Jean-Josaphat Gagnier | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jean-Josaphat Gagnier

J.-J. (Jean-Josaphat) Gagnier. Conductor, composer, clarinetist, bassoonist, pianist, administrator, teacher, b Montreal 2 Dec 1885, d there 16 Sep 1949; D MUS (Montreal) 1934.

J.-J. (Jean-Josaphat) Gagnier. Conductor, composer, clarinetist, bassoonist, pianist, administrator, teacher, b Montreal 2 Dec 1885, d there 16 Sep 1949; D MUS (Montreal) 1934. He studied clarinet with his father, Joseph, and then with Jacques Vanpoucke, Louis van Loocke, Léon Medaer, and Oscar Arnold, and bassoon with Émile Barbot and Carl Westermeier. He took lessons in piano with Alexis Contant and Romain-Octave Pelletier and theory with Romain Pelletier, Contant, Charles Tanguy, and Orpha Deveaux. At 14 he played in theatres and at Sohmer Park. At 18 he was conducting bands and choirs, and not much later he was a bassoonist in the Goulet MSO. In 1910 he organized and directed the Montreal Concert Band (also called the Concordia). Impressed by his work at the Montreal Opera Company, F.S. Meighen in 1913 placed him in charge of the Canadian Grenadier Guards Band, a position (with the rank of captain) that he held until 1947. He was music director of the Sohmer Park Concert Band 1917-19, and his reputation as a conductor went beyond the Canadian border; he frequently visited the USA to conduct, for instance, the famous Goldman Band. In 1921 he conducted operas at the St-Denis and Français theatres. He founded, and directed 1920-31, the Montreal Little Symphony Orchestra and in December 1927 reorganized the MSO, which he kept going after a fashion until 1929. He taught 1925-30 at Mont-St-Louis College and the Collège de Montréal and also gave lessons at the Conservatoire national, the McGill Conservatory, and the Dominion College of Music. He was interested in radio, and in 1931 he conducted 26 concerts of the Canadian Grenadier Guards Band which were relayed to the USA by the CBS. In 1934 he joined the CRBC and became regional director of music at the CBC, a post he held until his death, directing numerous concerts and operas.

Gagnier began the compilation of the first catalogue of works by Canadian composers, issued in mimeographed form by the CBC in 1947 as Catalogue of Canadian Composers. According to his brother, Réal Gagnier, and contradicting what is said in Le Passe-Temps (Aug-Sep 1947), it was in 1942 that he founded the Gagnier Woodwind Quintet. He directed this quintet - which was exceptional in that all five of its members were professional musicians from one family (four of J.-J'.s brothers and his son Roland) - until 1949, when bad health obliged him to curtail his activities.

Gagnier's activity as a composer was equally intense; he wrote in styles ranging from romanticism to impressionism and exploited orchestral timbres with skill and taste. He located several of Calixa Lavallée's compositions and organized their presentation at a public concert in the Lafontaine Gardens in the summer of 1933, when Lavallée's remains were moved from Boston to Montreal. He gave numerous lectures and published critical articles, essays, poems, and memoirs, notably in Le Passe-Temps. He was a member of the CBA and of the American Conductor's Association. Montreal gave his name to a park in 1959 and to a street in the north of the city in 1963. Gagnier's papers were deposited in the BN du Q.

See also Guillaume Gagnier, René Gagnier, Armand Gagnier, Ernest Gagnier, Lucien Gagnier, Réal Gagnier, Roland Gagnier, Claire Gagnier, Gérald Gagnier, and Ève Gagnier, (all members of the same musical family).

Selected Compositions

Orchestra and Band
Here's to Tommy. Ca 1915. Band. Ms. HMV 216007 (Canadian Grenadier Guards)

Toronto Bay. 1921. Orch (band). Fischer 1937 (band)

Le Vent dans l'érable effeuillé/The Wind in the Leafless Maple. 1927. Orch (band). Ms. RCI 1 (J.-M. Beaudet)

Têtes d'enfants. 1930. Str orch. Parnasse 1947

Pan aux pieds de chèvre/The Goatfooted Pan. 1931. Orch (band). Ms

La Dame de coeur/Queen of Hearts. 1934. Orch (band). Fischer (band)

Hands across the Border. Ca 1935. Band. Remick Music Corp 1938

Skip Along. Ca 1935. Band. Fischer 1937

Pyrame et Thisbé (J.-J. Gagnier). 1942. Soloists, choir, orch. Parnasse

Journey. 1944. Orch. Ms. RCI 233/Cap ST-6261 (CBC Winnipeg Orchestra)

Suite. 1945. Hp, orch. Sam Fox 1945

Reflets. 1946. Orch (strings). Parnasse 1947

Also other works for orch, band, strings, choir and orch, or choir, soloists, and orch. Most in manuscript


'Peintres, sculpteurs, comédiens et musiciens: parents pauvres de chez nous,' Action universitaire, vol 15, Oct 1948;

Choir or Voice

'Hymne à la patrie' (A. Lozeau). V. P-T, Jun 1905

'Le Canada' (O. Crémazie). 1915. V. Arch 1935

'Le Chant de l'A.C.J.C.' (H. Lalande). Soloists, SATB. Association catholique de la jeunesse canadienne 1925

'Quicumque.' V. Frères des Écoles chrétiennes 1925

'Kyrie.' V. Frères des Écoles chrétiennes 1941

'Hamac dans les voiles' (J.-J. Gagnier). SSAA. Parnasse

'Os-Ke-Non-Don' (chant iroquois). SATB. Parnasse

'Ressemblances' (Sully-Prudhomme). V. Parnasse

Several other unpublished works


Ten Studies in Concert Form. Ca 1939. Pf. Arch 1939

Prélude (arr of Trois préludes à l'Éternelle Comédie for small orch). Ca 1945. Org. Parnasse 1947

Also 3 works for piano, 2 for organ; incidental music; a work for harp; all manuscript; and many arrangements

Further Reading