Background information on the music and the times in which it was written can be found in the following articles:

"Canadian Sheet Music Before 1867"

Written by Maria Calderisi, Former Head, Printed Collection, Music Division, Library and Archives Canada


The earliest examples of sheet music relating to Canada in the Library and Archives Canada collection were published in London towards the end of the 18th century. At that time, the glorification of war heroes was much in vogue. The demand for battle music was met by such pieces as W. B. de Krifft's "Siege of Quebec"; the poignant ballad by Thomas Paine, "On the Death of General Wolfe"; and "How Stands the Glass Around", by General James Wolfe himself, possibly written on the eve of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Reports of travellers passing through the British provinces fuelled the European fascination with new territories. Their accounts told of singing, fiddling and dancing, especially in French Canada, and the rhythmic songs of the voyageurs were soon made legendary by romantic descriptions carried back to the Old World. Thomas Moore wrote the well-known "Canadian Boat Song" after one such trip and published it in London in 1805. It was so popular that it was republished several times over the next 40 years in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

Music publishing and printing in Europe was by then a thriving industry, but it did not begin in Canada until 1800. Le Graduel Romain (Québec: John Neilson, 1800) was followed in quick succession by other liturgical books and sacred tune books to meet the demands of the growing church communities in all the provinces. Traditional songs and dances, however, such as those of the habitants, were transmitted orally, from generation to generation and from village to village. There was no need to transcribe or publish them.

Printed music was required, however, for music teachers and their pupils, who were from the privileged minority where domestic music making was considered a proof of gentility. Their appetite for new music was whetted by attendance at concerts, recitals and balls, where amateur musicians and military bandsmen often provided the entertainment. With the growth of towns and cities and a flourishing middle class came an even greater demand for relatively uncomplicated pieces, particularly for young ladies whose social status and marriage prospects were greatly improved by their ability to play an instrument and sing a pretty tune. Instrument dealers stocked a large variety of imported scores and sheet music to meet this demand.

Mass immigration during the 1840s and 1850s, largely from Ireland, England and Scotland, broadened considerably the market for consumer goods of all kinds. Between 1831 and 1861 the population of Lower Canada (Canada East after 1840) almost doubled, while that of Upper Canada/Canada West, where land was more readily available to settlers, increased fivefold. Many immigrants lived in relative isolation; music, sometimes obtained through subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, provided entertainment and a life line to civilization. Susanna Moodie's account, in her much-acclaimed Roughing It in the Bush (London, 1852) of how she saved her husband's flute from a fire, 1 and her letter to her publisher relating her gratitude at the arrival of her piano and her plans to pay for it,2 are touching examples of the importance of music in the lives of the pioneer settlers.

The beginnings

Canadian periodicals of this era provided European and local news, and also featured articles on the latest fashions, announcements of recently published books, and entertainment in the form of serialized novels, poetry and—occasionally—music. One of the earliest and most successful of these was The Literary Garland (1838-1851). It was published in Montreal by John Lovell, who was also the first to recognize Susanna Moodie's talents as a writer. Lovell included a simple piece of music in each 45 to 50-page monthly issue, including several by Susanna's husband, J. W. Dunbar Moodie. The first appearance of a piece of music in a newspaper or magazine was in the pages of the Montreal twice-weekly newspaper, La Minerve, on September 19, 1831. The owner and editor, Ludger Duvernay, was very proud to announce on the first page of that issue the acquisition of a costly set of music type and he offered his services to anyone who wanted to print multiple copies of music. Because of economic problems and political upheavals, however, including a period of exile in Vermont (Duvernay was a staunch patriot and founder of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste) he was not able to live up to his promises until later in the 1840s. Another French-language weekly, Le Ménestrel, published in Quebec City by Marc-Aurèle Plamondon and printed by Stanislas Drapeau, included 4 pages of music, issued separately from the rest of the 20-page issue for ease of performance and eventual binding into albums. This ambitious enterprise lasted less than a year, from June 1844 to January 1845. By that time, though, individual pieces of sheet music were already being published in both parts of the Province of Canada.

Much earlier, the following advertisement had appeared in the Quebec Mercury of August 11, 1818:


MR. FREDERIC HUND respectfully acquaints the
public that he has established himself in this City
Just Published, and for sale at Frederic Hund's,
John Street, a few doors from Mr. Malhiot's Hotel,
The BERLIN WALTZ, (containing two folio pages.)
Shortly will be published a collection of NEW GER-
in Sets of twelve each.
Piano Forte's repaired, exchanged and tuned, on the
shortest notice. -Quebec, 1st August, 1818.

