Claude Champagne | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Claude Champagne

Education and TrainingChampagne began piano and theory at 10 with Orpha-F. Deveaux and continued with Romain-Octave Pelletier. At 14 he studied the violin with Albert Chamberland, and this became his favourite instrument.
Champagne, Claude
Composer Claude Champagne in 1929 (photo by Albert Dumas, courtesy Library and Archives Canada).

Champagne, Claude

 Claude (b Joseph Arthur Adonaï) Champagne. Composer, educator, b Montreal 27 May 1891, d there 21 Dec 1965; Diploma (Dominion College of Music) 1908, Diploma (Conservatoire national of Montreal) 1909, honorary D MUS (Montreal) 1946. Little is known about Champagne's early life, except that his family nurtured the growth of his musical talents. His father, born Desparois dit Champagne and descended from a Parisian family, encouraged him to participate in various musical activities. Champagne's mother was Irish and is said to have taught him hymns. His grandfather, a fiddler well known in the Repentigny region, exercised an influence on his aural development, as is seen later in his appreciation of the modal sounds of Canadian folk music.


Education and Training
Champagne began piano and theory at 10 with Orpha-F. Deveaux and continued with Romain-Octave Pelletier. At 14 he studied the violin with Albert Chamberland, and this became his favourite instrument. He earned his diplomas from private institutions: the Dominion College of Music (theory and piano, 1908) and the Conservatoire national of Montreal (piano, 1909) where the teaching, he later said, left something to be desired (letter to Doctor Grondin, director of the Maison des étudiants canadiens in Paris, 17 Feb 1928). Between 1910 and 1921 he taught piano, violin, and other instruments at the Varennes and Longueuil colleges; extended his knowledge of instruments (particularly the viola and the saxophone) through his participation in the Canadian Grenadier Guards Band directed by J.-J. Gagnier; gave private lessons in theory and harmony; became the accompanist of choirs such as that of the Maisonneuve district; and played violin during intermissions at the National, a variety theatre.

Early Compositions in Paris
At the age of 23 Champagne wrote Ballade des lutins (1914) for the Grenadier Guards and background music for Ils sont un peuple sans histoire (1917), a 'historical scene' by Brother Marie-Victorin performed at Varennes College and later in Montreal (1918). A meeting with Alfred La Liberté, arranged by Rodolphe Mathieu, was a turning point for Champagne as a composer. The rough manuscript of Hercule et Omphale (1918) moved La Liberté, who saw in it the evidence of a major talent for composition, to find the funds necessary to underwrite Champagne's studies in Paris 1921-8.

Champagne went first to Brussels, with the intention of studying with the composer Paul Gilson. The latter, however, persuaded him to look in Paris for an atmosphere more conducive to the full development of his talent. He acquired the essentials of his craft there. At the Paris Conservatory he studied counterpoint and fugue first with André Gédalge, then with his successor, Charles Koechlin, and composition and orchestration with Raoul Laparra. The influence of these teachers and the advice of Paul Dukas, among others, account for the definitely French flavour of Champagne's writing. He continued violin studies with Jules Conus. At the Schola cantorum - where he met Vincent d'Indy - he joined the choir and, on occasion, coached the vocal trio. He exercised his talents as an accompanist at the Babaian Concerts. In between these numerous activities he enjoyed moments of leisure at the Café Dreher, filling numerous notebooks with musical ideas, and he also did cataloguing work for the Paris office of the Public Archives of Canada.

Hercule et Omphale was performed in Paris 31 Mar 1926 by the symphony orchestra of the Artistes du Conservatoire conducted by Juan Manen, and the Suite canadienne 20 Oct 1928 by the Concerts Pasdeloup orchestra directed by Rhené-Baton at the Champs-Élysées Theatre, also in Paris. (The Suite won an E.W. Beatty Prize - $1000 - in the 1928 CPR Festivals, and Champagne himself conducted the Montreal Orchestra in its Canadian premiere 5 Mar 1933.)

Champagne returned to Montreal in December 1928 with his wife, Jeanne Marchal of Liège, whom he had married in 1922 in Paris. In Montreal the musical needs of the community had become greater with regard to organization, administration, and particularly in teaching. Champagne, nearing 40, therefore found it necessary to divide his time between teaching, administration, and composition. In the economically unstable period 1930-7 he undertook the most diverse tasks, among them appointments at new schools of music where women's religious orders offered more structured musical training. Such schools included École Vincent-d'Indy (the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, École normale de musique (the Congregation of Notre-Dame), and École supérieure de musique de Lachine (the Sisters of St Anne). He also taught harmony and composition 1932-41 at McGill University and worked 1934-42 for the Catholic School Commission of Montreal, first as supervisor and later as director of musical instruction, training primary school teachers and editing five solfège teaching manuals.

