Carleton University today conferred a Doctor of Literature, honoris causa, on Gilles Vigneault in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to music and poetry in `son pays’ of snow and Quebec traditions.
Vigneault was honoured at a special ceremony held at the Carleton University Art Gallery.
“An even greater privilege than receiving an honorary degree is to hear one’s music performed by students, the next generation of artists,” said Vigneault.
That song was J’ai planté un chêne (I planted an oak tree), performed at the ceremony by fourth-year Music student Rommel Ribeiro and accompanist Steve Patterson.
Carleton Prof. Pat Smart, who introduced Vigneault, described his songs as “about all of us – love, tragedy, courage, solidarity.”
Born in the small Quebec village of Natashquan in the Basse-Côte-Nord region, Vigneault discovered his love for poetry and prose while studying classical arts in Rimouski before obtaining a Bachelor of Arts from Université Laval in 1953.
Vigneault founded several poetry review publications during the 1950s and the early 1960s. He published his first collection of poems, Étraves, in 1959.
In 1964, Vigneault wrote perhaps his best-known song, Mon pays. The following year, he received the Governor General’s Award for his collection of poems Quand les bateaux s’en vont. In 1975, Vigneault penned Gens du pays, a song viewed by some as Quebec’s unofficial anthem.
In 1985, Vigneault was named chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec and chevalier de l’Ordre national de la légion d’honneur, one of France’s highest honours.
Vigneault was promoted to Grand officier de l’Ordre du Québec in 2000. He received a gold medallion awarded once a decade to a Québécois who, through commitment to their craft, captures the pride and gratitude of Québécois.
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