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The era of the boîte à chansons draws to a close

By 1974, La Butte à Mathieu was having trouble making ends meet. The company, which had never received any government grants until then, tried its luck with Québec City and Ottawa, and why not? Many theatres and cultural venues were being state-funded. Unable to reach an agreement with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Gilles Mathieu finally had to declare bankruptcy. La Butte was sold at auction in the summer of 1976.

Color poster of the programming of the 15th season of La Butte for the summer of 1974. It announces: La revue Tharèse de Raymond Lévesque, Les Jérolas, Julie Arel, Emmanuelle, Gilles Valiquette, Melody Stewart and Claude Léveillée.

The programming of the 15th season

The times they are a-changing. The new generation was not drawing the same audiences. Yesterday’s beginners had become stars and were now performing in larger venues, including the Place des Arts and la Théâtre du Patriote in Ste-Agathe. Ironically, in 1967 it had originally been called La Sablière, and Gilles Mathieu was its first director.

Québec began to take responsibility for its own culture, giving birth to a number of international celebrities. On September 7, 1970, Robert Charlebois presented a show at the Place des Nations on Île Sainte-Hélène before 25,000 people. The public now fell firmly behind their local artists and many of them were able to make a good living from their artistic careers.

Photo noir et blanc de Robert Charlebois en spectacle bouche ouverte et yeux fermés devant son micro.

Robert Charlebois


In 1976, at the same time as the idea of an independent state began to coalesce in Québec, the great era of the boîtes à chansons began to fade. The time had come for the singer-songwriters of Québec to move on to bigger stages in the world beyond.

Today, the boîte à chansons is still remembered by many an artist as an exceptional site in which  artists and the spectators were able to live in proximity, experiencing a unique moment on a human scale.