Frédéric Pelletier

Frédéric ('Fred') Pelletier (Peltier). Choirmaster, critic, teacher, composer, physician, b Montreal 1 May 1870, d there 30 May 1944; MD (Montreal) 1895, honorary D MUS (Montreal) 1937.

Pelletier, Frédéric

Frédéric ('Fred') Pelletier (Peltier). Choirmaster, critic, teacher, composer, physician, b Montreal 1 May 1870, d there 30 May 1944; MD (Montreal) 1895, honorary D MUS (Montreal) 1937. He studied piano with his father, Romain-Octave Pelletier I, singing with Guillaume Couture, and harmony and counterpoint with Achille Fortier. He qualified as a doctor, but soon gave up his practice in favour of music and journalism. A graduate of the Military Academy in St- Jean, Que, he was a captain in the 65th regiment of the Mount Royal Fusiliers. In Montreal he was a reporter and municipal editor for several daily newspapers until 1914, when he ceased his journalistic career and became a civil servant at the City of Montreal. He was secretary of the municipal medical services, secretary of the Montreal department of health 1914-21, and librarian and publicist for the provincial department of health 1922-44.

Starting in 1900 Pelletier was music columnist for various periodicals. He wrote music criticism anonymously about 1904-10 for the main Montreal daily newspapers (La Patrie, La Presse) and wrote a dozen reviews 1911-13 in Le Devoir before becoming its music editor and critic for 28 years (1916-44). He used the pseudonym of Remi Siffadaux on a few occasions 1901-11 for music reviews and other articles. In addition to his being the Montreal correspondent 1919-21 for La Musique and 1923-25 for Musical America, he also contributed to various periodicals, including 1929-31 Entre-Nous, a monthly magazine of which he was editor-in-chief, as well as L'Art musical, LaLyre, Musical Canada, and the Quinzaine musicale et artistique. Pelletier wrote the preface to Musiciens canadiens, a work he described as 'the first monument raised to the memory of our musicians of the past.' In 1948 he published Initiation à l'orchestre in Montreal but his memoirs, 'Montréal, fin de siècle,' which were to have been published at his death, apparently have remained in manuscript.

Pelletier was appointed choirmaster at St-Léon Church, Westmount (Montreal), in 1909 and also was choirmaster at St James-the-Less 1910-36 and at Ste-Brigide Church 1923-4. In 1922 he conducted the Saint-Saëns Choral Society, which he had just founded, in Samson et Dalila, with Cédia Brault and Émile Gour. Pelletier was correspondent 1920?-44? for the Association française d'expansion et d'échanges artistiques, which in 1937 became the Association française d'action artistique. It was in this capacity that he organized in 1931 the first visit of the Paris children's choir, the Petits Chanteurs à la croix de bois, who subsequently added to their repertoire his harmonizations of Canadian folksongs. Pelletier taught music history at the Conservatoire national of Montreal and 1933-44 at the École supérieure de musique d'Outremont (École Vincent-d'Indy). He was president 1932-5 of the AMQ.

Of his compositions, 34 titles were known in 1990, including his harmonizations. Some 18 works were published in periodicals and newspapers, the majority being occasional songs, harmonizations, or carols. His output comprises several religious choral works: motets, a Requiem Mass (Schola Cantorum 1919), a Stabat Mater (1916), and two oratorios, La Rédemption et Le Triptyque d'oraisons (Messager canadien 1943). His Ludus puerilis for organ (1926) was published by the Éditions du Conservatoire national de Montréal in 1931; the work was orchestrated by Rosario Bourdon and was performed in 1943 by the CSM (MSO).

Pelletier was intensely committed to several spheres of Montreal musical life, yet his contribution, mainly focused on religious music, education (music history), and writing about music, remains somewhat unknown. However, Pelletier rightly can be considered one of the main music critics in Montreal during the first half of the 20th century. His analysis, his firm views on musical development in Montreal, and his aesthetic philosophy constitute an important contribution to the history of music criticism and allow for a better understanding of the prevailing trends during the major debates that marked his era.

See also Romain Pelletier (his brother) and Romain-Octave II Pelletier (his son).


Further Reading

  • 'Le Dr Fred Pelletier est décédé,' Montreal Le Devoir, 30 May 1944

    Biron, Édouard. 'Frédéric Pelletier, artiste chrétien,' ibid, 1 Jun 1944

    Letondal, Arthur. 'Frédéric Pelletier,' ibid, 2 Jun 1944

    Émond, Vivianne. 'Frédéric Pelletier et la critique musicale à Montréal dans la première moitié du XXe siècle,' Cahiers de l'ARMuQ, 12, Apr 1990

    - 'Frédéric Pelletier,' CUMS, vol 10, no. 2 1991