However, no copies of these early pieces have yet been found, nor has the one offered for sale later that same year in the Quebec Gazette of October 15:

to inform the Nobility and Gentry of Quebec and its
Vicinity, that he has lately composed a march, and
arranged it for the Piano Forte. Said March is humbly
dedicated by permission to His Grace, the Duke of
Richmond, &c. &c. &c. N.B. Copies of the March can be
had at Mr. Kyle's, Hope Gate Barracks.

The following year, also in the Quebec Gazette, two pieces were advertised by their composer John Brauneis: "The Grand Overture of Quebec" (March 8, 1819) and "A musical piece ... in Memory of His Grace, the late Duke of Richmond..." (September 16, 1819), both available at the composer's home. Although it may be assumed that all three had been printed by Frederic Hund, who was surely the only music engraver in Quebec during those years, that cannot be proven until they are found.


Although separately published sheet music may have been produced in Canada during the 1820s and 1830s, the earliest examples in the Library and Archives Canada collection that can be positively dated both appeared in 1840. There all similarity ceases. "The Merry Bells of England", by Bytown (Ottawa) choirmaster J. F. Lehmann, is a setting of the nostalgic and patriotic poem by J. E. Carpenter. It was printed by John Lovell at the office of The Literary Garland. The single folio is completely typeset in Lovell's straightforward style familiar to the readers of his journal. It is a charming and accessible piece of music that would have been most attractive to British-Canadians throughout the colonies. The other, "Le dépit amoureux", is a sad ballad of lost love by Napoléon Aubin, the Swiss-born editor of Le Canadien, with piano accompaniment by composer Charles Sauvageau. Its melodramatic cover was hand-drawn and lithographed by Aubin himself, as was the music on the verso page. The typeset text of the first verse was rather inexpertly underlaid, and all the verses neatly typeset on the recto. It was printed on poor quality pinkish paper in Quebec City at "l'Imprimerie litho-typographique de N. Aubin & W.H. Rowen..." and has been dated on the basis of an advertisement in the July 20, 1840, issue of Le Fantasque. An earlier announcement apologized for the appearance of their first attempt:

...we hope to improve the work as we practice the art of lithography, which until now was foreign to us. (March 16, 1840, p. 103 [translation])

Printing methods

The art of printing from a specially treated stone, was in its infancy. It was not ideal for publishing music and was rarely used at that time. Examples of lithographed music in this segment of the collection are "Le chant des voyageurs" and "La mère canadienne" by Antoine Dessane. This Quebec composer and organist, who had studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Cherubini and was an associate of César Franck, was known to have a lithography shop in his home.
The preferred method of newspaper and book publishers or printers such as John Lovell and Sénécal, Daniel & Cie (later Eusèbe Sénécal), printer of the Journal de l'instruction publique and L'Écho du Cabinet de lecture paroissial. Both journals included pieces of music during 1859 and 1862-1863 respectively. The "Polka mazurka des étudiants en médecine" by medical student Alfred Mignault is an example of Sénécal's fine craft. Typesetting, however, was not an ideal medium for printing more active or complex music. Ernest Gagnon's "Souvenir de Venise" and " L'incantation de la jongleuse", both printed by John Lovell, reveal its limitations.
The preferred method for sheet music publishers. Printing from metal plates, partly punched and partly incised, had been in use in Europe throughout the 18th century. In the early 19th century this technique began to be used in the United States. It required special tools and special skills but the results were much more fluid and legible. The Library and Archives Canada collection reveals that Canadian composers looked to the United States or to Europe for the publication of their pieces in the 1820s and 1830s and well into the 1840s. Two examples are Alexander Duff's "The Montreal Bazaar Waltz" (New York: Dubois & Stodart, ca.1830), and bandmaster Joseph Maffré's "The Original Canadian Quadrilles" (New York: Firth & Hall, 1847).

A. & S. Nordheimer

In 1844 brothers Abraham (succeeded by his nephew Albert in 1862) and Samuel Nordheimer ran a music store in Toronto and very soon thereafter began to publish engraved sheet music. They were the first and by far the largest specialized music publisher in pre-Confederation Canada, maintaining close business connections with music publishers in the United States. They were the only Canadian member of the Board of Music Trade of the United States of America, with 272 pieces listed in its 1870 catalogue. Most of their publications, however, were engraved and probably even printed in the United States. Many were even registered for copyright through an agent in the State of New York --a commercially astute move on their part. Three of their earliest pieces identify the engraver as John Ellis of Toronto: "Beautiful Venice" by J. P. Knight, "Empress Henrietta's Waltz" by Henri Herz, and "Those Evening Bells Quick March" by St. George B. Crozier. Ellis was an amateur cellist, listed in the Toronto directory as an engraver from 1843 to 1868, but there is no other evidence that he engaged in the music printing business.

