Calixa Lavallée

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Calixa Lavallée
Calixa Lavallée.png
Calixa Lavallée from 1873
Born (1842-12-28)December 28, 1842
Died January 21, 1891(1891-01-21) (aged 48)
Occupation Quebecois musician and composer
File:Calixa Lavallee.JPG
Calixa Lavallée, 1967 art by Frédéric Back at Place-des-Arts metro station.

Calixa Lavallée, (December 28, 1842 – January 21, 1891), born Calixte Paquet dit Lavallée, was a French-Canadian-American musician and Union Army band musician during the American Civil War who composed the music for O Canada, which officially became the national anthem of Canada in 1980.[1][2]


Calixa Lavallée was born near Verchères, a suburb of Montreal, Quebec. His father, Augustin Lavallée, was accomplished in many trades, including those of blacksmith, logger, bandmaster, and self-taught luthier.[3] Calixa began his musical education with his father and studied in Montréal with Paul Letondal and Charles Wugk Sabatier. In 1857, he moved to the U.S. and lived in Rhode Island where he enlisted in the 4th Rhode Island Volunteers of the Union army during the American Civil War, attaining the rank of Lieutenant.[2]

During and after the war, he traveled between Canada and the United States building his career in music. In the 1860s, Lavallée resided briefly in Montreal, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, but spent most of his time travelling with minstrel show companies. In 1867, he married an American woman, Josephine Gentilly (or "Gently"). He conducted major orchestral and operatic productions in important concert halls such as the Montréal Academy of Music in Montréal, Quebec City and in many US cities. Among his notable pupils was composer Alexis Contant.[4] See: List of music students by teacher: K to M#Calixa Lavallée.

To celebrate St. Jean-Baptiste Day in 1880, the Lieutenant Governor of Québec, Théodore Robitaille, commissioned Lavallée to compose O Canada to a patriotic poem by Adolphe-Basile Routhier.[2] While in Canada he felt that he wasn't able to financially support his family and so moved to the United States.[5] In his later life he promoted the idea of union between Canada and the U.S.A.[5]

During the later years of his life, Lavallée was the choirmaster at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston and he died in that city in 1891. As the result of the campaign by the Montréal based music director of the Victoria's Rifles, Joseph-Laurent Gariépy, his remains were returned to Montréal and reinterred at Côte-des-Neiges Cemetery in 1933.[1]

Selected musical works

  • Peacocks in Difficulties/Loulou, comic opera
  • The Bridal Rose Overture, operetta
  • The King of Diamonds, overture
  • L'Absence, lyrics by Remi Tremblay, 1882–1885[6]
  • L'Oiseau Mouche, Bluette de Salon, Op.11, 1865?[6]
  • Le Papillon (The Butterfly) Étude de Concert for piano, 1874/1884[6]
  • Marche funèbre, 1878[6]
  • O Canada, 1880[6]
  • The Widow, 1881, comic opera (known in French as La veuve)
  • TIQ (The Indian Question), Settled at Last, 1882, comic opera
  • Une Couronne de Lauriers, Caprice de Genre, Op.10, 1865[6]
  • Violette, cantilène, lyrics by Napoleon Legendre and P.J. Curran, 1879[6]


The village of Calixa-Lavallée, southeast of Montreal, is named after him.

The following roads were named to honour Calixa Lavallée:

  • Avenue Calixa-Lavallée, located in Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada.
  • Avenue Calixa-Lavallée, located in Quebec, Quebec, Canada.
  • Rue Calixa-Lavallée, located in Magog, Quebec, Canada.
  • Rue Calixa-Lavallée, a dead-end street entering into Lafontaine Park, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The professional training school Calixa-Lavallée in Quebec also bears his name.

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 "'O Canada'". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Government of Canada (June 23, 2008). "Hymne national du Canada". Canadian Heritage. Government of Canada. Retrieved 2008-06-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Lavallée, Augustin". The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The Canadian Encyclopedia, Alexis Contant
  5. 5.0 5.1 Francis & Jones 2011, p. 216
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Petrucci Music Library IMSLP Forum, including public domain scores


  • Francis, R. Douglas; Jones, Richard &Donald Smith, Robert Wardhaugh (2011). Destinies: Canadian History Since Confederation (2011 ed.). Nelson Education Limited. ISBN 9780176502515.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> - Total pages: 608

External links