Ottawa

Yves Pigeon owns 12,000 records, and he's giving them all away — but one

Yves Pigeon knows he can't hang onto his entire collection forever, so the vinyl enthusiast has decided to hand it over to the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library.

85-year-old's vast trove of records will be sold to raise money for the Ottawa Public Library

Yves Pigeon, 85, is donating thousands of his old vinyl records to the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Little did Yves Pigeon know that when he picked up his first record in 1957, it would be the start of a lifelong obsession.

Over the years, the now retired Ottawa civil servant accumulated a vinyl collection that, at its peak, topped 12,000 individual albums.

Now in his 80s and preparing to downsize, Pigeon has decided to give away his vast trove to the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library, who will be selling them off this fall to raise money for the library network.

"I know that the pleasure that I got selecting them, finding them, deciding [if I can] afford them ... somebody else will go through the same thing. And that pleases me," Pigeon told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

"I'll probably go to their sale and buy a few back!"

An Ottawa man is donating his collection of more than 12,000 records. Ottawa Morning's Hallie Cotnam met with Yves Pigeon, music collector extraordinaire. 9:34

'Music is like history'

During his days working for the federal government, Pigeon would travel across the country, stopping in at local record stores nearly everywhere he went.

His favourite city for procuring vinyl was Toronto, with its wide selection of both new and second-hand record stores. 

Once he started, Pigeon said, it was hard to stop.

I didn't know it was the start of something!- Yves Pigeon, record collector

"Music is like history — there's no end to it. You start thinking that what you like is Italian opera, then suddenly you see that French opera is very nice. And then you switch to German opera … There's no limit. And within the music itself, there's no limit."

Pigeon is now giving away all of his records, save for the one that kicked off his hobby — a slightly-damaged copy of In Songs You Love by British-Austrian soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

He picked up the record at a now-closed store on Sparks Street, paying for it with his first paycheque.

"I didn't know it was the start of something!" Pigeon said.

"I could sing the whole record, both sides. There were songs in English, French, German and Russian — and I got them [stuck] in my ear."

First love: Yves Pigeon is donating his entire record collection to the Ottawa Public Library, save for one — a slightly damaged copy of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's In Songs You Love, the first album the 85-year-old retired public servant ever bought. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Big sale planned

The plan is to price each of the records and then hold a special sale later this year, said Penelope Gould, vice-president of operations for the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library.

Pigeon's collection filled 140 boxes, and nearly filling the 100-square-foot storage unit where they're being held until the records are put up for sale in the fall, Gould said.

Gould said her group decided to get into vinyl sales after feeling a bit squeezed out by the number of book sales being held around the city.

She recalled her startled reaction when she first laid eyes on Pigeon's hoard.

"Glory be to God — this is a lot of records!" she said.

Pigeon said he's OK with the fact his records will end up in the hands of complete strangers, adding that he didn't want to burden his daughter with having to one day deal with the collection herself.

In fact, he already has plans for all that free shelf space.

"[It's] a lot of space to put books in!"

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