Les Compagnons

Other Names:Companions; Embrun

Ottawa, ONT Canada

Inactive Junior
1966 You gotta Have Heart * Downtown * Powerhouse  
1967 Mademoiselle de Paris  
1968 Under Paris Skies * Love is a Many-Splendored Thing * More (from Mondo Cane)  
1969 Born Free * Don't Sleep In The Subway * Oye Negra * Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque) * More (from Mondo Cane)  
1970 For Once in My Life * The Sound of Silence * It's Not Unusual * West Side Story Medley * Seattle (from Here Come the Brides) * L’Important C’est la Rose * My Way  
1971 Grieg’s March * Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque) * Satin Doll * Take Five * Ode to Joy from Symphony No 9 * Le Reve Passe * My Way  
1972 Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque) * I've Gotta Be Me * Mission Impossible * La Marseillaise * Comme Ci * Under Paris Skies * French Can-Can * La Mer * French National March * Aupres De Ma Blonde * En Passant Par La Lorraine * Mademoiselle de Paris * Valentine * Hymne A L'Amour * Promises, Promises * My Way  
1973 Regiment De Sambre Et Meuse * Pinball Wizard (from Tommy) * Hall of the Mountain King (from Peer Gynt Suite #1) * My Way  
1974 Jesus Christ Superstar Medley  
1975 Alouette * C'est Magnifique (from Can-Can) * Can-Can * Circus Medley * Big Spender (from Sweet Charity) * Hall of the Mountain King (from Peer Gynt Suite #1) * Chump Change (from The New Bill Cosby Show) * When Johnny Comes Marching Home  
1976 Circus Medley * Big Spender (from Sweet Charity) * Hall of the Mountain King (from Peer Gynt Suite #1) * Chump Change (from The New Bill Cosby Show) * L’hymne à l’Amour  
1977 And the Angels Sing * Chump Change (from The New Bill Cosby Show) * Eli's Coming * Magic to Do (from Pippin)  
1978 Coronation of Boris Godunov * Sing Sing Sing * My Kind of Girl * Eli's Coming * Firebird Suite  
1979 Birdland * Sing Sing Sing * Eli's Coming * Copacabana * Somewhere in the Night  
Position 200+ indicates Division II, Position 300+ indicates Division III, Position 400+ indicates Mini Corps.

CORPS Photos

Les Compagnons - History


In 1951 a musical note bursting from a bugle purchased from LaSalle Academy by Mr. Royal Comtois, Director of the Embrun high school, gave birth to more than 30 years of lively music, resounding drums, and vibrant colours. Playing this note, Paul Bourgie, who frequented the high school at that time, was unsuspectingly about to embark on a journey that, for him, would last over 20 years and forever inspire an interest in the marching music activity.

 A bugle band attached to the military cadet school was therefore created in the high school, with between 12 and 15 bugles and 3 drums. The musical repertoire mostly consisted of military marches. Paul Bourgie took his position seriously as Commander of the corps, and it is under the musical direction of Maurice Legault that they garnered several awards for best bugle band in the region. The group's events were limited primarily to parades and the famous end-of-year inspection. Members of the corps were strictly students from the school.

 In September 1965, Paul Bourgie, now teaching at the high school, and Mr. Fernand Lortie, who was now the school Director, began to discuss the fate of the bugle band. Indeed, Maurice Legault had indicated that he was no longer determined to continue teaching a bugle band. On the other hand, the drum and bugle corps movement interested him greatly. It was at this moment that “Les Compagnons” was formed. Paul Bourgie accepted the position of Corps Director for a period of five years. A special rebate by Gervais Music provided the corps with over 50 uniforms, as well as drums, brass, and flags.

The first practice was held in October 1965 with Maurice Legault as head of the brass section and Marcel Mathurin responsible for the drums. Over 100 students registered, 60+ candidates for drums and 40+ for the brass. The final selection revealed 23 brass, 9 drums and 9 colour guard. The first appearance for “Les Compagnons” was held in March 1966, while they gave a concert at the Embrun arena and their first participation in a competition took place in May at Pointe-Gatineau, Québec. During this  first year of competitions and parades, the corps won two first places, ranked 5th in the Waterloo Provincial Championships, and finished as Canadian Nationals “Junior C” champions in Montreal, winning several caption trophies along the way.