Early Nordheimer publications were largely reprints of popular European works, such as salon pieces and arrangements of airs from the operas of Bellini and Donizetti. Still, a good number were by Canadian residents such as James Paton Clarke "The Emblem of Canada", St. George B. Crozier "La Crosse Waltzes", Thomas Charles Crozier "Les Belles de Toronto", Julius Hecht "St. Lawrence, or The Graceful Step Polka", and Henry Schallehn "Ontario Quick March". Almost all were for piano or for solo voice, which of course was grist for the mill of music publishers and dealers. Colour was rarely used on their sheet music covers; the most adventurous were printed in the United States. Nordheimer was also one of the very few Canadians of the period to publish music in series. The elaborate cover of The Band: A Selection of Fashionable Dances for the Piano Forte reflected the great popularity of pleasure gardens and promenade concerts; its contents of waltzes, galops and quadrilles mirrored the taste of the times.

Other dealer-publishers

Peter Grossman, ex-bandmaster and active participant in the musical life of Hamilton, ran a music store from about 1855 and turned to publishing in 1863. "The Gordon Galop" and "Regimental March", both by William Miller, bandmaster of the Prince Consort's Own Rifle Brigade, as well as "Stolen Kisses Galop" by James Kennedy, were all published before Confederation (1867).

There were several music dealers cum publishers in Montreal as early as the 1840s. J. W. Herbert & Company. began advertising as a piano and organ builder and repairer as early as 1837, and by 1842 his address, Magasin de la Lyre d'Or, suggested retail activity. The 1854 city directory claims, "In Sheet Music and Musical Publications they possess many advantages, having made arrangements with several large European Publishers for the early transmission of Choice copies for the purpose of Reprinting." Only three of his works found to date were actually printed in Canada, all by John Lovell in his traditional typographical style. Harold F. Palmer's "The Snow Shoe Tramp" is one of them. The rest of his publications, the majority of which are by Canadians and on Canadian themes, were produced in the United States. Herbert's publications were among the first in Canada to use cover illustrations, such as the image of the Victoria Bridge shown on Charles d'Albert's "Grand Trunk Waltzes".

Mead, Brothers & Company / Mead & Fowler were also piano manufacturers and importers of European music and musical instruments, who seem to have confined their publishing activities to the years 1848 and 1849. One example of their work is Henry Schallehn's "The Assembly Waltzes", dedicated to the Ladies of Montreal.

Henry Prince succeeded Mead at the "Sign of the Harp" on Notre-Dame Street in Montreal in 1854. He was a band musician and director of repute as well as a prolific composer of dance music for the piano, such as " Le Bouquet de Perles", which has a most spectacular colour cover. Many of his works are of a patriotic nature, such as "Form Riflemen Form!" (printed by John Lovell, 1859) and "Shoulder to Shoulder on to the Border". At least 75% of Prince's publications were by Canadians and he appears to be the first to promote his specialization. His ad in The Montreal Daily Transcript and Commercial Advertiser from July 18 to September 16, 1857 proclaims:

New Canadian Music
Visitors who are desirous of procuring the
National Melodies of Canada
and the Compositions of various popular
Canadian Composers, should call at

Prince's London Music Store,
145 Notre Dame Street

Where a large assortment of the Newest and
most Fashionable European and American Music
is constantly kept on hand.

H. Prince

Laurent & Laforce were major music dealers at the beginning of the 1860s. They published, among others, "Jacques Cartier Quadrille" by Henri de Terlac, and "L'Oiseau mouche: Bluette de salon" by Calixa Lavallée, the future composer of our national anthem. They sold a large part of their stock to Boucher & Manseau when that firm set up business at the former premises of J. W. Herbert in 1862. Both firms continued in business well beyond Confederation. Boucher & Manseau changed its name to Adélard J. Boucher in 1864, and remained in operation until 1975. Examples of their published sheet music are "Notre réligion, notre langue, nos moeurs et nos lois" by Louis Auguste Olivier, and Boucher's own "Souvenir de Sabatier".

