His father listened to opera regularly, so Gilles Maurice has been soaking up music since childhood. He first sat down at the keyboard of an organ more than 35 years ago. The instrument’s power, timbre and range of sound made an immediate impression on him.
Gilles Maurice Leclerc is an organist and a composer of choral and liturgical music. His love of the organ dates back to his childhood: “The little organ we had at home made me think of playing the organ at the Saint-François-d’Assise parish church in Ottawa. And here I am, 40 years later, at the keyboard on Sunday mornings.”
Gilles Maurice’s work includes more than 50 pieces for organ and piano, chamber music, a number of masses and hymns, and some 25 choral works.* When he first started playing the organ, he could not read music and relied instead on his hearing and his memory. This method sometimes failed him: once, during mass, he completely forgot the tune of a hymn! At the age of 17, he therefore learned to read music, which led him to broaden his knowledge of music at the University of Ottawa.
Gilles Maurice has been able to let his talent shine at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), which has its own choir. It all began at an Open Doors event at Place de la Cité. With his colleagues Rachelle Chiasson-Taylor and Joseph Trivers, Gilles Maurice performed a piece from LAC’s collection with a small choir they had put together. Everything went so well that they decided to follow the example of some other federal departments and organizations and establish a choir at LAC. “We presented two concerts a year, in the spring and during the holiday season. In terms of the future, my primary objective is to ensure that there are people ready to take over. In the meantime, we are always thinking of the next concert. Everyone loves our holiday concerts at Place de la Cité and 395 Wellington Street, and the choir is always touched when Mr. Berthiaume thanks us on behalf of LAC.”
Gilles Maurice’s love of music is echoed in his work. Guess what he likes best? Working with archival documents related to music. To his great delight, he will have an opportunity to work with his colleague Rachelle Chiasson-Taylor on the newly acquired Hubert Bédard fonds. So Gilles Maurice’s knowledge will be available to Canadians who consult these precious documents. “The amazing thing is, in the late 1950s, Hubert Bédard was the organist at Saint-François-d’Assise church, where I play regularly. It’s a small world!”
*Many of these compositions are on YouTube. Gilles Maurice has written extensively for the French Roman Catholic liturgy and was invited to compose a mass for the 150th anniversary of St. Patrick’s Basilica in Ottawa. His first book of psalms, which appeared in the fall of 2016, has already been added to his works in LAC’s catalogue. His first CD was included in Ottawa Citizen music critic Richard Todd’s list of the top 10 classical albums of 2005.