Chanson de Riel

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  • recorded by Cass-Beggs in 1957
  • challenges of transcribing Michif French:
-LP lyric transcription by Father Rufin Turcotte, but perhaps not correct
-published in Eight Songs of Saskatchewan as well as the LP in 1963
-1967 – Cass-Beggs published Seven Metis Songs of Saskatchewan, where the lyrics are slightly changed and this change became the standard
-published in Fowke’s More Folk Songs of Canada, 1967; The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs, 1973, and Singing our History, 1984 with second set of lyrics
-published in 1975 in Cass-Beggs’ Canadian Folk Songs for the Young, second set of lyrics
-1977- Lucinda Clemens re-records Jeanotte singing the song, as research for her 1983 album Une Chanson de vérité; third version of lyrics

  • varied titles for song: "Chanson de Riel"/"Song of Louis Riel," "Chanson de Louis Riel/The Song of Louis Riel," "Riel's Farewell," and "L' adieu de Riel/ Riel's Farewell."
  • all versions based on Jeanotte’s recordings
  • 1969 – Henri Létourneau recorded Jean Rosalie Lafrenière in St. François Xavier, Manitoba – her variant was titled by the first line “Sur le champ de bataille”, referred to on the tape by Létourneau as “la chanson de Louis Riel” – ends differently – accepts inevitability of death instead of expressing preference of dying bravely
  • third singer: Joseph Arthur Venne of Birtle Manitoba, recorded the “Louis Riel Song” in 1984, to be used for a CBC radio broadcast – Venne asserted that the song was by Riel; lyrics vary yet again

M. Venne felt a very close connection with the song — and through the song, with Louis Riel. He learned it as a young child from his uncle, Pat Bellehumeur. Patrice Bellehumeur, born in the Métis community of St. François-Xavier in 1863, was a younger brother of Marguerite Monet dit Bellehumeur, wife of Louis Riel. That is, Joe Venne learned the songfrom Louis Riel's brother-in-law.

  • 1980s – song appears in Maritimes; Acadian folklorists recognize “Chanson de Riel” as a variant of a song published in Chansons de Acadie of Father Anselme Chiasson and Brother Daniel – known as “La lettre de sang”/”The Letter of Blood”
  • found to be indexed in Conrad Laforte’s Catalogue de la chanson folklorique francaise (1977-87) – lists 56 examples collected in eight provinces and two northeastern states
  • Phil Thomas, Canadian Journal for Traditional Music, (1993) – The “Louis Riel Song”: A Perspective