In 1942 Champagne left the commission to become assistant director of the new Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal (CMM), of which he had been a major proponent. His duties included those of director of studies and curriculum planning. Champagne played an important part in the development of many composers - students at the CMM and McGill who benefited as much from their informal apprenticeships with him as from the formal classes. Among those who worked under his direction were Violet Archer, Jocelyne Binet, François Brassard, Maurice Dela, Marvin Duchow, Richard Eaton, Serge Garant, Rhené Jaque, Roger Matton, Pierre Mercure, François Morel, Clermont Pépin, Gilles Tremblay, Robert Turner, and Jean Vallerand. Champagne came to be recognized as an influential and respected musician, involved in a variety of activities in addition to his composition and teaching. He served as chief editor for BMI Canada for Canadian works 1949-65, as an adjudicator or juror for many competitions, and as a Canadian representative at international conferences (eg, in 1946 the Conservatory of Rio de Janeiro invited him to give a series of lectures, and during his stay he conducted the Brazil Symphony Orchestra in his Symphonie gaspésienne; in 1948 he represented Canada at the International Conference of Folk Music in Basel, Switzerland). Naturally these numerous tasks lessened his musical production. Between the Symphonie gaspésienne (1945) and Altitude (1959) only three or four important works appeared.

In 1964 a 'Claude Champagne Year' was celebrated, dedicated partly to Champagne the composer and even more to Champagne the servant of music, concerned about the development of the art in a young country and willing to do his utmost to meet the requirements of that development. As part of the celebration, the National Film Board of Canada produced "Bonsoir Claude Champagne" and CBC TV presented "Hommage à Claude Champagne." That year also saw the inauguration of the Salle Claude-Champagne at the École Vincent-d'Indy.

Compositional Style

Champagne's art cannot be understood entirely without considering the cultural context of his environment and his era. He worked and matured in a Quebec environment that affirmed its adherence to French civilization, deferring to France as the final arbiter of thought, and in a musical era in which a reconsideration of folk music and indigenous popular art appeared to be the only means of investing the arts of modern Canada with a really homegrown flavour. France influenced the apprenticeship of musicians (the early years of the 20th century were particularly favourable for studies in France) through the efforts of French composers and scholars to revitalize outworn themes and harmonies by a return to modality. (Solesmes reform, Niedermeyer school). Champagne entered this stream naturally. Clarity, order, discipline, all the traditional earmarks of French art are reflected in his musical language. No one knew better than Léo-Pol Morin how to describe the charm and subtlety of this music: 'A refined art, extremely civilized, with rounded corners, which seeks a beautiful outline, beautiful forms, precision and conciseness. No waste, no rough edges, no hesitancy ever interferes with the style of this musician, one of the best informed and most balanced of his generation' (Papiers de musique).

Champagne was not affected by constraints. He intuitively defined the impressions that he perceived around him. Further, although he may not have felt the need to abandon his music's continuing over-reliance on 19th-century procedures, he developed it with true mastery. The inspiration that he drew from folk music did not lead him to forge a specific idiom in the sense that Bartók did. When he borrowed themes from folk music, they were used unaltered. Occasionally, in the Suite canadienne for example, an interesting curtailment of the phrasing puts into relief a countermelody introduced with care and seeming naturalness.

His instrumentation is classical and creates a transparency that closely unites the medium to the content. His harmony is assimilated naturally into the lyricism of the melody and becomes songlike itself, in the sense of Franck, Fauré, and even Debussy. The Symphonie gaspésienne is a long symphonic poem that, in 1945, attested to Champagne's fondness for a kind of melody not infinitely prolonged as in Debussy but unceasingly renewed as in Schumann. Over harmonies of superimposed fifths, the shape of the phrase links one cadence to the next, in major and natural-minor tonalities (with frequent use also of the Dorian and Aeolian modes), creating fleeting impressions on pillars of sound, which like the long-held notes of a medieval cantus firmus lend the whole a calm serenity.

