Émilien Allard, carillonneur, pianist, clarinetist, composer (born 12 June 1915 in Montréal, QC; died 18 November 1976 in Ottawa, ON). Émilien Allard was one of the most acclaimed carillonneurs in the world (see carillon). In 1958, he won the International Carillonneurs' Prize at Mechelen during the Brussels World Fair. He was the regular carillonneur at Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montréal from 1955 to 1975, when he was named the Dominion carillonneur of Canada and served at the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. Many of his compositions are still performed in Canada, Holland, Belgium, France and the US.
In his youth, Allard played the clarinet in a concert band in Grand-Mère, Québec. He later conducted the band and also worked as a church organist in the town. He studied piano and theory with J. Antonio Thompson and Father Joseph-Gers Turcotte at the Trois-Rivières seminary, and earned a lauréat diploma from the Université Laval. He then studied organ and harmony with Eugène Lapierre at the Conservatoire national de musique in Montréal, where he earned a licentiate diploma.
He served as a clarinetist in the Central Band of the RCAF in Rockcliffe, Ontario (1942–45), then went to the Beiaardschool in Mechelen, Belgium, where he studied bell ringing with Staf Nees and composition with Jef van Hoof (1946–48). He earned his carillonneur diploma at the Beiaardschool in 1948. He continued his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1949 with Eugène Bigot (conducting), Maurice Duruflé (orchestration) and Olivier Messiaen (aesthetics).
On his return to Canada in 1949, Allard went through a difficult time prior to his appointment in 1955 as the regular carillonneur at Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montréal — a position he held for 20 years. In 1958, he won the International Carillonneurs' Prize at Mechelen during the Brussels World Fair. From 1959 to 1976, he made annual tours in the United States. As carillonneur and organist, and with the organist Eugène Lapierre, Allard made the LP Carols at the Carillon of Saint Joseph's Oratory (RCA Victor LCP-1024), for which he also wrote the arrangements. He left Saint Joseph’s Oratory in 1975 to serve as carillonneur of the Peace Tower in Ottawa, a position he held until his death from cancer the following year.
Compositions and Performances
Allard composed some 50 works for carillon and made more than 700 transcriptions. His compositions include: Légende for orchestra and Poème bucolique for piano and orchestra, broadcast on CBC Radio in 1946; a Divertissement for clarinet and orchestra, performed in 1947 at a festival of Canadian music in Paris; a Sonata a quattro for oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, played at the 1960 Montréal Festivals; and a Sonata for carillon premiered in 1968 in Springfield, Illinois.
He also wrote a triptych for carillon based on three poems taken from Le Jardin de nuit by the Québec poet Jacques Brillant (pseudonym Jabry). The Howard Cable Band recorded his Marche du Maréchal and his Marche H.I.C., and Gordon Slater recorded his Notule No. 1 and Profil canadien no 2 for the LP Bells and Brass.
Honours and Legacy
Some of Allard’s works are still performed in Canada, Holland, Belgium, France and the US. In 1977, the carillonneur Jacques Lannoy paid tribute to Allard in an article in La Musique périodique, saying, “Couperin, Ravel, Olivier Messiaen... these three famous musicians, whose pupil and disciple he was, sum up and typify that French musical culture of which Émilien [Allard] possessed all the finesse, all the sensibility.” Gordon Slater, who succeeded Allard as Dominion carillonneur, said, “His carillon voice is unique and immediately recognizable just as Mozart is for the violin or the Dorseys for big band.” Allard’s papers are held at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.
Émilien Allard, "Le carillon et l'art campanaire," La Musique, vol. 2, ed. Norbert Dufourcq (Paris, 1965).