Music was an important part of elite identity in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France. Musical skill was a privilege that denoted fortune enough to pay an instructor as well as free time in which to engage in such leisure. Elites in New France replicated these metropolitan values in their taste for musical entertainments. Balls, theatrical performances, and even masses were marked by a profusion of music. Wealthy colonists gathered in private homes for informal concerts, and other social intercourse, such as time before or after a meal, might be marked by musical entertainment.
Secular baroque masterpieces, highlights from great French operas, spiritual melodies, pastoral airs, and even popular bawdy songs could be heard in private colonial homes. Invited to supper by the governor-general in 1749, Élisabeth Bégon de La Cour, the widow of the governor of Trois-Rivières, recalled how members of elite Montréal society remained at the table singing until 7 in the morning. In 1757, the marquis de Montcalm described a banquet and concert at the intendant's palace attended by eighty guests.
As proper deportment enabled one to wear a fashionable gown or suit with ease and grace, successful musical performance indicated bodily control and order. At no time was this more apparent than during a ball. Minuets, cotillons, and other fashionable dance forms allowed elite colonists to show off the latest steps in addition to their physical grace and costly garments. For an informal event, musical accompaniment for dancing might be limited to a flute or recorder. Grander social occasions often called for larger groups of instruments.