Conservatoires in time of war
Roger Pénau, musician and stretcher-bearer
30 June 1886 (Brest) – 30 October 1961 (Pontoise)
We know relatively little about Roger Pénau. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire, where he won a first certificate of merit for counterpoint in 1910. The only source of information about his wartime years is the Gazette des classes du Conservatoire; his numerous letters to this publication (nine in total from 1915 to 1918) allow us to reconstruct his experiences. Drafted into the external company of the 160th Infantry Regiment, he was employed as a stretcher-bearer-musician. He served in the battles of the Yser (17-31 October 1914) and Artois at Neuville-Saint-Vaast (9 May – 25 June 1915), and again at the strongpoint at Beauséjour (September 1915). After being wounded by a shell fragment in Aisne on 3 May 1917, he was awarded the Croix de guerre.
After the war, he became an examination and competition accompanist for Célestin Ernest Cros-Saint-Ange, then a singing coach at the Opéra from 1926 to 1933. He joined the French Forces of the Interior in 1944, while still active as a singing coach and bandmaster.