Sunday, 1 July 2012

a bit of Nostalgia on 1 July 2012

When I was a child and part of my earliest memories is of my parents listening to Radio-Canada, the National broadcaster. In Montréal the programming started at 6 in the morning and ended at midnight. There was no radio or television broadcasting between midnight and six in the morning. It was some kind of broadcasting rule and the news was only given at six and eight in the morning and then at noon and six at night and a final evening bulletin at ten o'clock. All broadcasting on the radio was to open with music to rouse the listeners and at midnight close with the National Anthem, O Canada followed by the Royal Anthem. In the 1970's all this started to change as political developments on national unity gripped us.

The programming was focused on National themes since this was the national broadcaster. Since prior to 1939 and the Second World War the role of Radio-Canada or the CBC was to inspire and give a positive image. So in the morning the radio show would be programming focused on happy Canadian music with a radio comedy show called Chez Miville. At noon time there was a radio serial novel about some romantic theme, women were still at home in those days, there was also a comedy and music show, Les Joyeux Troubadours, all very proper and the radio shows were 15 to 30 minutes long, evening programming could go to 60 minutes. With the news also came afterwards a farmer's almanac and the music composed for this program had a martial air about it, full of purpose, Le Réveil de la nature, (the awakening of nature). Originally it had been intended for the opening of the air waves at 6 am but this never came about and despite the lyrics mentioning the dawn of the day it was used at noon time for the farmer's almanac. This got my mother saying when asked when did she get up to answer at the crack of noon.

There was none of the self-doubt and criticism you find in everything nowadays on radio or television. It was probably a more naive and innocent time, if there was bad news from far-away the attitude was to think that we lived in a civilized and peaceful country, we were part of the British Commonwealth, what could we do. The only enemy or danger was the bad Soviet Union, China for us was Taiwan, the other mainland China, no one was sure about, did they still have an Emperor, no one knew.

This morning as I was driving near Parliament Hill, I was listening to Radio-Canada who was playing some archival material from 1973 as part of their summer programming. The material was taken from a popular interview show on the radio called Appellez-moi Lise, the host of the show was Lise Payette who would go on to become a Parti Quebecois Minister. It was nice to hear the old shows and how polite people were then on the radio, no foul language, the tone of the conversation was that of educated people, words were well pronounced and elocution was important since you were on radio. In this episode she interview the author of Le Chant du Réveil, Alfred Desrochers, then an old man and the other interview was with Jacques Brel, the author, musician and singer, who would die young a few years later in 1977.

As far as I remember Le Chant du réveil was used on Radio-Canada from 1938 to about 1975. It was abandoned after that because of changing taste and mentalities. To me it evokes all kinds of souvenir of how people were then. It reminds me that this was the Canada of the years after WW II full of prosperity, fast developing infrastructure, burgeoning cities, Montreal was then the great metropolis of Canada. Most Canadians still lived on farms, agriculture was still very important. A Canada of the two founding nations as depicted in the political agenda of the day.  A Canada which was the first Dominion of the Empire and an important world player.

Here it is Le chant du réveil rural (1937), sung by Albert Viau (1910-2001)
words by the famous poet Alfred Desrochers and music by his friend Oscar O'Brien

C'est le réveil de la nature
Tout va revivre au grand soleil
Oh ! la minute libre et pure
De la campagne à son réveil
Autour de toi, l'instant proclame
L'amour, la foi, la liberté
Ô fils du sol, ouvre ton âme
Comme tes yeux à la beauté

Vois l'aube au ciel s'élargir en aurore
Pour chasser l'ombre au pied des monts lointains
Et de la ferme ensommeillée encore
Entends le coq chanter dans le matin


  1. Happy Canada Day, Laurent! I'm watching the Canada Day Celebrations from Parliament Hill right now. Now that CBC TV is 24 hours a day, I miss seeing the "O Canada" signoff that used to play at the end of each broadcast day.

  2. I watched part of it and cut off when the Dear Leader started to speak, I was noxious. Happy Canada Day to you too.

  3. 2 words of french y'all.