In 1967, the centennial of the Confederation, the corps increased its membership (30 brass, 8 drums and 12 colour guard) with new uniform changes including new hats, as a police hat replaced the forage cap, and the females wore a shako with an inverted  colour blouse. The competition season proved to be interesting and “Les Compagnons” once again won many awards and trophies. They participated in several parades and the National championships in Ottawa. They were among the finalists in the “Junior B” category.

In 1968, the corps continued its progression. They managed to keep most of its membership with the addition of new recruits, which helped both the musicians and percussionists to continue to improve and to tackle musical scores and more complex  choreography moves. The camaraderie and esprit de corps were building and aptly depicted the corps’ name; friendships were formed that lasted a lifetime.

It is also in August of 1968 that Maurice Legault, who had just ended his association with the Cadets LaSalle, became drum major for “Les Compagnons”. Paul Bourgie had previously occupied this role.

 In 1969, “Les Compagnons” dominated the Central Canada Circuit, winning a record 6 first positions and 2 second places, participating in a total of 10 competitions. It should be noted within these 10 competitions, the corps was awarded top brass 8 times. Roch St-Jean took over as drum instructor. Soloists were also beginning to stand out, including Gilbert Sigouin and Marcel Ménard on soprano and François Dignard on baritone. A first member joined from Ottawa, Robert Doyle; a movement that would continue to grow until the corps’ relocation 8 years later.

In 1970, after leading an unprecedented recruitment campaign, “Les Compagnons” grew to 40 brass, 17 drums and 26 colour guard. The competitive season showed that the corps was moving up, winning 8 of 12 shows including the Canadian Central Circuit championships, along with the best drum major, brass, and colour guard trophies. That year, they ranked second in the Ontario provincial championships.

However, disappointing results at the National championships (particularly due to a differential of more than 9 points between two judges in performance drums) cast a shadow on an exceptional year. Nevertheless, it is a year that allowed “Les Compagnons” to dream of future accomplishments. After the annual inspection in June, the group broke away from the army cadets, although the RCAC badge was still on the uniform hats. The corps adopted a logo designed by Paul Bourgie and used for their stationery.

 In 1971, the repertoire included the most diverse music that alternated between the classical and the modern, demonstrating the versatility of the corps. Denis Provost became drum major. Michel Monette and Terry Kirkpatrick arrived from Cadets LaSalle to  teach percussion. Another first, “Les Compagnons” began to travel regularly to the United States, where they competed against the best corps in the world. In their first competition of the year in Fairlawn, New Jersey, they faced the Garfield Cadet and the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, two of the most powerful groups in the activity. “Les Compagnons” also sponsored “Fantaisie Musicale ‘71” at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, featuring such corps as De La Salle Oaklands, Toronto Optimists and Cadets Lasalle.

The event would provide good memories for the Ottawa area.

The corps participated at the US Open “Open Class” preliminaries and at their last major competition in Toronto, “Les Compagnons” competed in a tight fight with the “Chatelaines de Laval” and the Firefighters of Scarborough and finished 9 points from the Cadets LaSalle. Their soloists began to shine against the best in the country in the individual championships.

In 1972, “Les Compagnons” featured a medley of French music, a program that would be very popular with the audience. The membership, however, was beginning to fade as many of the older members left Embrun to study in university and would not return.

Many young people left, not wishing to comply with the requirements imposed by longer travel and more frequent competitions.  In fact, with the disbandment of the Central Canada Circuit, “Les Compagnons” had to travel more often to the United States, becoming members of the Penn-York Association and in the Toronto area to participate in competitions. A slight change to the uniform brought a white feathered shako replacing the police hat with the RCAC badge. They also returned to the US Open, competing in the “Class A” preliminaries.

 In 1973, there was a mass departure of membership who reached the age of mandatory retirement, 21 years old. Jean-Robert Brisson, Gilbert Sigouin and Ernest Provost, combining post-secondary studies, part-time employment, and participation in rehearsals, were among the few original members left. Raymond Laplante, also over 21 years old, became drum major with Pierre Saint-Jean, instructor of the colour guard. To replenish the ranks of musicians, the brigade of young girls, recruited to
be in the guard the previous year, converted into musicians. The balance of the corps ranks was filled with an ever-growing number of recruits from Ottawa and the surrounding villages.

The group’s membership increased over that of 1972 and offered a complete show that allowed them to continue to participate in various competitions, especially in Ontario and in the northeastern United States, once again as members of the Penn-York. The corps concluded the season as a finalist in the “Class B” World Open championships.

