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Calixa Lavallée: Biography

Calixa Lavallée
1842 - 1891
Region: Québec

Calixa Lavallée

CALIXA LAVALLÉE was born into a family of musicians on December 28, 1842 in Verchères. His father was an instrument maker, his brother Charles, a conductor, another brother Joseph, a trombonist, while his sister Cordelia was a singer and pianist. Lavallée's first music lessons came from his father. Later, in 1855, he travelled to Montréal to study piano with Paul Letondal and Charles Wugk Sabatier. In 1857, he left for the United States where he would win a First Prize in performance, providing him with the opportunity to travel to South America, the Caribbean Islands and to Mexico. After having participated in the Civil War, he returned to Québec in 1863, giving concerts in Montréal as a pianist, violinist and cornettist.

Thanks to a fund-raising campaign organized by his patron Léon Derome, he went to Paris in the years 1873-75. His etude for piano entitled Le Papillon was submitted to the Paris Conservatory as part of the final exams.

Upon his return to Montréal, he opened a studio, gave concerts and continued to travel to the United States, as well as involve himself in the promotion of his own music and that of other American composers. As President of the Music Teachers' National Association, he organized a Congress in Detroit in 1890.

His unsuccessful attempts to open a Conservatory of Music in Montréal, his failure to convince Québec citizens of the value and importance of beautiful music, together with a reversal of fortune contributed to his voluntary exile.

At the age of 48, Lavallée died from tubercular laryngitis. On July 13, 1933, in a grandiose ceremony, his remains were returned from Boston. This tireless pioneer must be admired and considered as one of our first great music professionals whose concern for his own promotion was secondary to the importance he accorded the improvement of musical life in Canada.

1992 -


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