Calixa Lavallée

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Calixa Lavallée
Calixa Lavallée.png
Calixa Lavallée from 1873
Born (1842-12-28)December 28, 1842
Verchères, Quebec, Canada
Died January 21, 1891(1891-01-21) (aged 48)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Canadian musician and composer
Nationality Canada
Calixa Lavallée, 1967 art by Frédéric Back at Place-des-Arts metro station.

Calixa Lavallée, (Verchères, Québec, December 28, 1842 – Boston, Massachusetts, January 21, 1891), born Calixte Paquet dit Lavallée, was a French-Canadian-American musician and Union Army band musician during the American Civil War. He is best known for composing the music for O Canada, which officially became the national anthem of Canada in 1967, after a vote in the Senate and the House of Commons. The modern version became official with an Act of Parliament in 1980.[1][2]


Calixa Lavallée was born near Verchères, a village near Montreal, Quebec. His father, Augustin Lavallée, was accomplished in many trades, including those of blacksmith, logger, bandmaster, self-taught luthier[3] and bandleader. Calixa's father also worked for the pipe organ builder Joseph Casavant. Calixa Lavallée's mother was Charlotte-Caroline Valentine. He was the eighth generation of the Pasquier family (also known as Pasquet or Pâquet). On his father's side, his ancestor was Isaac Pasquier from Poitou, France. Issac Pasquier arrived in Nouvelle-France in 1665 as a soldier in the Carignan-Salières regiment. On his mother's side, he was related to James Valentine, a man from Scotland who moved to Verchères, a Montreal suburb, where he married Louise Leclerc.

Calixa began his musical education with his father, who taught him organ. Calixa also studied in Montréal with Paul Letondal and Charles Wugk Sabatier.At the age of 11, Calixa played organ. At age 13, he did a piano concert at the Théâtre royal de Montréal. In 1857, he moved to the U.S. and lived in Rhode Island. After touring the world as a musician, including in Brazil and Mexico, he returned to the US, where he enlisted in the 4th Rhode Island Volunteers of the Union army as a cornet player during the American Civil War. He attained the rank of Lieutenant.[2] He was wounded in battle. 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 was also a pianist, organist and music teacher. 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]

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 was not able to financially support his family, and so he 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[edit]

  • 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]
  • La Rose Nuptiale", brass quintet
  • 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, located in Boucherville, Quebec, Canada.
  • Rue Calixa-Lavallée, a dead-end street entering into Lafontaine Park, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
  • Calixa-Lavallée Privée (Calixa-Lavallée Pvt.) a small dead-end laneway on the University of Ottawa campus

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

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "'O Canada'". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  2. ^ a b c Government of Canada (June 23, 2008). "Hymne national du Canada". Canadian Heritage. Government of Canada. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  3. ^ "Lavallée, Augustin". The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  4. ^ The Canadian Encyclopedia, Alexis Contant
  5. ^ a b Francis & Jones 2011, p. 216
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Petrucci Music Library IMSLP Forum, including public domain scores


External links[edit]