S. T. Pearce was listed in the Montreal directory as an importer and dealer for only two years (1858-1859). During that time he published at least three pieces, of which J. M. Müller's "It is the Hour" is an example. E. Thornton was active from 1856 to 1864 as a piano manufacturer and music dealer, with a branch in Ottawa during 1863-64. One of the few publications bearing his imprint is "Happy New Year!: Mazurka dansante" by A. Crotchet, which was printed by Montreal lithographer Roberts & Reinhold. "Styx Galop" by A.C. Sedgwick was more typical and undoubtedly produced in the United States. Gould & Hill published sheet music briefly, from 1864 to 1868. Hill was a former employee of A.  S. Nordheimer and Gould was a businessman who founded and directed the Mendelssohn Choir of Montreal. Their primary business was the sale of pianos and organs, but besides selling sheet music they also published a few pieces, such as "The St. Valentine Galop" by Moritz Relle.

In Québec City, J. & O. Crémazie were booksellers and stationers and, for a time, also wine merchants. Their shop on Fabrique Street was a meeting place for a group of literati in the 1850s and 1860s. They were publishers of at least five pieces of music, one of which was "L'Alouette" (not to be confused with the popular folk song) by Charles Wugk Sabatier to the words of Octave Crémazie himself. Information on J. T. Brousseau is sparse and misleading, but one of his publications, "The Montmorency Galop" by Mrs. W. H. Rankin, bears a spectacular cover showing the Montmorency Falls outside Quebec City. Robert Morgan's music store is listed in the city directory from 1861 to 1884. Less than ten of his publications predate Confederation; the earliest of these is the "Yes Polka" by bandmaster G. Raineri. M. Carey or Carey Brothers were listed variously in the city directory as vendors of "music and catholic books" (1855-56) and "music and railway library." Few music publications bear their imprint. One example, "The Quebec Schottische" by James Dickinson, dedicated to the ladies of Quebec, was entered for provincial copyright in 1859 but had been engraved in New York around 1856. A final Quebec City music dealer, W[illiam] St. Laurent & Company (formerly Ross & St. Laurent) published Ernest Gagnon's "Le carnaval de Québec : Quadrille sur des airs populaires et nationaux", as well as "The Royal Canadian Quadrilles" by William Range. Its magnificent cover featured beavers and maple leaves—an early depiction of our national emblems.


Sheet music publishers in pre-Confederation Canada were not a homogeneous group. Some were primarily publishers of books and periodicals, but the majority were dealers in instruments and imported sheet music. A few also manufactured and repaired instruments. Although music publishing appears to have been the least important of their various enterprises, the documents they have left behind nevertheless provide glimpses of a time in Canada's history when the idea of a larger nation was taking shape. Much of this music has been reprinted in volumes 1, 3, 7 and 22 of The Canadian Musical Heritage series, and will now be even more widely accessible through digitization, to be played, sung and heard once again.

It will be noted that no sheet music publications from the Atlantic provinces have been mentioned here. That is simply due to the scarcity of these fragile documents and the lack of any that predate Confederation in Library and Archives Canada's collection. Photocopies of sheet music published in Halifax by E. G. Fuller and by Peiler, Sichel & Company, as well as reports from other libraries are evidence of such publishing activity. It is to be hoped that pre-Confederation sheet music from the Atlantic provinces will eventually make its way into the collection of Library and Archives Canada.

Selected readings

  • Amtmann, Willy. Music in Canada, 1600-1800. [Montreal]: Habitex Books, 1975.

  • Calderisi, Maria. Music Publishing in the Canadas, 1800-1867. Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada, 1981.

  • Calderisi Bryce, Maria. "John Lovell (1810-93): Montreal Music Printer and Publisher" in Musical Canada: Words and Music Honouring Helmut Kallmann, edited by John Beckwith and Frederick A. Hall, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988, pp. 79-96.

  • The Canadian Musical Heritage. 25 vols. Ottawa: Canadian Musical Heritage Society, 1983-1999. See especially volumes 1, 3, 7 and 22.

  • Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, edited by Helmut Kallmann, Gilles Potvin and Kenneth Winters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981. 2nd edition 1992. See especially "Publishing and Printing" by Helmut Kallmann, and individual articles on composers, publishers, and place names.

  • Gamble, William. Music Engraving and Printing: Historical and Technical Treatise. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1923 (reprinted New York: Da Capo Press, 1971).

