Harmonium's career was short (five years) and ended for all the right reasons: The members felt they had said all they had to say in the best possible way. Consequently, the three studio albums (plus one live) they left to posterity can all be considered important artistic statements. The band's impact on Quebec rock and culture in general has been tremendous.
The core of Harmonium was a folk trio formed by guitarists Serge Fiori and Michel Normandeau and bassist Louis Valois. Fiori was already earning a living as a ballroom guitarist with his father Georges Fiori's orchestra (a prized icon of Montreal's Italian community) when he met journalist and drama actor Normandeau in 1972. With the addition of Valois, they began to perform as a folk guitar trio under the name Harmonium in the summer of 1973. Concerts in singer/songwriter cafés attracted some attention. After a live radio performance, Quality Records expressed interest and a record deal was struck.
Recorded as a trio, Harmonium was released in April 1974. By the end of the summer, it was a big seller, with the songs "Pour un Instant" and "Un Musicien Parmi Tant d'Autres" becoming FM hits. After a tour of the province, the group went back to the studio. Fiori had more elaborated ideas for Si On Avait Besoin d'une Cinquième Saison, so reedsman Pierre Daigneault and keyboardist Serge Locat were drafted. The album was released in 1975. It showed leanings toward mellow progressive rock stylings and metaphysical lyrics.
After another tour and a sabbatical year, the group reconvened without Daigneault. Fiori had devised an ambitious suite of seven songs related to the seven states of consciousness. Normandeau had contributed to the lyrics, but the lead singer's outburst of creativity (and clarity of musical vision) was phasing him out, so he left. Drummer Denis Farmer, flutist Libert Subirana, guitarist Robert Stanley, and vocalist/second keyboardist Monique Fauteux were recruited. Neil Chotem was brought in to compose and arrange orchestral bridges between the songs. The resulting two-LP set, L'Heptade, came out on new label CBS in late 1976. It achieved a new standard of excellence in Quebec rock and became a minor classic in the history of progressive rock, thanks to its universal theme. The group toured Canada, going all the way to Vancouver in June 1977 (the live En Tournée was recorded there) and performed at Berkeley College of Music in California (immortalized in the National Film Board of Canada production Harmonium en Californie). There were also European dates opening for Supertramp.
After a few attempts to lay down the bases for a new album, it became obvious to Fiori and consorts that they had given their best. In late 1977, a press release announced the dissolution of Harmonium. Fiori recorded a duo LP with guitarist Richard Séguin backed by former members of the group (Deux Cents Nuits à l'Heure, 1978). They all appeared again on Chotem's 1979 LP Live au El Casino. Normandeau and Locat released solo LPs around that time (Jouer, 1979 and Transfert, 1978). ~ François Couture