centre Molson
La collection émergence
Les chemins ombragés