Newcomers learning French through song in Montreal 

“I’m happy to come here every week.,” said Le choeur des bienvenus participant Carolina Gomez, originally from Brazil. Singing is a powerful means of communication and researchers hope this choir holds the proof. Erin Seize reports.

Le choeur des bienvenus is an experimental choir group in Montreal that helps newcomers learn about Quebec culture and French through song. 

The rehearsals are held in French and the only requirement is that participants must be at a beginner level. The group meets weekly at a space provided by l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). 

Ukranian participant Lisa Chernovol arrived in Montreal last year.


She said that she’s no longer afraid of learning French.

“My fear to learn French and to speak in French is released,” she said. “Now I’m confident in my power to speak with somebody about basic topics,” said Chernovol. I can understand them and they can understand me.” 

Lisa Chernovol, le choeur des bienvenus participant. (Credit: Erin Seize/CityNews).

Leading the choir is Tiphaine Legrand.

According to her, conducting is her life’s calling and she has been doing it ever since she took over her high school choir in France 35 years ago.

Legrand willingly takes on the challenge of teaching melody and language simultaneously. 


“When you sing, you open another door of vibration for your body, another door of imagination, because you want to interpret the words when you sing,” Legrand explained.

She helps participants dissect the poetic and literal meanings of the songs.

“I use all that I can for this goal. Sometimes we just play, even if we don’t understand, because the most important thing for me is that they have pleasure every time.”

Tiphaine Legrand at le choeur des bienvenus. (Credit: Erin Seize/CityNews).

Carolina Gomez arrived in Montreal from Brazil about a year ago with her family.

Carolina Gomez, choir participant.

“It’s really a different experience,” said Gomez. “I am just happy to come here every week because I don’t know if I can sing, maybe I can sing, but I’m enjoying the group, the ways that I’m learning and the teacher.” 


Studying the positive impacts 

Isabelle Peretz is a psychology professor at the Université de Montréal (UdeM) who studies how the mind processes music.

According to the professor, singing is one of the most powerful means of communication that we all share. 

“We know that being part of a choir can improve the feeling of belonging to a group,” said Peretz.

Isabelle Peretz, professor of psychology at l’Université de Montréal who is leading the research team. (Credit: Erin Seize/CityNews).

Her team is gathering data for a scientific study that will be presented to Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration.


The goal is to “to prove to the [government] that including choirs in their French classes would help them to improve integration and then because of that, communication,” she said.

Head of UQAM’s Preparatory School of Music Isabelle Héroux said that they need funds for more projects like this.

“We have a lot of students working on collecting data, so we need grants for that.”

Isabelle Héroux, head of UQAM’s Preparatory School of Music.

Arindam Mor was born in India and joined the group in February.

He explained how the choir is a great networking oppourtiny.


“I’m learning French through the ministry’s francization program and it definitely compliments that,” he said. “If somebody is an immigrant trying to learn French then this is definitely something they should consider.” 

Arindam Mor, le choeur des bienvenus choir participant. (Credit: Erin Seize/CityNews)

Connecting to Quebec culture and community

“We keep working hard to be a part of this culture,” said participant Ivanna Shapirko who speaks six languages.

She chose to live in Quebec in order to learn French and start somewhere new.

Ivanna Shapirko, participant of les choeurs des bienvenus. (Credit: Erin Seize/CityNews).

One of the songs that the group rehearses is called “Gens du pays,” by Gilles Vigneault.


It is considered the unofficial national anthem of Quebec due to the lyrics “Chers gens du pays, c’est à ton tour de vous laisser parler d’amour,” which are often heard at birthday parties across the province.

Singing “Les Gens du Pays” by Gilles Vigneault at Les choeurs des bienvenus. (Credit: Erin Seize/CityNews).

After learning that it was her colleague’s birthday, Chernovol offered to share what she’d learned.

When her coworker asked how she would sing the song in French, Lisa replied, “You should trust me.”

“I started to sing this song and she cried because she heard this song 20 years ago from her mother… It was the best gift for her from me.”