The cultural and artistic activities of Lower Canada were very different than those of today. There were no movies, concerts, television, radio, or big festivals. Instead, people sang, danced and had fun, especially with family and neighbours, just like in the time of New France.

Some large cultural activities like theatre had started to become a part of life for the inhabitants of Lower Canada. Theatre troupes from Europe would come to perform plays. By 1825, the theatre had become a popular public event and the Theatre Royal had been founded. This 1,000-seat theatre, which occupied the site of the current Bonsecours Market, was built by John Molson.

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As for music, there definitely wasn’t any audio streaming software! Instead, the creation of music was overseen by the Church. Musical compositions were often written to accompany religious ceremonies. Still, there were a few musicians, like the fiddler Joseph Quesnel, who wrote more lively tunes. People also really enjoyed the marching bands of the military officers.

Famous singers and musicians would also come from Europe to perform opera or classical music. This was a novelty because, at the time of New France, few artists crossed the Atlantic to do shows.

Since few people knew how to read or write, there were few writers. However, some did become famous, such as Philippe Aubert de Gaspé.

The greatest artists of Lower Canada were without a doubt those who worked with their hands to create different objects. There were carpenters who made furniture or remarkable sculptures from wood. They even decorated several churches that can still be seen today. There were also goldsmiths. These craftsmen work with metals like gold to make objects such as chalices. Today, these treasures are mostly found in museums.

Author: Léon Robichaud, translation and adaptation by LEARN

See also – Traces of the past:  

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