Lionel Daunais | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Lionel Daunais

Noël Ferdinand Lionel Daunais, baritone, composer, lyricist (born 30 December 1901 in Montréal, QC; died 18 July 1982 in Montréal).

Lauréat (AMQ) 1925. He studied singing with Céline Marier and, later, harmony and composition with Oscar O'Brien. He studied singing with Céline Marier and, later, harmony and composition with Oscar O'Brien. In 1922 he performed in a student concert at the Académie Querbes in Outremont. A year later he won first prize at the Montreal Musical Festival, organized by the Metropolitan Choral Society. In January 1926 he made his operatic debut as Ourrias in Mireille at the Orpheum Theatre, and in March he gave his first recital at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The same year he won a Prix d'Europe which enabled him to continue his studies in Paris with Émile Marcellin of the Opéra-Comique. In 1929 he was engaged as principal baritone at the Opera of Algiers and sang in Carmen, Faust, Manon, La Traviata, and The Barber of Seville.

On his return to Canada in 1930 Daunais took part in the third Canadian Folk Song and Handicraft Festival (CPR Festivals) in Quebec City with the Bytown Troubadours (an Ottawa quartet which he joined as a replacement for Charles Marchand) and portrayed Champlain in Willan's The Order of Good Cheer. Also in 1930 he appeared for the first time (singing Clément Marot in Messager's La Basoche) with the Société canadienne d'opérette, a Montreal organization with which he performed regularly until 1935. In 1932 he founded the Trio lyrique, which in 1954 made an LP of his songs. In 1936, in association with Charles Goulet, he founded the Variétés lyriques, serving also as co-director, baritone, and producer. In 1940, Daunais, Anna Malenfant, the Assn chorale St-Louis-de-France, and the Disciples de Massenet gave a concert at the Salle St-Sulpice in Montreal consisting entirely of works by Daunais. When Willan's opera Deirdre was premiered on CBC radio, 20 Apr 1946, Daunais sang the role of Conochar. His 'Chanson du maître cordonnier' in 1948 won the first prize in the Marly-Polydor Competition in Montreal. In 1950 his song 'Aglaé' was widely acclaimed in Europe as sung with a québécois accent by the Canadian Josette France (pseud), who subsequently made a career in operetta and variety theatres under the name Aglaé. The next year, Daunais recorded four of his songs in Paris for Pathé.

Daunais was stage director (1956, 1957) of two series of operettas on CBC TV. During 1961 and 1962 he gave a series of 250 programs on CBC radio with the Trio lyrique, and in 1963 he directed a production of Audran's operetta La Mascotte which was given 31 times at the Théâtre de Verdure in Montreal. He also was director of the productions of La Belle Hélène in 1966, La Margoton du bataillon in 1966, Valses de Vienne in 1967, Les Mousquetaires au couvent in 1969, and La Vie parisienne in 1969 at the PDA. The CBC presented a series of 13 programs, 1970-1, devoted entirely to Daunais's compositions for voice. He wrote the words and music for some 100 songs and 18 choral pieces and has harmonized some 40 folksongs and composed 30 songs for children.

After acquainting himself with Daunais's songs, Francis Poulenc told him: 'There is a droll spirit in your music, and if someone points it out to you, don't blush. It's a rare gift!' In 1965 he received the 'Bene Merenti de Patria' silver medal from the St-Jean-Baptiste Society of Montreal. In 1972 Daunais was awarded the Canadian Music Council Medal and was appointed to the board of directors of the Opéra du Québec. He was awarded the 1977 Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée, and in 1978 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was awarded the Prix Denise-Pelletier posthumously in 1982, and is an inductee of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. His status as an associate composer is maintained by the CMCentre.

Selected Compositions

Cinq Poèmes d'Éloi de Grandmont. Arch 1974

Douze Chansons canadiennes. Arch 1954. 2nd series Arch 1957

En roulant ma boule: Dix Chansons pour les enfants. Arch 1959

Fantaisie dans tous les tons. Arch 1974

Sept Épitaphes plaisantes. Arch 1974

Turlurette 2. Alliance des Chorales du Québec 1978

Also several other songs, sacred and secular choral works, and a work for string orch, Propos piquants

Further Reading