Joe’s grandfather is 4th from the right in the front row.



Contributor: Joe Jussaume

            As a child growing up in the City of Lowell, I was keenly aware of my Franco-American Heritage.  This was mainly due to my father and my grandfather who were both profoundly proud to be French-Canadians.  Many a celebration was accompanied by my great-grandmother’s tourtiere (pork pie) and the singing of French-Canadian songs around the piano.  Many times, our celebrations would be attended by my Aunt Flo (Fleurette) Sheehy, nee Ayotte, and her brother Rene Ayotte and friend Bob Gaudette.  Both men were friends of my grandfather, Raymond Jussaume.  It was at that time that I was introduced to the camaraderie and sheer joy of the Franco-American Chorus (Chorale Franco-Americaine).  You see, my grandfather, and many of his close friends were members of the chorus, and my Aunt Flo was the chorus’s accompanist.  By the age of 4 or 5 I was joining in on the songs, even though I did not know what I was singing, and it gave my grandfather great joy to bring me to practice, prop me up on a stool, and have me sing for the members.  

            The Franco-American Male Chorus began in 1948 with its founder George A. Ayotte, then the Mayor of the City of Lowell.  His wife, Delia Ayotte was the accompanist and my grandfather’s friends, Rene and Bob, were some of the Chorus’s earliest members.   My grandfather joined soon thereafter and for over forty years of his life, performed with the Chorus.  After the passing of Delia Ayotte, her daughter Fluerette, became the accompanist and after the passing of George Ayotte, Bob Gaudette became the Chorus Director.  The two continued in those roles until the end of the Chorus.  When I joined the Chorus in 2007, I was the third generation of my family to sing with the Chorus.

            The Franco-American Chorus is an important part of the cultural and social fabric of the City of Lowell.  French-Canadian families across the city found a sense of pride in the Chorus and its work which included regular Sunday Masses at St. Jeanne D’Arc Church.  Throughout its existence, the Franco-American Chorus achieved phenomenal success, including performances during multiple tours of Canada, performing at landmarks such as the U.S.S. Constitution, Old North Church, Harvard University, St. Anselm College, and TV-9 Manchester, N.H.; even performing for a Presidential Candidate, John Glenn, in 1984, and with famed Irish Tenor Ronan Tynan at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in 1999.  In 1987, the Chorus was given the distinct honor of having a recording of one of its performances permanently housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

            Unfortunately, as the members of the Chorus aged and started to pass away, the Chorus was forced to disband in 2008, leaving the City of Lowell with one more lost cultural touchstone, but not without leaving an incredible legacy and body of work that many living in the City of Lowell and beyond remember fondly to this day.  I am proud to be a member of such a lasting legacy; bringing song, joy and happiness to the people of Lowell and beyond.  George Ayotte founded the Chorus in 1948 for that exact purpose and would be proud of its place in the history of the City of Lowell today.