History of the Choir

The Beginning

The choir “Grand Choeur À Coeur Joie de Grenoble” was created in 1947, by André Béroff who was a student at the time. It was one of the very first choirs to be affiliated to the A Coeur Joie mouvement.

circa 1960
Le Grand Choeur circa 1960

At least 3 musical directors have followed on from André; the most notable being Francine Bessac who took over in 1960 when Jacqueline Bonvallet left Grenoble for Versailles. Francine remained musical director for 56 years. In 2016, Francine chose Christophe Jean-Baptiste to succeed her. Christophe is the son of Lucien Jean-Baptiste also a musician, choir master and orchestral conductor and an important member of the A Coeur Joie mouvement.

So, in 2017, Le Grand Choeur celebrated its 70th birthday !

Francine Bessac, An exceptional choir director

After the arrival of Francine Bessac in 1960, the choir expanded rapidly, and she guided it towards a more serious repertoire  : oratorios, masses, cantatas by a large number of composers ( Schütz, Carissimi, Buxtehude, Bach, Schubert,…) often being joined by the Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra.

In 1972, the chamber orchestra, l’Ensemble Instrumental de Grenoble was created, and the choir began a long collaboration with this professional orchestra, under the baton of its succesive directors Stéphane Cardon and Marc Tardue, and invited conductors : José Aquino, Bernard Têtu, Johannes Homberg, Fritz Weisse, with a particular mention of some memorable concerts of Bach’s Saint John Passion with Emmanuel Krivine.

In later years Le Grand Chœur performed with other orchestras, primarily l’Orchestre Universitaire de Grenoble (“l’Orchestre”) principal conductor Patrick Souillot, but also with the Orchestras of Lithuania, Bratislava , the Chamber Orchestra of Miskolc (Hongrie) and the Bayonne-Côte Basque Regional Orchestra. The repertoire of the choir expanded considerably during this period.

The choir has never neglected a cappella, which is essential to progress in choral singing. For example in 1997-98, marking its 50th anniversary, le Grand Chœur gave a series of 9 concerts of the the impressive Concerto for Choir composed by Alfred Schnittke (1934 -1999).This was the French premiere of the work. The final concert of the series took place in Paris at the church of St Louis-en-l’Ile.

The 21st Century

The choir performed the cantata no 140 of Bach and the Te Deum of Arvo Pärt conducted by Marc Minkowski and the “Musiciens du Louvre. More recently, Francine Bessac was the conductor of the Brahms German Requiem with the Orchestre Lyon-Région. Later she reprised the Te Deum of Arvo Pärt. With the Orchestra “le Concert inattendu”, the choir performed the Mozart Requiem, and one year later the Requiem of Maurice Duruflé in a version for organ.

In 2012 Handel’s Messiah was given 5 performances in the Grenoble region, with “l’Orchestre”, conducted by Patrick Souillot.

In 2015, the choir gave 3 concerts including the “Chichester Psalms” of Leonard Bernstein.

En 2016, 4 concerts of the Mozart Requiem coupled with the Puccini Missa di Gloria were given with avec l’Orchestre Symphonique Universitaire de Grenoble conducted by Patrick Souillot. Then, the Grand Chœur said “au revoir” to Francine Bessac, its musical director for 56 years, with a series of 3 concerts of Mendelssohn, Joubert (The world premiere of his Alléluia for 3 choirs) and, a particular favorite of Francine’s, the Fauré Requiem.

Since September 2016

Christophe Jean-Baptiste became the musical director of the choir in September 2016. Our first two concerts with the new director were of the Misatango of Martin Palmeri, a contempory Argentinian composer. In February 2017 the choir was invited to participate in the Folles Journées de Beethoven at the Musée de Grenoble, closing the concert with the Ode to Joy from the 9th Symphony.

In April 2018 the choir once more performed at the salle Messiaen of Grenoble with two concerts of Brahms et Rossini (the Stabat Mater).
In February 2019 the choir ventured into new territory,  singing a work by Duke Ellington ‘Sacred Concert’, accompanied by the Big Band Solis’Airs. Both our concerts were sold out, and over 1000 spectators gave us enthousiastic applause.