Ernest Lavigne

Ernest Lavigne, (Tessier dit Lavigne). Bandmaster, cornetist, composer, publisher, b Montreal 17 Dec 1851, d there 18 Jan 1909. The brother of Arthur and Émery, he studied at the Collège de Terrebonne and in 1868 went to Rome with the 4th detachment of the Papal Zouaves.

Lavigne, Ernest

Ernest Lavigne, (Tessier dit Lavigne). Bandmaster, cornetist, composer, publisher, b Montreal 17 Dec 1851, d there 18 Jan 1909. The brother of Arthur and Émery, he studied at the Collège de Terrebonne and in 1868 went to Rome with the 4th detachment of the Papal Zouaves. There he joined the band of the Roman Zouaves, becoming cornet soloist in 1869. After the city's capture by the Italians in September 1870 he spent a year in Naples and travelled through several European countries before going in 1873 to New York. He performed there as a soloist with great success, as he did also in Philadelphia and Boston. He returned to Montreal at the end of 1874. Shortly afterwards he moved to Quebec City and went into business with Arthur, who had opened a music store. Ernest organized and conducted brass bands in the region and even as far away as Rimouski. In 1876 he visited Philadelphia as head of Montreal's Bande de la Cité, which won first prize at the Centennial Exposition. The same ensemble distinguished itself again at a national competition in May 1878 in Montreal. As a soloist Lavigne won many honours and prizes, including two gold-plated cornets. In 1885 he inaugurated free concerts at the Viger Gardens, where his brilliant performances made him a star attraction.

In 1877 Lavigne entered the music trade in Montreal, and in 1881 he went into partnership with Louis-Joseph Lajoie as Lavigne & Lajoie. The company published about 50 compositions by Canadians, notably Ernest and Émery Lavigne and Joseph Vézina, and was the distributor for hundreds of imported pieces. It issued a catalogue, L'Écrin musical, in 1887. However, the publishing activities of Lavigne & Lajoie appear to have ceased in 1891. A born organizer, Lavigne encouraged the firm to acquire in 1889 a large piece of land on the St Lawrence River, and there he set up an amusement park known as Sohmer Park. Until his death Lavigne directed the concerts and shows there, employing as his regular ensemble the Bande de la Cité. He wished to expand the band into an orchestra and to this end engaged many young, highly trained Belgian and Italian instrumentalists. Some remained in Canada and established a valuable tradition of instrumental performance and teaching. Thus Lavigne may be considered one of the pioneers of instrumental music in Canada.

As a composer Lavigne specialized in songs. Three were published in the Paris Annales politiques et littéraires at the beginning of the century. In 1909 Archambault published 25 mélodies/25 Songs, a handsomely produced collection of songs with piano accompaniment, which the composer had published individually in 1901. Four of these songs were recorded by Marie Laferrière (4-RCI 513). Lavigne also wrote patriotic songs, of which 'Vive la France' enjoyed great popularity; this song and a few others have been published in CMH, vol 7. His name was given to a Montreal avenue in 1962.


Further Reading

  • Trudel, Tancrède. 'Ernest Lavigne,' Canada artistique, vol 1, Jan 1890

    De Montigny, Louvigny. 'Les mélodies d'Ernest Lavigne,' P-T, 156, 16 Mar 1901

    Pelletier, Frédéric. 'Les musiciens du passé, Ernest Lavigne 1851-1909,' Entre-Nous, vol 1, Mar 1930

    Massicotte, Édouard-Z. 'Trois grands artistes,' BRH, vol 39, Jan 1933

    - 'Leur dernier succès,' BRH, vol 52, Jan 1946

    LaMonde, Yvan and Montpetit, Raymond. Le Parc Sohmer de Montréal, 1889-1919 (Québec 1986)

    DCB vol 13