Vignette of French life research 'gold mine'

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Ericka Barrett Greenham
Thursday, May 26, 2005
A snapshot of the cultural life of France from the 1870s to the 1930s has found a home in Western's Music Library. Liliane Delaquerrière Richardson has donated an album containing the career memorabilia of her grandfather, Louis Delaquerrière, to the university.

Louis was a French opera performer, a vocal arts teacher and a composer in Paris. His career began in 1881 when he made his operatic debut in Le Chalet at the Opéra-Comique. He spent 25 successful years performing before devoting himself to training and coaching amateur and professional singers.

As a famous singer, Louis befriended a number of important European personalities from the late 19th and early 20th centuries including composers Charles Gounod and Camille Saint-Saëns, performers Emma Calvé and Maurice Desvallières, writers Guy de Maupassant and Jehan Rictus as well artists Charles Léandre and Giuseppe de Nittis. Louis included letters from these and other individuals in his album alongside newspaper clippings, drawings, stamps, paintings and photographs - many from First World War.

The album also contains music manuscripts by Franz Liszt, Ambroise Thomas, Charles Lefebvre, Gabriel Fabre and Félicien David.

"This section of the album is exciting for music scholars as the discovery of new manuscripts has become a rarity," says Sophie Roland who began identifying and cataloguing the items in the album while completing her MA in Musicology at Western.

The Liszt manuscript, in particular, was a special find. Verified by four Liszt scholars as an original, the manuscript was previously unknown. It has been assigned a Searle number and included in the New Liszt Catalogue. Roland, now at Indiana University, is using the Liszt manuscript and other items from the album as part of her doctoral studies.

"The Louis Delaquerrière Album is a goldmine," says Jeffrey Stokes, professor of music performance in the Don Wright Faculty of Music. "It is a very unique resource that has significant research value for many scholars, not just those studying music."

Roland adds, "The items in the album form a vignette of the artistic life of the [late 19th and early 20th centuries] and exemplify the interrelation of multiple art forms. The album will also help us to further understand the complex bourgeois society of Louis Delaquerrière's time."

Delaquerrière Richardson decided to donate her grandfather's album to Western because through her relationship with Roland she came to appreciate the unique collections held by the university's Music Library and how they helped attract scholars. Her gift has been valued at $45,000.

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