Hector Gratton

(Joseph Thomas) Hector Gratton. Composer, conductor, arranger, pianist, teacher, b Hull, Que, 13 Aug 1900, d Montreal 16 Jul 1970. He studied piano in Montreal with Alphonse Martin and Alfred La Liberté. The latter introduced him to the works and aesthetics of Scriabin and Medtner.

Gratton, Hector

(Joseph Thomas) Hector Gratton. Composer, conductor, arranger, pianist, teacher, b Hull, Que, 13 Aug 1900, d Montreal 16 Jul 1970. He studied piano in Montreal with Alphonse Martin and Alfred La Liberté. The latter introduced him to the works and aesthetics of Scriabin and Medtner. Gratton then studied theory with Oscar O'Brien, Alfred Whitehead, and Albertine Morin-Labrecque. Around 1920 O'Brien harmonized folk songs for the folksinger Charles Marchand (whom he also accompanied on tours). Gratton, who was enthusiastic about these songs, was employed by Marchand as pianist and arranger, particularly 1927-30 in Quebec City during the Canadian Folk Song and Handicrafts festivals (CPR Festivals). His first two vigorous Danses canadiennes, in which echoes of the violoneux can be heard, were composed at this time. During the difficult years of the Depression, national radio was established, and Gratton was one of its pioneers as far as music was concerned. He worked on one of the first major radio series, 'Je me souviens,' which featured scripts by a young writer, Félix Leclerc. Gratton composed and conducted the incidental music, which contributed greatly to the series' success. In 1937 his symphonic poem Légende won the Jean Lallemand prize in the second annual CSM composition competition. For the purposes of the competition Gratton used a pseudonym, and Légende by 'Ben Marcato' was performed 19 March for jury and public and was repeated 23 April at a subscription concert conducted by Wilfrid Pelletier and at a TSO concert the next year under Sir Ernest MacMillan. Also notable among Gratton's works is the incidental music for Cécile Chabot's Christmas story L'Imagerie, heard in 1945 on CBC radio. In his compositions Gratton kept faith with his basic material, which was essentially folkloric and popular. For this reason he avoided harmonic sophistication. His orchestrations, at once simple and subtle, contributed substantially to the charm of his works. Most of his manuscripts have been deposited at the National Library of Canada. The Canadian Music Centre has granted him associate status posthumously.

Selected Compositions

Stage
4 ballets: Les Feux follets (1952); La Légende de l'arbre sec; Le Pommier; Marie Madeleine. All manuscript

L'Imagerie 'Pastorale de Noël,' radio play (C. Chabot). 1945. Ms. CBC SMCD-5109 (L Lavigueur)

Orchestra

Légende. 1937. Ber (rental). CBC SMCD-5090 (O métropolitain)

Coucher de soleil. 1947. Str orch, piano. Ms. RCI 6 (J.-M. Beaudet)

Fantasia on Two French Canadian Folk Songs (1950); Fantasia sur 'V'là l'bon vent' (1952); Variations libres sur 'Isabeau s'y promène' (1954). All manuscript

Dansons le Carcaillou. 1952. Ms

3 works (in manuscript) for voice and orch on texts by Marcel Gagnon; several other works for orch, including folksong arr (most manuscript)

Chamber

Première Danse canadienne. 1927. Vn, piano. FH 1930

Deuxième Danse canadienne. 1928. Vn, piano or string. FH 1930. CBC Musica Viva MVCD-1043 (Tsutsumi)

Réminiscence. 1928. Vn, piano. FH 1930

Troisième Danse canadienne. Ca 1930. Vn, piano or orch. Ms

Quatrième Danse canadienne. 1935. Vn, piano or string. BMIC 1952 (violin, piano). RCI 136 (LeBlanc)/CBC Musica Viva MVCD-1043 (Tsutsumi)/(arr string) RCI 186 (Deslauriers)

Chanson écossaise. 1940. Vn, piano. BMIC 1957

Other works, including a Sonata for violin, piano

Piano

La Joie de vivre. Ca 1940. P-T, Sep 1945

Tendresse. Ca 1940. P-T, May 1946

Crépuscule. 1952. BMIC 1956. RCI 132 (R. Pratt)

Conte. 1954. BMIC 1958

Also 4 choral works, 2 works for voice and piano, 1 arr of 'O Canada,' and many arr of Canadian folksongs, 15 of which have been recorded (1960, RCI 163)


Further Reading

  • 'Hector Gratton, eminent Canadian composer,' CRMA, vol 1, Jan 1943

    'Hector Gratton,' P-T, 890, Sep 1945