  • Kallmann, Helmut. A History of Music in Canada 1534-1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1960; reprinted 1969 and 1987.

  • Loesser, Arthur. Men, Women & Pianos: a Social History. New York: Simon & Shuster, 1954.

  • Morey, Carl. Music in Canada: A Research and Information Guide. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1997.


1 Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush, Toronto: McLelland and Stewart, 1962, p. 195. (New Canadian Library N31).

2 Carl Ballstadt, Elizabeth Hopkins, and Michael Peterman, eds, Susanna Moodie, Letters of a Lifetime, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985, pp. 96-98.

"Writing for a Market: Canadian Musical Composition before the First World War"

Written by Dr. Elaine Keillor, Professor Emerita, Carleton University

By the beginning of the nineteenth century some European publishers had begun providing repertoire acknowledging at least two distinct markets: the amateur and the more highly skilled connoisseur. This idea spread to North America, and Canadian repertoire was included in the publishing process.

Amateurs needed music that was technically undemanding, with simple harmonies, an easily grasped structure, and tuneful melodies. "Amateur" published music for piano consisted largely of dances, song arrangements or descriptive pieces, as well as simple variations or fantasias on popular tunes, songs, or opera arias. "L'Oiseau mouche : Bluette de salon" (1865) by Calixa Lavallée is one example of a small, unpretentious but well-crafted piano work.1 In songs, the vocal line had a limited range and moderate technical requirements, while the piano accompaniment normally doubled the vocal line and used basic chording. The "connoisseur" clientele required more technically and structurally demanding works. Most Canadian published sheet music fell into the "amateur" category.

Large-scale Canadian works were rarely published, either in Canada or abroad.2 Within the realm of shorter works, however, Canadians produced music in all the forms that the markets demanded, including dances, all kinds of songs, and descriptive works for both the amateur and the more accomplished musician.

Dancing was a popular form of entertainment. Scottish traveller and artist George Heriot noted in 1807: "The whole of the Canadian inhabitants are remarkably fond of dancing, and frequently amuse themselves at all seasons with that agreeable exercise."3 Canadian composers found themselves writing waltzes, quadrilles, polkas and galops to cater to the dance music market.

The waltz, a dance in triple metre that usually had an "oom-pah-pah" accompanying beat, was preeminent in the 1800s. When waltzes were introduced into English ballrooms in 1812 they were considered scandalous because of the close proximity of the man and woman, but by 1820 this form of dance was being taught at Mr. Rod's Dancing Academy in Quebec City.4 "The Montreal Bazaar Waltz" (ca. 1830) is typical of pre-1850 examples—a single waltz in two or three sections, and not very difficult to play. Later publications such as "Manitoba Nelledi Waltzes" (1903) often comprised several waltzes under one title, and were more challenging for the pianist.

By 1850 the duple-metre round dances of galop and polka, such as the "St. Lawrence; or the Graceful Step Polka" (1851) and "The Berlin Polka" (1901), had become popular. These dances had a three-part structure, the middle section often being called a "trio." The trio is particularly evident in "The Civil Service Galop" (1867) and the "Stolen Kisses Galop" (ca. 1860). In the latter, and in "The Montmorency Galop" (ca. 1855), the long-short rhythm (dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth), came from the Scottish strathspey or "schottische," a folk dance common in Celtic settlements. The sheet music for one duple-metre dance in tempo di polka, "Nova Scotia" (1889), included instructions for new dance steps by the Pittsburgh-based dancing master J.S. Christy.

John Playford's The English Dancing Master (London, 1651) contained over 100 dance tunes used for three basic floor patterns:

  1. round, where men and women alternated in a circle;
  2. "longwayes", with lines of men and women facing each other; and
  3. square dances, for four couples.

After acceptance by the English court, these patterns were modified by dancing masters across Europe.5 One such modification produced the quadrille, a square-patterned dance, usually with five parts named after country dance tunes: "Le Pantalon" (adapted from the French air "Le pantalon/De Madelon/N'a pas de fond"); "L'Été", a complicated country dance popular in 1800; "La Poule", a country dance popular in 1802 that imitated the fowl; "La Pastourelle", initially danced to a ballad tune; and a very fast finale or galop.6 The quadrille and its derivative, lancers, developed many variants during the nineteenth century and became the basis of modern square dances.7

Following the French practice, the sections of "Quadrille canadien" (ca. 1855) and "The Royal Canadian Quadrilles" (ca. 1860) are based on folk songs. "Le Carnaval de Québec" (ca. 1863) contains songs in both French and English, including the Canadian folksong "Dans les chantiers nous hivernerons!". "Yankee Doodle," which also appears, may have originated after the capture of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, June 17, 1745.

