Lazare-Arsène Barbarin

Lazare-Arsène Barbarin. Choirmaster, teacher, b Marseilles 6 Nov 1812, d there 14 Mar 1875; LL L (Faculté d'Aix-en-Provence) 1833. He was a member of the illustrious Italian family Barberini and descended from the family of Pope Urban VIII.

Barbarin, Lazare-Arsène

Lazare-Arsène Barbarin. Choirmaster, teacher, b Marseilles 6 Nov 1812, d there 14 Mar 1875; LL L (Faculté d'Aix-en-Provence) 1833. He was a member of the illustrious Italian family Barberini and descended from the family of Pope Urban VIII. In 1838 he studied theology at the St-Sulpice seminary in Paris, and in 1841 he was ordained priest. He arrived in Montreal 24 Jun 1842 and soon was teaching senior courses in rhetoric and philosophy at the Collège de Montréal. Later he taught Holy Scripture at the Grand séminaire. He called upon the 11-year-old Calixa Lavallée to accompany funeral services and predicted a brilliant future for the young musician. Barbarin served 1854-61, and 1866-74 as the first official choirmaster of Notre-Dame Church in Montreal and filled the same function at St-Joseph Church. He adapted liturgical texts to such works as Rossini's Moses in Egypt and Félicien David's Le Désert. and with J.-J. Perrault, he collaborated on a four-part harmonization of the plainsong Messe des morts.

While not himself an accomplished musician, Barbarin commanded attention through his strong personality; he was known familiarly as Messire Barbarin. After praising his knowledge of literature and his prodigious memory Auguste Achintre wrote in L'Opinion publique: 'Remembering the choirmaster, we marvel afresh at the keen intellect, the astonishing cerebral facility, which could make sport of the difficulties of art. Composition, harmony, fugue, sacred song and secular song, he was familiar with them all; and also with instruments, and the works of the masters' (15 Apr 1875). In the autumn of 1874, Barbarin returned to his native city.


Further Reading

  • 'Feu Messire Barbarin,' Canada musical, vol 2, 1 Jun 1875

    Blanchet, L.J.N. Une Vie illustrée de Calixa Lavallée (Montreal 1951)