Born in Montréal in 1885, Alfred Rochon was only 17 years old in 1902 when he debuted with his brother in Sohmer Park in Montréal. The duo performed in Montréal theatres during intermissions and had great success at the Théâtre National in 1904 and 1905. At the beginning of the 1910s, Alfred made a solo career under the pseuonym "Nohcor", an anagram of his surname. He became a star at café concerts (especially the Eldorado) and in Montréal theatres, particularly the Canadien, the Star, the Majestic and the National.
Rochon was one of the first Quebec artists to be his own producer. In 1915, he founded his own troupe, which he directed for some ten years with Henri Rollin, then on his own until the 1940s. For years, the troupe Nohcor-Rollin performed the play La Petite Aurore, l'enfant-martyre in Canada and the United States. The play was based on the real-life story of a 10-year-old girl who died as a result of physical violence inflicted on her by her father's second wife. The torturer's trial had created such an uproar that the Nohcor troupe incorporated a dramatisation of the trial in the play. This play was performed thousands of times around America.
At the time, operetta and opera troupes often hired variety actors for secondary roles. This is how it happened that Rochon played the role of Rememdade in Carmen, performing with Blanche Gonthier and Honoré Vaillancourt at the Monument National in December 1918. He also performed for the Association d'art lyrique in André Messager's La Basoche, at the Théâtre Français in April 1919.
Manager of the Ouimetoscope cinema in 1922 and 1923, Rochon sometimes performed in vaudeville plays, such as in Les Aventures d'Aglaé with Juliette Béliveau and J. Hervey Germain at the beginning of 1923. In the same period, he was part of the Théâtre Canadien-Français troupe with Raoul Lery, Palmieri, Simone Roberval and Hector Pellerin. He then toured Quebec and New England with the Castel-Léo-Talbot troupe and with his own troupe.
In August 1916, Nohcor recorded 18 songs by popular French composers such as Henri Christiné, Vargues, Henry Fragson, Jouve, Desmoulins and a few others, for Columbia in New York. "L'Amour est un plaisir", "Ah! les grandes femmes", "La Jolie Loucheuse", and "Mon épouse est un ange" were very popular in Parisian café concerts. In the fall of 1936 and in the spring of 1937, Rochon recorded some of his own compositions for Starr, including "Mae West en vacances", "Ne séparons pas les vieux" and "Faut pas faire à sa tête". He also wrote the words for "La Valse de la mariée" (HMV 263148) and "Oui! Des bananes, on en a" (HMV 263166), which Hector Pellerin recorded at the beginning of the 1920s.
For many years, Rochon managed artists. He was also the head of L'édition Alfred Nohcor, which published sheet music of popular songs.
For more information about Alfred (Rochon) Nohcor's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.
Robert Thérien, music researcher, Montréal