Fantasies using well-known tunes were an important part of the "amateur" publishing repertoire. Both "Grande fantaisie : Ouverture : pot-pourri d'airs canadiens" (1911) and "Canadian Patrol" (1911) indicate the specific national tunes used. In many earlier fantasies, such as "Chanson canadienne (Sounds from Home)" (1889) and "La Lyre enchantée" (1896) the themes are not identified. These fantasies often demanded technical proficiency on the level of the "connoisseur" market; indeed more and more music published after 1880 required considerable virtuosity.

Travellers to Canada spoke of folk songs, particularly those used by the voyageurs to keep the rhythm of 50 strokes per minute while paddling. Traditionally, paddlers took turns as soloists in the verses, and all joined in the refrain. Many composed songs mirrored this musical phrase structure, including Antoine Dessane's "Le chant des voyageurs".8 According to Le Journal de Québec, February 13, 1862, the first performance of this piece was enthusiastically received.

Canadian composers were also influenced by the popular British entertainer Henry Russell (1812-1900) who sojourned in Canada. His approximately 75 North American songs consisted of melodramatic pieces that drew heavily on Italian opera; strophic ballads (verses separated by a refrain); and simple, sentimental songs. Some of his tunes were quoted in the quadrille "Le Bouquet de perles" (1858).

In songs for home entertainment or social gatherings the piano accompaniment frequently varied from verse to verse. The choruses were meant for everyone to sing, as in "Shoulder to Shoulder On to the Border" (ca.1860) and "Jack Canuck" (1910). "La Crosse, Our National Game" (probably mid 1800s) even has a chorus written for four voice parts. Waltzes, such as "A Handful of Maple Leaves" (1901) were also popular, and were often used.

Show songs of the early 1900s often have a "vamp," a two- or four-bar pattern repeated by the accompanist until the singer starts to sing, as in "Oh Take Your Girl to the Picture Show" (1909). Scottish and Irish sentimental songs, such as Laura Lemon's "My Ain Folk" (1904) were also popular with a public that was often still longing for the "old country."

Religious traditions were central to much of Canadian life. New hymn tunes were published in collections, heard in church services, and played at home on the parlor reed organ or piano.9 Sacred songs, such as Ambrose's "One Sweetly Solemn Thought" (1876), sometimes approach the "connoisseur" level, with changes of metre and sophisticated harmonies, while "Almost Persuaded" (1892) is among those closer to simple hymns.

Settlers of African descent have been present in Canada since the early 1600s, but often lived in isolated communities whose musical traditions remained local. Nathaniel Dett was an African-Canadian born in Drummondville, Ontario in 1882, who studied music, mainly in the United States, and became highly respected in the musical and scholarly worlds for his compositions, performances and writings. Dett commented: "My grandmother sang spirituals with a very beautiful but frail soprano voice; but, to the ears of her grandchildren, educated in northern white schools and used mostly to the hymns of the northern white churches, these primitive Negro songs sounded strange, weird and unnatural."10 An occasional syncopated rhythm appeared in his "Cave of the Winds" (1902), but it was only later that Dett's music became infused with African-American idioms. He revolutionized the presentation of African-American music in concert and became widely known for his instrumental dance, "Juba" (1913), inspired by the joyous African-American dance of the same name.

A mainly "white" interpretation of African-American music had become a part of the popular post-1850 entertainment known as minstrel shows. These included skits that claimed to imitate the singing, dancing and instrumental playing of the African-American community. Dett wrote: "Negro music was merely 'rag time'—something to be amused at, danced to, employed as a ready made missile of ridicule if not actual ill will against Negro citizens. At that time, to talk with colored people about Negro music was to embarrass them, since the general attitude of the public toward such music was mildly contemptuous."11

The music associated with ragtime is almost exclusively for piano, modelled on European or American marches and sectionally constructed dance tunes. Most rags have three, four or five different musical themes, each usually sixteen bars long and played twice. The left hand plays a "boom-chuck" pattern, while the right hand features off-beat accents and syncopated rhythms. A similar form was the cake-walk, whose title refers to a dancing competition, the winners of which often received a cake as a prize. Just two years after the first rag was published,12 Canadians began producing their own versions, such as G.A. Adams' "The Cake Winner" (1899).

