On behalf of CAMMAC, it is a privilege for me to honour Louise’s memory. The music camp located on the shores of Lake MacDonald was her second home and CAMMAC members became Louise’s second family. Louise spent most of her summers there for the last 56 years! She was there for five weeks during the summer of 2015, taking advantage of her favorite classes: the big morning choir, active listening, voice master classes, a cappella choir, history and recorder. Her love of singing was profound.
Elizabeth Little, daughter of founders Georges and Madeleine Little, was the artistic director for 12 years and she remembers how Louise made a mark on her childhood. Let me share this memory from Elizabeth: “I can still see myself dictating music to her on the porch of the old building of the Music Centre. I must have been 10 or 12 years old and this event allowed me to understand the complexity of music notation.” Elizabeth adds: “Always discreet but not withdrawn, Louise had the courage to accept life as it was and succeeded in making it enjoyable and interesting for herself. Often dependent on others because of her blindness, she succeeded in maintaining her free will and to express her own ideas. Finally, her joie de vivre was contagious, whether it was while swimming, singing in the choir, singing as a soloist, which she loved, or after a concert that she had deeply appreciated”. Elizabeth feels privileged to have known her for all those years and also to have been able to introduce her grand-daughter to her last summer.
Another CAMMAC member, Margaret Kamester, knew Louise since 1975. She shared her memories of Louise with me: “Louise and I did not talk a lot, given the state of my French and her English, but we always got along famously through the love of the music. She knew the sound of my voice, and in the first choir rehearsal of the week would turn towards me when she heard it. I was always amazed by the way she “read” her music, and how the note came out of her mouth as her fingers touched the symbol — perfect pitch indeed. I used to think what a marvellous thing music and her voice had been in her life, given the obstacles she must have overcome.”
Even though she was discreet, Louise would occasionally give us a glimpse of her sense of humour. David Ellis, cellist with the Alcan Quartet, reminded me that one day, at the morning meeting, the week’s director shook a set of car keys forgotten in a practice room, asking to whom they belonged. Louise cried out “they’re mine!”, and a wave of laughter followed in the room.
As for me, I met Louise about three decades ago in choir circles and I was happy to see her again at the beginning of the 90s at CAMMAC, when I started to teach there. She could recognize not only my voice, but also the sound of the keys around my neck! In the choir community, her pretty soprano voice could be heard at the Choralies d’À Coeur Joie, at the Automnies of l’Alliance des chorales du Québec and in her regular choirs. She sang with the greatest choir conductors of her generation: André Beaumier, Jean-François Sénart, Jean-Pierre Guindon and Louis Lavigueur, to name but a few. For a long time, Louise was a member of Ensemble vocal Polymnie. A number of members sang at her funeral. She sang most of the great choral works of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Verdi, Rossini, Poulenc, Fauré, and more recently Rutter and Jenkins. Louise’s perfect pitch, her mastery of solfège and her love of French melody allowed her, until last summer, to experience privileged musical moments during most of her life.
Louise was also a very good recorder player and we shared enjoyable moments while working on playing this instrument in the last few years at CAMMAC. Affectionately called “Madame Louise” by the new generation of teachers she would always surprise teachers and students with the speed at which she learnt the pieces by ear because there were no Braille scores for recorder. We even heard her play a complete Telemann sonata during a cabaret night!
Louise could not see the light but she was radiant for those around her. She inspired several generations of teachers and CAMMAC members by her determination, her deep love of singing and of music, her kindness and serenity. Several of us think that she already has a special spot in the choir of angels. May she rest in peace.
Artistic Director, CAMMAC
Pictures featured were taken by Marion Vosey