Histoire d'une petite pionnière du nord
for orchestra

Luc Arsenault
Luc Arsenault
Composition Date: 2015
Duration: 00:21:00
Genre: Orchestra / Large Ensembles, Full Orchestra (20 or more), Misc. Soloist


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Full orchestra
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Programme Note:
This work is inspired by the life of my late grandmother, Annette Arsenault (née Lambert, 1910-1994). In her late years, she wrote a 47 page account of her life. Upon reading her remarkable life story, I felt a need to share it with others. I set out to compose a work that would pay homage to the life of this wonderful woman who was loved by so many. The work is an orchestral tone poem in 5 movements. Each movement expresses ideas and themes which reflect various aspects and periods of Annette's life.

I. Tragédies dans la famille - Tragedies in the Family Before Annette was born in Saint-Alexis-des-Monts, QC, her parents suffered the devastating losses of their first 3 children to diphtheria in a one week period. Their fourth child died of diphtheria one year later. Over the years, only 7 of their 15 children survived childhood. The 3 born before Annette's birth died of dysentery and Annette was diagnosed with the infection shortly after her birth.

II. Pèlerinage et consécration - Pilgrimage and Consecration With another child sick, Annette`s mother made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, which is known as a place of miracles. In tribute to the Virgin Mary, she vowed to have Annette dress only in blue and white garments until age 10 should Annette be saved. This movement is based on Gregorian Chant, the type of music performed in church by Catholic priests in that era. The melody is drawn from the Stabat Mater (from the Liber Usualis), a chant about the sorrows of Mary over the death of her son.

III. Aventures, amour et famille - Adventures, Love, and Family At age 8, Annette and her family moved to Nushka (now Val Gagné) in Northeastern Ontario to start a new life, settle the land, and help create a new community. The music here reflects what must have been an exciting and daunting experience for the young girl. In 1929, Annette married Arthur Arsenault. Their wedding took place on a beautiful, sunny autumn day, with a procession of 25 horses and carriages, theirs decorated with ribbons and flowers. Life was difficult during the Great Depression but through their faith and love, they managed to make a beautiful life and family together. They had 19 children over the next 24 years! Annette and Arthur also experienced tragedies of their own as 2 of their children died at a young age. The rest grew up in a hard working and loving family, eventually creating families of their own. Annette and Arthur became grandparents to a total of 44 children.

IV. Fêtes, danses et réveillons - Parties, Dances, and réveillons French-Canadian culture played a very important role in the life of Annette and the villagers. Many evenings were spent with family and friends where everyone would take turns singing their favourite songs. The main form of musical expression was the chanson à répondre, a call-and-answer form of music. Christmas and New Year's were particularly festive times. This movement draws on melodies from 8 traditional songs, among them La destinée, la rose au bois, Chevaliers de la table ronde, and V`la l`bon vent.

V. Réflexions - Reflections Much as Annette's written account is a reflection on the events and meaning in her life, this movement is a reflection of themes developed throughout the work. The piece ends with a gentle statement of a melody from one of Annette`s favourite songs, À la claire fontaine. The words under that particular melodic fragment echo the sentiments of those who knew her: Il y a longtemps que je t'aime, jamais je ne t'oublierai (Long have I loved you, never will I forget you)

Luc wishes to thank the Ontario Arts Council and the Timmins Symphony Orchestra for commissioning this work. He would also like to thank Matthew Jones, and fiddler extraordinaire April Verch for helping with the arrangement of the intro to the 4th movement.

Premiere Information:
16 Apr 2016, St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral, Timmins, Ontario
Timmins Symphony Orchestra; Matthew Jones, conductor


  • Call Number:
  • MI 1101 A7805hi 2015
  • Genre:
  • Orchestra / Large Ensembles, Full Orchestra (20 or more), Misc. Soloist
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • March 4, 2019
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • Score (x, 67 p)
    77 Pages
    Height: 30 cm
    Width: 23 cm
    Parts page count: 1
  • Additional Information:
  • Commissioned by: Ontario Arts Council and Timmins Symphony Orchestra

    I. Tragédies dans la famille -- II. Pèlerinage et consécration -- III. Aventures, amour et famille -- IV. Fêtes, danses et réveillons -- V. Réflexions
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