Pierre Brault | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Pierre Brault

Pierre Florent Brault, musician, composer, arranger (born 3 August 1939 in Montreal, Quebec; died 14 January 2014 in Sherbrooke, Quebec). Winner of the Canadian Film Award for the soundtrack of La vraie nature de Bernadette, a movie directed by Gilles Carles in 1972, he also composed the music for the television show Passe-Partout which marked the Generation X.

Early work

After learning the basics of the accordion from an uncle, Pierre Florent Brault continued self-training and made his professional debut at age 18. In 1959-60, Brault was quickly discovered because he could read music. He was hired to accompany the chansonniers performing in a boîte à chansons in Chicoutimi, where he had settled. One night, composer Paul De Marjerie asked him to help transcribe arrangements for an orchestra partition and encouraged him to move to Montreal, which he did a few months later.

From 1957 to 1959, Pierre F. Brault worked in aviation in Bagotville and managed a moving firm in Chicoutimi. One day, he heard the song “Quand les hommes vivront d’amour” by Raymond Lévesque and realized that he could earn a living from his music, a choice few artists made at the time. In 1962, he composed the accompanying music for a play performed by Les Apprentis sorciers in a theatre seating approximately sixty spectators. One night, filmmaker Claude Jutra and singer-comedian Clémence Desrochers took notice of Brault. The producer asked him to compose the music for his film Rouli-roulant, and thus started his career as a film score composer.

Welcomed at the NFB

Afterward, Pierre F. Brault, who was looking for work, offered his talents to the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada. In his interview with Éléphant for a piece about the hundred years of film music, he recalled always leaving the NFB with a new contract in hand. Each movie offered an opportunity to hone his skills. For instance, he learned harp basics to compose a ten-minute piece for a motion picture.

Pierre F. Brault accompanied musicians like Robert Charlebois and Claude Gauthier, and composed for filmmakers such as Claude Jutra, Gilles Carles and Frédérick Back. In the 1970s, he visited Europe and discovered electroacoustic music, which would greatly influence his work. Over time, Pierre F. Brault developed his very own musical style.

Passe-Partout: the catalyst for his fame

On 28 April 1977, Pierre F Brault embarked on the most decisive project of his career: he signed a contract to compose music for 125 episodes of Passe-Partout. He received the song lyrics every second day and composed the music within ten minutes. He collaborated with this friend Michel Robidoux on the arrangements and recordings for the show’s musical segments.

In 2004, the band Les Cowboys fringants paid tribute to Pierre F. Brault at La Tulipe, a venue in Montreal. More than 600 members of the Passe-Partout generation gathered there to relive the magic of their childhood songs.

Requiem pro humanitate

In 2005, Pierre F. Brault composed an orchestral piece, bringing a 20-year-old dream to life. Directed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Orchestre Métropolitain performed Brault’s Requiem pro humanitate on the 40th anniversary of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. In this majestic piece inspired by Latin texts from the 13th century, the composer expressed his vision of the peril faced by humankind.

Pierre F. Brault produced 86 soundtracks for animated movies, short films and features. He died on 14 January 2014, leaving behind a rich and bold musical legacy.

Awards and recognition

Best Original Music Score Award (La vraie nature de Bernadette), Canadian Film Awards (1972)

Bestselling Album Award (Passe-Partout, Passe-Partout), ADISQ (1981)

Album of the Year (nomination) and Album of the Year – Children’s (Passe-Partout vol.3), Félix Award, ADISQ (1982)

Album of the Year – Children’s (Passe-Partout vol.4), Félix Award, ADISQ (1983)

Album of the Year– Children’s (Passe-Partout vol. 6, Noël de Pruneau et de Cannelle), Félix Award, ADISQ (1986)

Album of the Year – Children’s (nomination) (Passe-Partout vol.7), Félix Award, ADISQ (1987)

Further Reading