Conrad Bernier

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Conrad Bernier
Born Quebec City 9 May 1904
Died Washington, DC, 7 Nov 1988
Occupation French-Canadian organist, composer, and teacher.

Conrad Bernier (b. Quebec City 9 May 1904, d. Washington, DC, 7 Nov 1988) was a French-Canadian organist, composer, and teacher.

Early life and education[edit]

Born into a prominent family of musicians in Quebec City, Bernier is the brother of pianist Gabrielle Bernier and cellist/journalist Maurice Bernier, and the uncle of musicians Françoys Bernier, Madeleine Bernier, and Pierre Bernier. His first teacher was his father Joseph-Arthur Bernier, who introduced him to solfège, organ, and piano. He continued his keyboard studies with Berthe Roy, and became so proficient, that he inaugurated the organ of the church at Bienville when he was only 13 years of age. The following year he inaugurated that of St-Sacrement Church in Quebec City. In this church he would serve 1920-23 as principal organist, while he was also assistant organist at St-Jean-Baptiste.

In 1923 Bernier won the Prix d’Europe to study organ in Paris. There he studied 1923-26, taking piano with Sylvia Hérard and Simone Plé-Caussade, Music Theory with Georges Caussade (theory), and organ with the great organist from Bordeaux, Joseph Bonnet, for whom he also substituted at the great organs of the church of St-Eustache. In 1962 he was awarded a Doctorate of Music from St. Francis, Loretto, Pennsylvania.

Professional career[edit]

In 1926 he returned to Canada for a concert tour, after which he was organist at the Church of the Visitation in Detroit for several months. His next appointment was at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he became director of the Organ Department in 1927. In that capacity he taught for almost half a century until he was named Professor Emeritus in 1974. After that he continued teaching counterpoint, fugue, and composition and [organ] until the eve of his death in 1988, having a number of distinguished students, among them Don Shirley, Helmut Braunlich, Richard S.Parks, Thomas Tumulty, Haig Mardirosian, Richard Reiter, Dieter Lehnhoff, Anthony Doherty, Steven Benson, his last organ student, Carl C. Schwartz, Dale Krider, Mickey Thomas Terry, Michael Patrick McCarthy, Lawrence Sears, and Micheal Houlahan. In Washington he was organist at the church of Ste. Anne (1935–69), artist in residence at The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and also became the regular organist of the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. During World War II, he was one of the three interim conductors of the Cathedral Choral Society at Washington National Cathedral. He returned to Canada to give courses 1943-47 and to give recitals and performances for the Casavant Society.


  • Harmonie moderne
  • Traité d'improvisation à l'orgue (1962)
  • Organ Method/Méthode d'orgue (Gregorian Institute of America, GIA,

Toledo, Ohio, 1962).

Selected compositions[edit]

  • Croquis petit-capiens (Édition Belgo-Canadienne)
  • Variations et fugue for two pianos
  • Esquisse and Prière for organ
  • Réverie for organ
  • Mass for mixed-voice choir and two organs
  • Two songs, 'Les Colombes' and 'Les Berceuses';
  • Motets, published mainly by Quebec City's Procure générale de musique.