Long before ragtime had become established, the rhythmic figure of a sixteenth-eighth-sixteenth-note pattern had become associated with Creole music. By the beginning of the 20th century, it regularly appeared in ragtime pieces such as "The Club Cabin" (1903) and spilled over into the dance music for one- and two-steps, for example "Miss Prim" (1917) and "Silly Ass" (1907). Vocal music was not immune, however, and ragtime rhythms—such as found in "It's Sunny Alberta for Mine" (1913) and "Vancouver Town" (1913)—appeared with increased regularity. Exoticism was also fashionable—the two-step "Clodia" (1908) draws upon near-East elements

Through greater familiarity with European "connoisseur" music and advanced musical studies abroad, composers began to write with more sophistication. Susie Frances Harrison showed in her "Trois Esquisses canadiennes" (1887) how musical themes from folk songs could be developed for extended pieces. "Molto Felice" (1886) by Frances J. Hatton, is interesting for its chromatic main theme, and unusual technical demands. Also known by her married name, Hatton-Moore, she was one of four winners of an 1886 composition competition sponsored by the Ontario Music Teachers' Association. The other winners—all men—were among English Canada's musical elite of the day: A.E. Fisher, Davenport Kerrison and G.W. Strathy.

At the turn of the century, particularly in "connoisseur" music, European composers were stretching the key concept beyond chromaticism. Canadian Humphrey Anger furthered this new direction in his piano piece "Tintamarre" (1911). He used streams of Debussy-like parallel chords, but also wrote tone clusters, i.e. the simultaneous sounding of several adjacent notes (for example, F G A B). This might have been imitating the Acadian event known as "tintamarre" where celebrants bring spoons, whistles and other musical instruments to make as much noise as possible.

The "connoisseur" song aimed for a close connection of textual meaning and music through less rigid structures, unusual harmonies, chromaticism, changes of metre, and challenging, independent vocal lines. In "Frühlingsabend: Spring Evening" (ca. 1886) W.O. Forsyth used the piano accompaniment to heighten the meaning of the text, with devices such as staccato effects to illustrate dewdrops and figurations imitating the sound of a stream. Clarence Lucas and Gena Branscombe employed similar techniques in setting English texts, as did Achille Fortier and Alexis Contant for French. Canadian poetry was occasionally set to music. For Archibald Lampman's poem "Lament of the Winds" (1907), composer Ernest Whyte adopted a varied strophic form in which the accompaniment changed in each interlude and in each verse.

"La Chanson de Nettaïck" (1911), and descriptive event songs, such as "La Catastrophe de la gare Windsor" (1909), contain some elements of the new musical language. The latter song was performed in Montréal at the Ouimetoscope. There, in 1906, Joseph-Ernest Ouimet (1877-1972) had introduced programs of motion pictures interspersed with "illustrated" chansons—projected images coordinated with songs performed by one or more singers accompanied by a pianist or a small orchestra. An evening's presentation could include up to sixteen such "illustrations". Many of these pieces were composed by the Ouimetoscope conductor, Henri Miro, who judiciously used key changes, diminished seventh chords and chromatic touches to great effect.13

Canadian composers were becoming increasingly aware of Canadian soundscapes. On the 1908 cover page of Louise I. Murphy's song "Sweet, Sweet Canada; or The Song of the White-throated Sparrow" (1908), the bird call is printed and its association with the word "Canada" underlined. This call of the "Canada bird" and that of the loon have been used subsequently by several Canadian composers including John Beckwith, John Hawkins, Norman Symonds and John Weinzweig. It is interesting to note that ethnomusicologists have discovered that some cultures have built their musical expressions on a birdcall prominent in their geographical location.

Early Canadian music was written with the market in mind, and composers generallyred to the styles and opinions of both Europe and the United States. As the nineteenth century progressed, Canadians became increasingly aware, and proud, of their history, people and environment. They demanded music that reflected their national identity and experience. Composers incorporated themes from folk songs into their music and began to include lyrics from Canadian poets. "National" icons such as maple leaves, loons and lacrosse appeared with increasing regularity. The evolution of music in Canada from the early nineteenth century to the period before the First World War is a strong reflection of the country's metamorphosis from colony to nation.

Selected readings

  • Canadian Musical Heritage Society.  The Canadian musical heritage. 25 vols.  Ottawa : Canadian Musical Heritage Society, 1983-1999.  See especially volumes 1, 3, 6, 7, 12, 14, 22

  • Encyclopedia of music in Canada. Helmut Kallmann et al, eds. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1981. 2nd edition 1992.

