Joseph Allard

Joseph Allard, violoneux, composer (born 1 July 1873 in Woodlands [now Léry], QC; died 14 November 1947 near Montréal, QC).

Joseph Allard, violoneux, composer (born 1 July 1873 in Woodlands [now Léry], QC; died 14 November 1947 near Montréal, QC). The son of a violoneux, he began fiddling at nine. He moved to the USA at 16 and during the next 28 years won fiddling championships in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Returning to Canada c. 1917, he eventually settled in Ville St-Pierre, near Montréal. Allard won competitions in the Montréal area and appears to have placed second in a major contest held in Lewiston, Me, in 1926. Thereafter he enjoyed a growing reputation in eastern Canada and northeastern USA. He began recording for Victor's Bluebird label in 1928 and over the next 18 years made 75 78s. The most successful, according to the discographer Gabriel Labbé (in whose Pionniers du disque folklorique québécois Allard's recordings are listed), were Reel de l'Aveugle, Reel de Chateauguay, Reel de Jacques Cartier, and Reel du voyageur. Allard also made six 78s for Bluebird under the name Maxime Toupin in the late 1930s.

From an appraisal of Allard's recordings Labbé concluded: "This violoneux had developed a remarkable technique, influenced by both Irish and US music. He was known as 'the prince of violoneux' because he had a supple and light bowing stroke and inimitable finger dexterity." Allard's repertoire comprised many hundred folk melodies and about 60 of his own pieces. Jean Carignan, who studied with Allard 1927-31 in Montréal, became the leading exponent of this repertoire and of Allard's style, recording many of his pieces and in 1976 making the LP Jean Carignan rend hommage à Joseph Allard. Allard's music has also been played and recorded by many other French-Canadian folk instrumentalists, and his style has been learned by fiddlers elsewhere in Canada, among them Graham Townsend. Allard was the most important violoneux of the early 20th century and has attained legendary status. Yet the popularity of his recordings and the extent of his influence during his later years notwithstanding, he lived in relative obscurity, working for most of his life as a fisherman.


Further Reading

  • Labbé, Gabriel. "Joseph Allard," Folk-lore, vol 11, July-Aug 1992