Home Feature Marcel Messervier, 1934-2024: A force for Québec Folklore

Marcel Messervier, 1934-2024: A force for Québec Folklore

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In the world of traditional Québecois music, Marcel Messervier was an icon. Accordionist, composer and maker of the finest diatonic accordions, his name was internationally known even though he spent his whole life in the small town of Montmagny, QC, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River near Québec City.

Marcel died on Feb. 22 at the age of 89, after having spent virtually his entire life in service to the art of the diatonic accordion. He began playing accordion at the age of five, played in his family band from the age of 10, and spent most of his adult life playing for dances and building the superb Messervier diatonic button accordions that are still widely in demand. He was self-taught as an accordion builder, following after his father, and only once visited an accordion factory at the age of 57. Messervier accordions are known for their finely crafted wooden bodies, their beautiful tone, and the sensation of smooth warm butter in your hands when you are playing them. (Full disclosure – this writer is fortunate indeed to own one!)

In 1988, Marcel and two of his fellow Montmagny accordionists, Reynald Ouellet and Armand Labrecque, founded the Carrefour Mondial de l’Accordeon, an internationally renowned music festival celebrating the art of the accordion. That festival still carries on in Montmagny every September and attracts many of the best players in the world. Carrefour Mondial also hosts a fabulous accordion museum that is open to visitors year round.

Marc Bolduc, educator and music broadcaster, says that Marcel has had a huge influence on the traditional scene in Québec.

“He was a body builder earlier in his life, and brought that strength to his music,” he said.

“He had a full sound, a strong tempo, a great sense of playing music for fun and making people want to dance.”

In his ’70’s, said Marc, Marcel was still a physically imposing presence at dances and in sessions.

“He was always welcoming,” Marc said. “He had a great sense of playfulness and was generous in the sharing of his music. Marcel’s musical aesthetic was joyful and he created swinging, happy tunes.”

Marcel was a wonderful composer but rarely recorded his own music. He gave his melodies to others to play and record. He wasn’t a concert musician either, but really enjoyed playing for dances, which is really what the music was meant for.

Until his late 70’s, Marcel was still playing music and building instruments. He was immensely proud of Quebécois traditional music, but he himself listened widely, preferring not to have music partitioned in silos or boxes. He used the influences he came across in his own music, creating his own arrangements of tunes from other Canadian folk traditions.

Recently, two volumes of Marcel’s compositions and arrangements were collected and transcribed by Jean-Michel Corgeron. Each 20 piece volume is accompanied by a DVD where the tunes are played by accordionist and friend of Marcel Sébastien Dionne, accompanied by Manon Turcotte. You can be sure that the renditions and interpretations of the compositions are very faithful to the original intentions of the composer.

Those tunes that are not Marcel’s original compositions are arrangements of melodies that came from the Métis and Ottawa Valley musical traditions. Names like Don Messer, Earl Mitton and Andy DeJarlis are seen in the composer credits.

Marcel Messervier was never a reader of music. He came from an aural tradition, so having a DVD to accompany each of the 40 pieces in the tune books fits well with the idea of learning by ear. It’s a fitting legacy to this icon of Québecois traditional music.

You can order Marcel’s tune books with DVD included here:

https://www.franchesconnexions.com/accordeon-diatonique/productions-franches-connexions/messervier-1-2

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