The String Quartet, a terse work of an admirable polyphonic texture with bold discords, is a remarkable example of synthesis and at the same time a foretaste of a new departure in Champagne's writing, surprising at this ripe stage of his career. Altitude, an extended fresco in sound and the composer's last major work, stands at the threshold of a new acoustic world, a vast and promising horizon that Champagne's style seems ready to move towards as it attains a renewed maturity. Claude Champagne's works epitomized for a time the musical and artistic aspirations of French-speaking Canadians.

Additional Awards and Honours

Champagne was honorary president of the Canadian Arts Council (later Canadian Arts Council) and, in this capacity, a member of the International Music Council of UNESCO. He became an honorary member of the Canadian League of Composers in 1956. In 1963 he was awarded the Canada Council Medal. The city of Outremont gave his name to the avenue adjacent to the École Vincent-d'Indy. Large portions of his personal documents and manuscripts are held at Library and Archives Canada and at the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec. His collection of books and scores is held at the University of Montreal music library. Volume 30 of RCI's Anthology of Canadian Music, issued in 1988, is dedicated to Champagne (4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30). The Canadian Music Centre granted granted him its associate status, posthumously. In 1991 several activities commemorating the 100th anniversary of his birth took place; in particular, an exhibition at Library and Archives Canada. A plaque honouring Champagne was unveiled by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada 18 Nov 1994.


Hercule et Omphale. 1918 (Paris 1926). Full orchestra. Berandol Music Ltd (rental). 2-Gouvernement du Québec EOQ-19809/4 -Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Orchestre du Conservatoire de musique du Québec)

Berceuse. 1933. Small orchestra. Berandol Music Ltd (rental)

Évocation. 1943. Small orchestra. Manuscript

Symphonie gaspésienne. 1944 titled Gaspésia, revised Montreal 1947). Full orchestra. BMI Canada Ltd 1956. Radio Canada International 216/RCA CCS-1010/4- Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (J.-M. Beaudet)

Concerto in D Minor. 1948 (Montreal 1950). Pf, orchestra. Berandol Music Ltd (rental). Radio Canada International 17/4- Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Chotem)/Naxos 8.550171-2 1996

Paysanna. 1953. Small orchestra. Berandol Music Ltd 1979. Radio Canada International 90 (R. Leduc)/CBC SM-214/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (CBC Vancouver Orchestra)


Claude Champagne, Initiation pratique au solfège (Montreal 1938)

Solfège pratique (Montreal 1939)

Solfège scolaire (Montreal 1940)

Solfège pédagogique (Montreal 1948)

Solfèges manuscrits à changements de clefs: 44 lecons pour voix moyennes, vol 1 (Montreal 1958)

'Lecons à Radio-Collège,' manuscript


Please refer to List of Compositions for corresponding discographical information

Several of Champagne's harmonizations of folksongs are included on the LP Folklore du Québec by the Petit Ensemble vocal of the École normale de musique, conducted by Champagne


Duchow, Marvin. 'An auxiliary collection of books and scores in the library of Claude Champagne,'manuscript 1972, University of Montreal library

- 'Claude Champagne: inventory of his manuscripts and other documents,' manuscript 1972, Library and Archives Canada

- 'Inventory list of the compositions of Claude Champagne,' Canadian Association of University Schools of Music Journal, vol 2, Autumn 1972

- 'Detailed inventory of the Claude Champagne archive,' manuscript 1973, Library and Archives Canada

- 'A selective list of correspondents drawn from the personal documents of Claude Champagne,' Canadian Association of University Schools of Music Journal, vol 3, Autumn 1973

- 'Melodies from André Gédalge's L'Enseignement de la musique par l'éducation méthodique de l'oreille in the undated Claude Champagne workbook: an index and thematic catalogue,' manuscript 1974, Library and Archives Canada

- 'Some early Champagne documents in the National Library collection,' paper, Canadian Association of University Schools of Music meeting, University of Toronto, 3 Jun 1974

- 'A summary account and partial inventory of the Claude Champagne collection,' Canadian Association of University Schools of Music Journal, vol 4, Autumn 1974

- 'A summary account and partial inventory of the Claude Champagne collection - section IV: recorded materials,' Canadian Association of University Schools of Music Journal, vol 5, Spring 1975

- 'Thematic index of Claude Champagne's pedagogical material,' card file 1977, Library and Archives Canada

Nevins, Maureen. 'Répertoire numérique détaillé du Fonds Claude-Champagne (1972-11),' manuscript 1991, Library and Archives Canada

