1842-1891

December 28, 1842, Verchères, Montérégie, Quebec, Canada. Birth name: Calixte Paquet dit Lavallée.

January 21, 1891, Boston, Massachusetts.

Boston, Massachusetts; reinterred in 1933 in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery, Montréal, Canada.

portrait

Calixa was the son of Augustin Lavallée and Charlotte-Caroline Valentine. His father was originally a wood cutter and blacksmith, but eventually started repairing musical instruments and teaching music in his local community. After moving to St. Hyacinthe, Calixa’s father worked for organ builder Joseph Casavant. Calixa was playing the organ by age 11, and at age 13 gave a piano recital in the Théâtre Royal in Montréal.

In 1857, Lavallée moved to America and lived in Rhode Island. He toured the world as a musician and accompanist to Spanish violinist Olivera, including visits to Brazil and Mexico. After returning to America, he enlisted in the 4th Rhode Island Volunteers as a cornet player during the American civil war. He reached the rank of lieutenant, and was wounded in battle. During and after the war, he traveled between Canada and the United States building his career in music.

In the 1860s, Lavallée lived briefly in Montreal, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City, but spent most of his time travelling with minstrel shows. He was also a pianist, organist and music teacher.

The Congrès National des Canadiens-Français commissioned Lavallée to compose O Canada for St. Jean-Baptiste Day in 1880. In 1887, he became president of the Music Teachers’ National Association.

Lavallée is remembered for writing operettas, a symphony, and various occasional pieces and songs. During the later years of his life, Lavallée was choirmaster at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts.

  1. O Canada