Henri Gagnon

(Charles Édouard Gustave) Henri Gagnon. Organist, teacher, composer, b Quebec City 6 Mar 1887, d there 17 May 1961. He studied solfège and piano 1895-1900 with his father, Gustave, solfège and harmony 1900-3 with Joseph Vézina, and organ 1900-3 with William Reed.

Gagnon, Henri

(Charles Édouard Gustave) Henri Gagnon. Organist, teacher, composer, b Quebec City 6 Mar 1887, d there 17 May 1961. He studied solfège and piano 1895-1900 with his father, Gustave, solfège and harmony 1900-3 with Joseph Vézina, and organ 1900-3 with William Reed. His success began in 1901 with a concert before a huge audience in the Music Temple at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo; the Buffalo Courrier (2 Sep 1901) described him as 'a true prodigy.' He then gave recitals in Quebec City and in Cliff Haven, near Plattsburgh, NY. He studied 1903-7 in Montreal with Arthur Letondal (piano), Romain-Octave and Romain Pelletier (organ), Guillaume Couture (harmony and counterpoint), and Father Charles-Hugues Lefebvre (church music) and was chapel organist 1903-6 at Gesù College and 1906-7 at Loyola College. Having received a certificate in 1906 from the Dominion College of Music, he left in 1907 for Paris, where he studied plainchant with Amédée Gastoué, organ, plainchant, improvisation, and harmony with Eugène Gigout, piano with Isidor Philipp, and organ with Charles-Marie Widor. He was a soloist in 1908 and 1909 in the Concerts Touche and sometimes deputized for Gigout as organist at St-Augustin Church. In the summers of 1911, 1912, 1914, and 1924 he visited Paris to study with Joseph Bonnet and Widor.

After he returned to Canada he was assistant organist 1910-15 and organist 1915-61 at the Quebec Basilica, preferring the life of a church musician to a career as a virtuoso. Though he inaugurated many organs in Quebec and Ontario, he devoted himself primarily to the organ-loft of the Basilica, earning for it a prestige similar to that of the famous organs of Europe. He also taught 1917-33 at the École normale Laval and at the Petit Séminaire de Québec. In 1923 he began teaching piano and organ at Laval University. He was also one of the CMQ's first teachers and its director 1946-61. His pupils included Jean-Marie Beaudet, Marius Cayouette, Father Léon Destroismaisons, Lucille Dompierre (Prix d'Europe 1919), Alice Duchesnay, Claude Lagacé, and Joseph Turgeon. Gagnon possessed the qualities of a born teacher: integrity, a sense of detail, and love of his work. He was president 1929-32 of the AMQ. A 30-minute documentary titled Henri Gagnon, organiste was made in 1958 by the NFB. In 1987, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth, a collection of seven pieces for organ by six composers who were friends or devotees of Gagnon was published by Ostiguy under the title Le Tombeau de Henri Gagnon.

One of Gagnon's most popular compositions was 'Rondel de Thibaut de Champagne,' which Edward Johnson and Rodolphe Plamondon included in their repertoires. His Mazurka (1907) and Deux Antiennes, orchestrated by Maurice Blackburn and J.-J. Gagnier respectively, were recorded by a CBC Montreal orchestra under J.-M. Beaudet. A recording - Hommage à Henri Gagnon (Alpec A-75008) - was made in 1974 by the Quebec organists Antoine Bouchard, Sylvain Doyon, Claude Lagacé, and Antoine Reboulot; Reboulot plays his own Variations sur le nom d'Henri Gagnon.

Henri's son Denys (b Quebec City 27 Sep 1922, d Montreal 27 Sep 1991) studied piano and theory with him 1927-42. He was a producer of dramatic and musical programs for the CBC in Montreal, notably 'Divertissement' (TV) and 'Jeux d'orgues' (radio).

See also Ernest Gagnon (his uncle).

Selected Compositions

Piano
Deux Pièces de genre : Chanson d'été 'barcarolle'; Badinage. 1903, 1904. Lavigueur & Hutchison 1904

Airs canadiens. 1904. Pf-4 hands

Mazurka. 1907.

Mazurka. 1909. Pf-4 hands

Petite Mazurka

Organ

Élégie. 1901? CMH, vol 4a. In Le Tombeau de Henri Gagnon, Ostiguy 1987. Interdisc S-100527 (S. Doyon)

Deux Antiennes. P-T, Feb 1945. Ibid Ostiguy 1987. (no. 2) Alpec A-75008 (S. Doyon)

Prélude à l'Introït du IXe dimanche après la Pentecôte. Revue St-Grégoire 1950. Ibid Ostiguy 1987. Alpec A-75008 (A. Bouchard)

Prélude sur L'Alléluia de la fête de saint Michel. Revue St-Grégoire 1950. Ibid Ostiguy 1987

Also Interludes ; Antiennes d'orgue No. 1 ; Musique d'orgue ; Quelques Principes d'accompagnement du chant grégorien. Ms

Voice

'Cantique au Sacré-Coeur'; 'Ave Maria'. Org. Manuel de morceaux religieux by Father Rancourt

'Rondel de Thibaut de Champagne'. 1916

Other works, instrumentation unknown: Mazurka ; Sur le pont d'Avignon


Further Reading

  • 'M. Henri Gagnon,' La Musique, vol 1, Nov 1919

    Morin, Léo-Pol. 'Henri Gagnon,' Papiers de musique (Montreal 1930)

    A.D. 'Henri Gagnon,' La Lyre, 79, Mar 1931

    Magnan, Odile. 'La musique à Québec d'hier à aujourd'hui. Les organistes: Henri Gagnon,' Sonances, vol 1, Jul 1982