Composer of O Canada
Born: 28 December 1842 in Verchères, Quebec
Died: 21 January 1891 in Boston, Massachusetts
Calixa Lavallée was a Quebec composer, pianist, organist, and teacher. His reputation as "Canada's national composer" led the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, to ask him to compose the music to go with a poem written by Adolphe-Basile Routhier. "O Canada" was first performed on 24 June 1880 at a banquet in Quebec City.
Lavallée was the son of a blacksmith, instrument repairer, and bandleader. He gave his first public performance in a cathedral at the age of eleven and two years later, gave a piano recital in a theatre in Montreal. He left Canada for the United States at a young age and found a job as the accompanist to the well-known Spanish violinist Olivera. While in the US, Lavallée taught music, gave concerts, and composed an opera.
In 1872, he returned to Montreal and set up a studio with Jehin Prume and Rositadel Vecchio. Lavallée continued to compose and organize concerts and, in 1887, he was elected president of the Music Teachers' National Association. He attempted to establish a conservatory of music in Canada but the government was not interested in the idea.
Calixa Lavallée died of tubercular laryngitis in 1891 and was buried in Boston. On 13 July 1933, his body was brought back to Canada and now rests in a Montreal cemetery.
Lavallée spent some time in the US army, fighting for the North in the American Civil War.
Kearney, Mark, and Randy Ray. The Great Canadian Trivia Book. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1996.
Added 21 April 2002.