Monday, 19 March 2012

Un peu de musique

Alexander Glazunov wrote this beautiful piece called Les Saisons. Marius Petitpa in 1899 choreographed the ballet. The Autumn is my favourite and it was the theme of a very famous television program in the 1960's on Radio-Canada in Montreal, a memory of my early childhood. The show was shown every night at 7:30pm, it was live and acted as if a theatre play, the actors were all famous, Jean-Pierre Masson as Séraphin, Andrée Champagne, his wife Donalda, Paul Des Marteaux as Curé Labelle, Guy Provost as Alexis. It was quality television programming common in the early days of television. It was so popular that you knew that for those 30 minutes no one would think of disturbing their neighbours unless it was an absolute emergency. The story was simple enough, it was based on the historical period of the late 19th century after the Government abolished the great Seigneurie ( French Farm Estates) established during the French Regime in Canada between 1600 and 1763. The poor peasants were given free land to farm North of Montreal in the Laurentians, also called Les Pays d'en Haut, those mountains which are such a popular ski area today. The land is very poor and not suitable for farming at all, this colonization ended in disaster and more poverty, many simply left and migrated south to the USA, mostly Vermont, Massachusetts, New-York State and New Hampshire.
The program was called, Les belles histoires des pays d'en haut and was taken from a famous novel by Paul-Henri Grignon, Un homme et son péché, ( a man and his sin). The theme was highly moralistic and was an object lesson on greed and avarice, it was also based on known historical fact and the life of a famous clergyman Curé Labelle who championed colonization north of Montreal. The Roman Catholic Church liked this television show a lot because of its Christian tone, we should not forget that in French Canada at the time was 94% Catholics, 5% were Protestants and 1% Jewish. The last episode of the show after 14 years running ended like the novel which was it's inspiration, with the death of Séraphin Poudrier, the greedy avaricious landlord-peasant who entered is burning house for the sole purpose of saving his gold and silver coins amassed in the basement. No redemption here, the viewers knew he was going to Hell. After all he had not provided for his very young and beautiful wife Donalda, she had all the qualities of a dutiful Christian wife dying young because her husband Séraphin would not pay for a doctor. This program was also a critique of the changing times in the 1960's, the new consumer society.  It was the favourite show of my grandfather, a police Captain who had been raised in a very wealthy family before 1929 who lost everything in the depression. His were the solid values of Old Canada, Family, Land, Duty and Faith. All this seems so far away now.

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