Chorus and Orchestra

Suite canadienne. 1927. SATB, small orchestra. Durand 1929 (voice, piano). Radio Canada International: Canadian album No. 1/RCA DM-1229/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Cantoria)

Images du Canada francais. 1943 (Montreal 1947). SATB, full orchestra. Berandol Music Ltd (rental). Radio Canada International 152/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (R. Leduc)

Altitude. 1959 (Toronto 1960). SATB, full orchestra. BMI Canada Ltd 1961. Radio Canada International 179/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (CBC Symphony Orchestra)


Danse villageoise, 4 versions: 1/1929. Vn, piano. Fassio 1949. Berandol Music Ltd (rental). Acadia 300CB (LeBlanc)/Radio Canada International 612/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Dubeau)/Analekta ANC 2 8710 1995/Musica Viva MVCD 1060. 2/Circa 1936. String quartet. 3/no date. String orchestra, harp, piano. BMI Canada Ltd 1961. Radio Canada International 6 (J.-M. Beaudet)/Canadian Talent Library CTLS-5030 (Hart House Orchestra). 4/After 1954. Orchestra. Berandol Music Ltd 1974. Dominion S-1372/Dominion CPS-21-24/Citadel CT-6011 (Feldbrill). Version for harmonica, piano arranged and recorded by Claude Garden, with Gresko, piano (Radio Canada International 443)

Habanera. 1929. Vn, piano. Manuscript. CBC Expo-12 (Haendel)/Radio Canada International 612/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Dubeau)/Carleton Sound CD-1009

String Quartet. 1954 (Montreal 1954). Berandol Music Ltd 1974. Radio Canada International 143/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Montreal String Quartet)

Suite miniature, 2 versions: 1/1958. Fl (violin), violoncello (voice da gamba), harpsichord (piano). Manuscript. 4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Saint-Cyr). 2/Titled Concertino grosso. 1963. Str quintet. Manuscript

8 (early) works of his youth (waltzes, incidental music, etc) for instrumental ensemble

Several untitled educational pieces for violin


Prélude et Filigrane. 1918. Pf. BMI Canada Ltd 1960, The Canadian Musical Heritage, vol 6. Radio Canada International 397/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Holtzman)

Quadrilha brasileira. 1942. Pf. BMI Canada Ltd 1951. Radio Canada International 252/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (J. Dufresne)/Radio Canada International 397 (Holtzman)/CBC Records MVCD 1065 (Tryon)

Tocane pour un clown. 1962. Pf. Manuscript

Prière 'à la mémoire d'Henri Gagnon'. 1963. Org. Manuscript. Radio Canada International 254/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Mérineau)

Educational pieces for piano, including Practical Sight Reading Exercises for Piano Students/Exercises pratiques de lecture à vue, compiled by Berlin, published by Gordon V. Thompson Ltd, and Petit Scherzo recorded by Holtzman


Arrangements of folksongs
'À St-Malo'. TTBB. Orphéon 1939

'C'est la belle Françoise'/'Lovely Frances' (translated by A.B. England). SSAA or TTBB. Waterloo Music Co 1960

'Dans Paris'/'In Paris' (translation by A.B. England). V, piano. Frederick Harris Music Co Ltd 1961

'En roulant ma boule'. SATB. Manuscript

'Gai lon là, gai le rosier'. SSAA or TTBB. Orphéon 1939

'Isabeau s'y promène'/'Isabel Went Walking' (translated by A.B. England). SSAA or TTBB. Waterloo Music Co 1960

'Le Nez de Martin' (translation by A.B. England). SS or AA, guitar (harp or piano). Waterloo Music Co 1962

'Marianne s'en va-t-au moulin'/'Marianne Went to the Mill' (translation by A.B. England). V, piano. Frederick Harris Music Co Ltd 1959

'Noël Huron'. SATB, small orch. Manuscript

'Petit Jean' (translation by A.B. England). V, piano. Frederick Harris Music Co Ltd 1959

'The Rosebush' (translation by A.B. England of 'Gai lon là, gai le rosier'). SSAA or TTBB. Waterloo Music Co 1960

'Une perdriole'. SATB. Manuscript

'V'là l'bon vent'/'Fair Wind' (translated by A.B. England). SSAA or TTBB. Waterloo Music Co 1960

