People’s choir and popular theatre at the Théâtre du Jorat
The Théâtre du Jorat was opened in Mézières in 1908. Up until 1947, the works performed there were exclusively plays written by its founder, writer René Morax, who was trying to develop popular Swiss-French dramatic art. Music played an important role in his plays. For both aesthetic and financial reasons, this music was often performed by amateur choirs.
Between 1908 and 1947, thirteen plays by Morax were created. The music for these plays was written by four composers: Gustave Doret (Henriette, Aliénor, La Nuit des Quatre-Temps, Tell, Davel, La Terre et l’Eau, La Servante d’Evolène), Arthur Honegger (Le Roi David, Judith, La Belle de Moudon, Charles le Téméraire), Frank Martin (Roméo et Juliette) and André-François Marescotti (La Lampe d’argile).
With the exception of the Honegger oratorios and a few choruses by Doret, this music is not well known today. At most, we remember the divergent points of view between Doret and Honegger and the factions that developed as a consequence. However, the constraints imposed by writing for amateurs and the stage music genre imply more shared stylistic points than one might be led to believe from the controversies between Doret and Honegger, who moreover were both campaigning for an art that addressed everybody directly.
We wish to identify the long-term elements of the choruses written for the Théâtre du Jorat in terms of the types of subjects (regional, religious, historical, everyday), the functions of the choruses (intradiegetic or commentary to the audience) and the compositional strategies. Balanced against the dissimilarities, it will thus be possible to establish the ways in which the choirs sung at the Théâtre du Jorat contributed to spreading a certain image of French-speaking Switzerland and to shaping the notion of popular music in Romandy.