In 1974, the group continued to build consistency and increased its membership. They participated in more competitions and parades. Michel Monette continued to teach percussion and Jean Leblanc, the Cadets LaSalle renowned soloist, became the brass instructor. Maurice Legault continued to sign the musical book as well as Corps Director while Pierre Saint-Jean was responsible for the choreography. “Les Compagnons” returned to the “Class B” World Open championship preliminaries and were crowned as “Class B” Penn-York champions.

In 1975, the core of players assembled in 1973 acquired the maturity that allowed them to handle more demanding musical arrangements and choreography movements. Michel Renaud, until then a soprano player and enrolled at the faculty of music of McGill University, became the brass instructor and penned some of the musical arrangements. The corps joined the ODCA circuit and once again appeared at the “Class B” World Open championship prelims.

In 1976, the membership of the corps completely reversed from 1970-71, now mostly from Ottawa while only half a dozen lived in Embrun. In fact, there were almost as many members from the Montreal region since Michel Parent, instructor of “Les Boucliers of Saint Laurent, Québec”, became instructor of “Les Compagnons” and brought along some of his musicians.

The corps joined the FAMQ, in the province of Québec, organized one of the most important competitions in the country, the Canadian Capital Open at Lansdowne Park and finished 6th at the World Open “Class B” championship finals.

In the fall of 1976, “Les Compagnons d’Embrun” moved from their original hometown to officially become “Les Compagnons d’Ottawa”, relocating at the Ottawa Boys' and Girls’ Club on McArthur Road.

In 1977, “Les Compagnons” were crowned the “Class B” Canadian National champions and finished in 5th position at the World Open “Class B” championships. The choreography was written by Gary Czapinski, renown designer of the Santa Clara Vanguard, DCI champions in 1973 and 1974.

Michel Parent was instructor of choreography, assisted by Mark Decloux, who arrived from the Seneca Optimists. The group numbered 90 members on the field and traveled by coach to get to competitions, not unlike the larger corps. “Les Compagnons” also hosted the Ontario provincial championships, which was held at Lansdowne Park.

In 1978, “Les Compagnons” repeated as “Class B” champions at the Canadian Nationals. Gary Czapinski once again wrote the choreography. The colour guard participated in a symposium with the instructors of Seneca Optimists. These consultations were beneficial since they would go on to win top guard on a few occasions. According to many, 1978 would be the corps most successful competitive season to date. That year marked the first time they went on tour in the United States for ten consecutive days, finishing 4th at the US Open “Class A” finals and 5th at the American International Open “Class A” finals.

1979 marked another turning point in the history of “Les Compagnons”. Several members and instructors would leave the corps for various reasons. The uncertainty of the group’s future within the new DCI circuit contributed to the general insecurity of the corps. However, they did perform in exhibitions and fielded their last competitive corps with about 45 members, under the direction of a new drum major and colour guard captain. During this difficult year, “Les Compagnons” would not participate in the  National championships. To ensure a future, a feeder corps, “Les Compagnons Cadets” would emerge, but this corps would not experience a long life.

The efforts of 1979 didn’t provide the expected recruitment results and would impact the longevity of “Les Compagnons”. In 1980, the corps would again attempt to organize with even fewer members than in 1979. By then, many Canadian and American corps began to disband under the influence of the DCI circuit. “Les Compagnons” would remain active until 1982, before locking down the doors indefinitely. It was the end of a great adventure that lasted over 30 years.

You can find the corps repertoires by visiting the DCX Museum website.

This is a translation of Nicole Lortie’s article in the October 2007 edition of “Le Reflet”  along with a few additions.

Members (8)

Member Name Section Years Involved
Bourdeau, Joel Les Compagnons d'Embrun 1971
Gagnon, Suzanne Flag 1971 to 1975
girouard, andre drum line 1971 to 1973
girouard, Maurice French horn 1969 to 1976
Legault, Paul Snare & Drum Instructor 1973 to 1982
Paquette, Claude horn 1976 to 1977
perron, luc turk drum line triples 1973 to 1979
St. Jean, Pierre Drum major & drill designer 1971 to 1973

CORPS 1 items

Les Compagnons

LesCompagnons,Embrun,ON,Pin1(LPU)J_U_S from the Richard Elmquist Collection