Létourneau, Omer

(Joseph Hercule) Omer Létourneau. Organist, pianist, composer, music dealer, publisher, teacher, b Quebec City 13 Mar 1891, d there 14 Aug 1983. His precocious taste for music was encouraged by his father. At 11 he was able to substitute for the school's music teacher for a whole term. In 1904 he began lessons in piano and organ with J.-Arthur Bernier. In August 1907 he became organist at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes Chapel, while continuing his studies and working in a commercial establishment. In 1912 he graduated from the AMQ and in 1912 he won the Prix d'Europe for organ.

In 1913 Létourneau settled in Paris and began studying organ with Louis Vierne and harmony and composition with Félix Fourdrain. The war put an abrupt end to his stay, and he returned to Quebec City in 1914. The following year he was appointed organist at St-Sauveur Church, succeeding his former teacher J.-Arthur Bernier. Early in 1919 he founded the monthly journal La Musique and managed it with Hector Faber. In November he returned to Europe to claim the second year to which the Prix d'Europe entitled him. He enrolled in the organ class of Abel Decaux at the Schola Cantorum in Paris and took courses in Gregorian chant with Amédée Gastoué, improvisation with Lejealle, and choir conducting with Marc de Ranse.

In June 1920 Létourneau returned to Quebec City, where he resumed his work as organist of St-Sauveur and editor of La Musique. He was active as a pianist, performing in recital with Arthur LeBlanc, Paul Dufault, Théodore Botrel, and, above all, with the violinist Edwin Bélanger, who later was to become his son-in-law and his partner in a series of some 125 sonata performances over the radio station CHRC in 1935.

During this time (1925-34) Létourneau taught privately and at Laval University and gave courses at the Académie commerciale de Québec and at the Ursuline convents in Trois-Rivières and Rimouski. He was president of the AMQ 1935-8. In 1934 he acquired Gauvin & Courchesne, a music firm which he had helped found. As the Procure générale de musique it became a publishing establishment and chief music store of the period - supplying all the institutions and professional musicians of Quebec City and surrounding regions.

Létourneau's considerable output as a composer includes three operettas - Vive la canadienne (1924), Coup d'soleil (1930), and Mam'zelle Bébé (1933) - all of which were presented successfully at the Palais Montcalm and performed elsewhere in the province; a cantata, Dieu te garde, mon Canada (Procure générale 1934); seven masses; some songs (sung by Paul Dufault and Rodolphe Plamondon among others); hymns for solo or chorus; and folksong arrangements. His instrumental works, fewer in number, consist of pieces for piano, violin, and organ, mostly published by Procure générale.

In addition Létourneau wrote theoretical works including École de dictée musicale (in 2 vols, Quebec 1943?), Théorie de la musique (Quebec 1943), and Questionnaire de la théorie musicale (Quebec 1943?). His archives are held at the ANQ in Quebec City.

Létourneau's wife's sister, the pianist Clotilde Coulombe, b Quebec City 4 Apr 1892, d St-Michel, near Quebec City, 13 May 1985, studied with J.-Arthur Bernier and was the first recipient of the Prix d'Europe in 1911. She studied in Paris with Alfred Cortot and Alfredo Casella (piano), Félix Fourdrain (harmony), Lucien Berton (voice), and Camille Chevillard (ensemble). For a year after her return she was active as teacher and concert pianist, but she ended her career to enter a religious order. Returning later to secular life for reasons of health, she subsequently married Dr Edmond Ouellette.

See also Paul Létourneau, Jean Létourneau, and Claude Létourneau (his sons).