Quebec Studies

The Organ and its Music in New France

Quebec Studies (1985), 3, (1), 126–137.


The Organ and its Music in New France Elisabeth Gallat-Morin [The following article is based on the commentary which accompanied the concert of organ music of New France, presented at the October 1984 conference of the Northeast Council for Québec Studies at the University of Massachusetts. The individual selections, played by organist Antoine Bouchard of Laval University, are indicated in the text. ] The music included in this concert was most probably played in the parish church of Notre-Dame de Montréal, in the early eighteenth century, by a young organist freshly arrived from France. It thus reflects musical practice in New France, as well as conveying a general idea of the evolution of French organ music in the period referred to as Le Grand Siècle. The Suite du 5 ton is from the first organ book of Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers published in 1665 (the same year as the first edition of the Maximes of La Rochefoucauld). Nivers was one of Louis XIV's four chapel organists and the king entrusted him with the task of completely revising and standardizing the plainchant sung in the churches. One of the foremost organists and teachers in Paris at the time, his theoretical works were widely known. As a composer, he is one of the many French composers to seek inspiration in dance rhythms and secular vocal forms, a trend extending into the eighteenth century, although his first organ book does retain some of the flavor of the more austere contrapuntal style inherited from Titelouze. A copy of this work was brought to Montréal in 1724 by Jean Girard, a Sulpician cleric, who was schoolmaster and organist there for 40 years. He received his musical training in the "maîtrise" or choir school of the Sainte-Chapelle of Bourges, in central France; we may well consider him to be Montreal's first professional musician. He also brought with e 1 2 3

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Author details

Gallat-Morin, Elisabeth