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Harmonium – Mythic Three Series (#84)

This is the last in a four-part series on “The Mythic Three”.  The first post gave the context (both politically and socially) to introduce the three subjects of this series;  Robert Charlebois, Beau Dommage , and now Harmonium.

Harmonium’s active period roughly ran parallel to that of Beau Dommage (Harmonium began as a group two years earlier than Beau Dommage and broke up roughly around the same time as Beau Dommage).

Unlike certain members of Beau Dommage, those members of Harmonium who were amongst the most famous (most notably Serge Fiori and Michel Normandeau), did not continue careers in the public limelight (although Michel Normandeau became a radio-show host on Radio-Canada’s Ottawa / Gatineau).  However, the members by-and-large did remain in the music industry (studio, teaching, or instrumentalist side of the industry).

The group’s music was associated with the political fervour of 1970’s Québec, and they did participate in some of the best known “political love-ins” of the day (such as the politically charged 1973 and 1976 Fête Nationale, which together attracted more than 600,000 in-person spectators).

Harmoniums songs remain famous and well-known, even to this day — just as those of Beau Dommage and Robert Charlebois remain popular can continue to played on the radio.

Some of Harmonium’s best known songs include:

  • Un musicien parmi tant d’autres
  • Pour un instant

Much in the same vein as Robert Charlebois’ and Beau Dommage’s music, Harmonium’s music today does not carry the same political sense that it did 30 years ago – perhaps a sign of the times.  Nonetheless, they’re cherished as in integral part of Québec’s culture, and continue to be popular.

Their music is for sale through various platforms.  Please stick to official websites and do not pirate.  Our artists form part of our collective cultural fabric.

The Mythic Three (#81)

This is the first in a four-part post series titled “The Mythic Three”.

We’ll look at three of Québec’s biggest music icons, Robert Charlebois,  Beau Dommage, and Harmonium – all hugely popular during the post-Quiet Revolution and nationalist re-affirmation years of the 1970s.

Although there are other cultural icons whose careers spanned this era (Félix Leclerc, Gilles Vigneault, Claude Léveillée, Jean-Pierre-Ferland, Michel Tremblay, Richard Séguin and Yvon Déchamps, to name a few), these three icons of contemporary music together formed a core rallying point of a generation which marked Québec’s period of self-empowerment, re-affirmation, and modern transformation, embodied through music.   Apart from their music, they represented a wave of sovereignist nationalist fervor in the 1970s.  Even for certain aspects of society to this day, they continue to embody a certain degree of nationalist aspirations.

Irrespective of one’s age, Robert Charlebois, Beau Dommage, and Harmonium are viewed and treated more as revered cultural institutions of Québec society, rather than mere pop-stars.

However, what I believe has changed, in the context of modern politics, is the de-politicization of their fan base.  I believe their modern fan base of today, myself included, is more attracted to their music, for the sake of music, than to their role in the politics of yesteryear.

Below is a timeline which places things into context (click to enlarge).

TmlnGps

As you can see, the music composed and sung by Charlebois, Beau Dommage and Harmonium came in an age charged with emotion, intensity, and rapid changes for Québec.   It gave their music a special meaning and significance, as well as an association to society as a whole.  Often their songs had charged words, reflecting the political climate and tendencies of the day – as well as nationalist and sovereignist political aspirations of the artists.

It’s a fascinating story of how culture, music, politics, change and social upheaval meld together, and the associations people continue to make when they hear such period music today.   Their songs continue to be played on the radio – quite often in fact.  When played now, however, they’re played as popular songs – no longer as a nationalist statement in themselves (but that in no way takes away from their significance in history 30-40+ years ago).

Charlebois’ career has continued strong into the present.   Beau Dommage, as a group, has intermittently come back together for special events, recordings and performances.   2014 Québec is a very different era than it was in the 1970s.  With hindsight, society as a whole continues to appreciate their musical contributions, and cherishes the role they played in history.

The next three posts will touch a bit upon each of these three symbols of an era.