La Messe Québecoise - I remember
Two weeks ago at church, we sang one of our hymns in both English and French: I'll Praise Eternal God (Je louerai l'Éternel) The French words and music were by Claude Fraysse and translated and arranged in 2002 by John L. Bell. A very simple hymn of praise, but for me very meaningful in both languages.
This got me to thinking. During the summers of 1968, 1969 and 1983, I attended the University of Western Ontario's French summer school at Trois Pistoles Québec. During six weeks, we were fully immersed in the life and culture of this small community as we took university level courses. Because of the extra work I did to prepare, I was able after grade 12 to take the third year general language course. Although I am not Catholic, as part of the immersion, I attended Sunday morning mass during each of the summers I was at Trois-Pistoles. What I don't remember is singing hymns during the services. Perhaps, it is because we were accustomed to speaking only French that it didn't stand out as anything different.
In 1983, I took a leave of absence from the library along with my vacation so that I could take another course, this time in Commercial French. I needed more courses to complete my Diplôme de français pratique and to fulfill the residency requirement. We had classes in the morning and electives in the afternoons. I chose to be part of the choir again that summer. The highlight of the summer was when we sang at Église Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, the Messe Québecoise by Pierick Houdy. It was fun and challenging to learn all the pieces. It was fast paced with the singers accompanied by organ, fiddle and spoons. The musicians were all students at the summer school.