Le Canada musical: Revue artistique et littéaire

(Montreal, 1866-1867, 1875-1881)

Prepared by Kathleen McMorrow
Online only (2014)

Le Canada musical: revue artistique et litteraire (CAM) was published in Montreal on the first of each month from September 1866 to August 1867, and from May 1875 to April 1881. The pages of the twelve sixteen page issues of each volume are numbered consecutively, and an index on the last page of each year is included. The journal represents the second attempt by its founder and editor, Adélard Boucher (1835-1912), to establish a specialized music journal in Canada. Boucher, a choirmaster, organist, conductor, and a businessman, developed his music publishing and importing interests into a music shop of his own by 1865. In May 1867 he also acquired the large shop of Gould & Hill at 130 Grande Rue St-Jacques in Montreal, but in August of the same year he was forced to suspend publication of CAM at the end of the first volume, owing to the pressure of additional work.

The expressed initial aims of the journal are contributing to the progress of the art, and the promoting of “good taste,” by addressing the needs of amateurs, teachers, students, organists and choirmasters. An editorial celebrating progress in French-Canadian musical life and citing the talents of composer-performers Guillaume Couture (1851-1915) and Calixa Lavallée (1842-1891), and the international renown of soprano Emma Albani (1847-1930) appears in the first issue of 1875.

The dominant interest of the journal is the musical life of francophone Canada. Each issue includes a lengthy potpourri of announcements, descriptions, and reviews of both amateur and professional vocal and instrumental concerts in Montreal and surrounding villages, with notices about music masters in schools, choir and band directors, appointments of organists and dedications of new instruments. There are detailed reports of Christmas and Easter masses, and the decrees of various bishops concerning music policies for Roman Catholic churches. In the last two volumes, a Quebec City correspondent, Henry A. Bédard, who is identified by name only in the last issue, provides more detailed information from the new provincial capital. Occasionally there is musical news from Winnipeg and St. Boniface, Manitoba, and from francophone towns in New Brunswick. Reports from Toronto emphasize the activities of organist and conductor Frederick H. Torrington, a former Montrealer, and from Ottawa records the successful concerts of the violinist Fran the violinist François Jehin-Prume, Lavallée, and Oscar Martel.

A monthly section of news from the United States offers brief notes on opera and concerts in New York and Boston, and also features information about Lavallée and Gustave Smith’s sojourns in New Orleans, American tours by Canadian artists, and musical activities of Canadian residents of New England and New York State. Another regular section on European musical life, which initially relied on extracts from French music journals, is enlivened by news about a visit Boucher made with his son François, a violinist, during the latter half of 1876. European correspondence by “Cæcilius” (probably Boucher himself), appears from Liège, and there is a reprint of the eyewitness report of the Bayreuth premiere of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen from Le Figaro. From Paris, Boucher enlists Léon Moonen to provide reports and essays on musical life in the French capital. Twenty-four detailed monthly reports of musical life in Belgium–a country with which Québec shared language, religion and artistic ties–are published under the pseudonym Rigobert. Later, a report to the Belgian minister of the interior on the enviable state of music education in Italy by Xavier van Elewyck (1825-1888), a Belgian conductor, composer and musicologist, appears in eleven instalments. For organists, there is a monthly page of liturgically appropriate offices, prayers and hymns. From 1875 on, there are two monthly pages of piano music and songs: fifteen by Frédéric Boissière from his Album de la jeunesse (Paris, 1869). Extracts from books by foreign authors are serialized to fill unused pages. Works by the Léon and Camille Escudier are the source of the largest number of these reprints, and include their Vie de Paganini, published in 1856 (previously mined for Boucher’s earlier publication Les Beaux-Arts in 1863-64), and their writings on Verdi, Donizetti, violinist Camillo Sivori, musicians active during the Empire, and the violin. There are other articles by Adolph Adam (his autobiography), biographies of Haydn, Gluck and Mehul; and by Antoine Marmontel profiles of the pianists Stephen Heller, Henri Herz, Emile Prudent, Marie Pleyel (Mme Moke), and Amedée de Mereaux; by Arthur Pougin, articles on musicians from the supplement to Fétis’ Biographie universelle des musiciens; and by Mathieu de Monter on the organist Lambillotte and his brothers. Fiction, disguised as biography, also appears in by Charles Barbara’s account of Mozart, and by Alfred Deberle about Lully.

Le Canada musical is a primary source of information about the career of Calixa Lavallée, the composer of Canada’s national anthem. For the years of its publication, CAM documents and promotes Lavalée’s concert activities, compositions and arrangements, and his various positions as organist and choirmaster, as he attempted to establish himself in Canada, after periods of work in the United States and study in Paris. The journal’s editor calls on the provincial government to support French-Canadian musical talent, specifically by establishing a conservatory, of which Lavallée would obviously be appointed director. Other major figures in the development of French-Canadian musical life: the activities of the pianist Moïse Saucier, the organist Dominique Ducharme, the conductor Joseph Vézina, and the pianist Alexis Contant are identified.