The Sunday Magazine

Singing the heavenly music of 18th century Quebec nuns

A group of professional singers known as Ensemble Scholastica is bringing religious history back to life in Quebec City. They’re performing music that was once sung by the nuns of the Congrégation de Notre Dame in the 1700s.
The Ensemble Scholastica was founded in the autumn of 2008. (Submitted by The Ensemble Scholastica)

The Ensemble Scholastica is named for Ste. Scholastica, an Italian nun born in 480 AC who was the sister of St. Benedict — the founder of the Benedictine order. Scholastica has largely been forgotten, unlike her more famous brother.

Rebecca Bain, the director of the Montreal-based Ensemble, is a specialist in medieval women's music. She has also put together a special concert of the music sung by the nuns of Montreal's Congrégation de Notre-Dame in the early 18th century. It was presented in Montreal last year, and will be presented again in Quebec City on Sunday, May 20th.

The seven women in the Ensemble use original handwritten music manuscripts found in the archives of the congregation.

The music sheets used by the Ensemble Scholastica date from 1763 (Submitted by Ensemble Scholastica)
Rebecca Bain holds historical music sheets in the Congrégation de Notre-Dame Mother House archives. (Submitted by Ensemble Scholastica)
From L to R: A depiction of the arrival of Ursuline nuns in New France in 1639; a painting of Marguerite Bourgeoys, the founder of the Congrégation de Notre Dame. (Frank Craig/BIBLIOTHÈQUE et ARCHIVES Canada, Pierre le Ber)