'Voici le temps et la saison'/'This Is Time and Season' (translation by A.B. England). SS or SA, guitar (harp or piano). Waterloo Music Co 1962

19 unpublished arrangements of folksongs

Other works
'Ave Maria'. 1924. TBB. BMIC 1954. Radio Canada International 206/4-Anthology of Canadian Music 30 (Montreal Bach Choir)

'Easter' (translation by A.B. England). V, piano. Peer 1966

'La Laurentienne' (A. Plouffe). V, piano. Archambault 1938

Missa brevis. 1951. 3 voices, organ. BMI Canada Ltd 1954

'Scoutisme' (A. Plouffe). V, piano. Archambault

'For the Christ Child'; 'Frost in the Air'; 'Thanksgiving' (A.B. England). V, piano. Peer 1966

6 unpublished works for soloist or choir; 8 educational pieces, 5 of which were published by Archambault

Also 5 instrumental works listed in catalogues but unlocated


Pilote, Gilles. 'L'enseignement du solfège dans les écoles élémentaires de la CECM: Claude Champagne et ses contributions,' MMA thesis, McGill University 1970

Provost, Marie-Paule. 'Claude Champagne, l'un des nötres,' L MUS thesis, University of Montreal 1970

Bail-Milot, Louise. 'L'oeuvre et les procédés de composition chez Claude Champagne,' M MUS thesis, University of Paris, Sorbonne 1972

Walsh, Anne. 'The life and works of Claude Adonai Champagne,' PH D thesis, Catholic Catholic University of America 1972


Morin, Léo-Pol. 'Le retour de M. Claude Champagne,' La Lyre, vol 6, Jan 1929

'Notre portrait, Claude Champagne,' La Lyre, vol 8, Aug-Sep 1930

Morin, Léo-Pol. 'Claude Champagne,' Papiers de musique (Montreal 1930)

'Claude Champagne,' Musique (Montreal 1955)

Colpoys, Andrew. 'Claude Champagne, a distinguished Canadian composer,' Canadian Review of Music and Art, vol 5, Dec-Jan 1946-7

Brassard, François. 'Une date pour la musique canadienne,' Revue de l'Université Laval, Apr 1951

Tour Fondue, Geneviève de la. 'Claude Champagne,' Interviews canadiennes (Montreal 1952)

Bisbrouck, Noël. 'Portrait de compositeur canadien, Claude Champagne,' Journal des Jeunesses musicales du Canada, Nov 1954

Archer, Thomas. 'Claude Champagne,' The Canadian Music Journal, vol 2, Winter 1958

Desautels, Andrée. 'Claude Champagne, maitre d'oeuvres,' Journal des Jeunesses musicales du Canada, Apr 1963

'Hommage à Claude Champagne,' Journal des Jeunesses musicales du Canada, Jan 1965

Duchow, Marvin. 'Claude Champagne,' The Music Scene, 243, Sep-Oct 1968

'Composer's widow collecting manuscripts,' The Music Scene, 265, May-Jun 1972

Canadian Music Centre. Compositeurs au Québec: Claude Champagne (Montreal 1979)

Emond, Vivianne. 'Trois oeuvres dites canadiennes,' Les Cahiers de l'ARMuQ [Association pour l'avancement de la recherche en musique du Québec], vol 4, Nov 1984

Plamondon, Christiane, and Bail-Milot, Louise. 'Claude Champagne et le paysage idéologique québécois de l'entre-deux-guerres,' Canadian Music in the 1930s and 1940s, ed Beverley Diamond, CanMus Handbooks 2 (Kingston, Ont 1987)

Library and Archives Canada. Claude Champagne (1891-1965): composer, teacher, musician, exhibition catalogue (Ottawa 1990)

Nevins, Maureen. 'Claude Champagne (1891-1965). Compositeur-pédagogue-musicien,' Association for Canadian Studies NewsletterNewsletter, vol 12, Autumn 1990

Barriault, Jeannine and Nevins, Maureen. 'Hommage à Claude Champagne: le traitement de son fonds d'archives et la préparation d'une exposition,' Cahiers de l'ARMuQ [Association pour l'avancement de la recherche en musique du Québec], 13, May 1991

Laurier, Andrée. 'A Champagne centenary,' The Canadian Composer, vol 2, Summer 1991

MacMillan, Keith, and John Beckwith, eds. Contemporary Canadian Composers (Toronto 1975)

Vinton, John, ed. Dictionary of Contemporary Music (New York 1974)