Gustave Gagnon

Gustave (Adolphe Mathurin) Gagnon. Organist, teacher, composer, b Rivière-du-Loup-en-haut (now Louiseville), near Trois-Rivières, Que, 6 Nov 1842, d Quebec City 19 Nov 1930; honorary D MUS (Laval) 1922.

Gagnon, Gustave

Gustave (Adolphe Mathurin) Gagnon. Organist, teacher, composer, b Rivière-du-Loup-en-haut (now Louiseville), near Trois-Rivières, Que, 6 Nov 1842, d Quebec City 19 Nov 1930; honorary D MUS (Laval) 1922. He took piano lessons 1860-4 in Montreal with his brother-in-law Paul Letondal and then succeeded his brother Ernest as organist 1864-76 at St-Jean-Baptiste Church in Quebec City. In 1870 he went to Europe, where he studied in Paris with Alexis Chauvet (organ), Antoine Marmontel (piano), and Auguste Durand (harmony) and then in Liège with Étienne Ledent (piano) and Jean-Théodore Radoux (harmony). In the summers of 1871 and 1872 he went to Dresden and to Leipzig, where he worked with Robert Papperitz (organ) and Louis Plaidy (piano); he also visited Italy. During his travels he met several famous musicians, including Liszt and Saint-Saëns. Returning to Quebec City in 1872, he became organist at the Basilica in 1876, again in succession to his brother, and retained the position until 1915. He taught 1877-1917 at the École normale Laval and the Petit Séminaire de Québec, and also privately. His pupils included his son Henri, J.-Arthur Bernier, Joseph-Daniel Dussault, Juliette Rodrigue, and Léo-Pol Morin. Morin said of him, 'Those who were taught by him, and I am proud to have been one, never saw the limits of his kindness, of his heart, of his devotion, of his wit, and of his intelligence' (La Lyre, December 1930).

Gagnon was one of the founders in 1866 of the Union musicale de Québec and in 1868 of the AMQ, of which he was president 1878-9, 1881-2, 1883-4, 1885-7, 1893-4, 1895-6, 1897-8, 1899-1900, and 1901-2. He helped found the Dominion College of Music in Quebec City and served 1922-5 as the first director of the school of music of Laval University, where he also taught 1922-30. He took up composition and made a harmonization for 4-part mixed choir of the plainchant Messe royale by Henry Du Mont (1610-84), which was performed by a 600-voice choir on the Plains of Abraham for the St-Jean-Baptiste celebrations in 1880. His Marche pontificale for piano or organ was orchestrated by Joseph Vézina.

Selected Compositions

Reflets du passé 'valse de salon'. Pf. Brainard 1869, CMH, vol 1

Marche pontificale. Ca 1871. Pf (organ). Lavigne 1871, 1886, Lavigueur & Hutchison ca 1912, CMH, vol 4a

Marche nocturne. Pf. Lavigne 1873

Souvenir de Leipzig. 1874? Pf

Gavotte in F. 1890. Pf. Lavigne

Deuxième Marche pontificale avec choeurs. Lavigueur & Hutchison 1896


Further Reading

  • 'M. Gustave Gagnon,' La Musique, vol 1, Mar 1919

    LeVasseur, Nazaire. 'Musique et musiciens à Québec,' ibid, vol 3, Aug, Oct 1921

    'M. Gustave Gagnon,' ibid, vol 4, Dec 1922

    Morin, Léo-Pol. 'Hommage à Gustave Gagnon,' La Lyre, 76, Dec 1930