  • Kallmann, Helmut. A history of music in Canada 1534-1914.  Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1960.  Reprinted 1969 and 1987

  • Morey, Carl. Music in Canada : a research and information guide. New York : Garland Publishing, 1997


1 Marc Honegger, Science de la musique : technique, formes, instruments, vol. 1, Paris: Bordas, 1976, p. 113

2 Volumes of chamber music, nos. 11, 13, 23, orchestral music, nos. 8, 15, 16, band and wind music, nos. 23, 24, of The Canadian Musical Heritage 25-volume series provide editions of certain extant works. These include Guillaume Couture's Quatuor-Fugue for string quartet published in Paris around 1875, and Ouverture : Patrie by Calixa Lavallée, the first Canada orchestral work to be performed abroad, in Paris on August 12, 1874.

3 George Heriot, Travels Through the Canadas, London: Richard Phillips, 1807, p. 257

4 La Gazette de Québec, October 19, 1820

5 French dancing masters modified the square formation into the cotillion that consisted of a series of movements by the four couples involved in "changes" and "the figure" which distinguished one dance from another such as "la grande chaîne" (grand chain) "le moulinet" (mill or star), "le petit carré" (small square) and "la queue du chat" (cat's tail).

6 Peter Buckman, Let's Dance : Social, Ballroom, and Folk Dancing, New York: Paddington Press, 1978, p. 135

7 Because of the many different combinations of figures used it gradually became customary during the nineteenth century to have an official "caller" to designate the moves to the dancers while the dance was being performed. The popularity of these dances in Canada is indicated with the listing of an ideal order of dances given in the Ten-Cent Canadian Ball-Room Companion and Guide to Dancing (Toronto, 1871). Of the 21 dances listed, there are six quadrilles and four lancers, making up almost half of the dances in the evening.

8 As in Le Chant des voyageurs each musical phrase connected with one or two lines of the text might be different, but more frequently in the nineteenth century one heard folk songs in Canada that would have a previously heard musical phrase re-occur within a strophe. Tunes of Irish provenance would often have a phrase A followed by a contrasting B phrase, followed by their reverse, B and A, while those influenced by British music hall songs would feature three different phrases, ABC, followed by a repeat of the opening one. Depending on the length of the strophe's textual line, each musical phrase would be four or eight bars in length.

9 The Canadian Anthem Book was published in Toronto in 1873, and John Medley's Church Anthems, Services and Chants was published in Fredericton in 1899. A selection of Canadian hymn tunes can be found in volume 5 of The Canadian Musical Heritage.

10 Jon Michael Spencer, The R. Nathaniel Dett Reader: Essays on Black Sacred Music, special issue of Black Sacred Music: A Journal of Theomusicology, Vol. 5, no. 2, Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1991, p. 94

11 Ibid.

12 William H. Krell, Mississippi Rag, Chicago: The S. Brainard's Sons Company, 1897

13 Lucien Poirier, Songs III to French texts, Ottawa: Canadian Musical Heritage Society, c1992, p. viii


music characterized by the use of progressive semitones (F, F#, G, G#, etc.). A chromatic passage from Molto Felice
Creole music
music of the descendants of French, Spanish and African settlers in Louisiana. It was originally often without instruments, or played on "found" instruments such as mule jaws, washboards or sticks. Instruments, particularly the accordion, were later added.
Duple metre
having two (or a multiple of two) beats to a measure.
Parallel chords
all the notes of the chord move together by the same interval. French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was noted for his use of parallel chords.
notes are played much shorter than their normal duration, creating silence between the notes.
the emphasis is placed on a weak beat of the measure.
Tempo di polka
"polka tempo"—a moderately fast speed.
Tone clusters
the simultaneous sounding of adjacent notes, such as F G A B. A tone cluster from Tintamarre
Triple metre
having three (or a multiple of three) beats to a measure.

"Music on the Home Front: Canadian Sheet Music of the First World War"

Written by Barbara Norman, Former Research Assistant, Music Division, Library and Archives Canada

The First World War is often described as the crucible in which Canada came of age, in which a colony became a nation. The performance of Canadian troops, particularly Sir Arthur Currie's Canadian Corps, a unified Canadian unit operating extremely effectively under Canadian command, certainly helped to validate the idea of Canadian nationhood in the eyes of the world.

Much has been written about this pivotal time in our history. After extensive study of military and political issues, Canadian writers and historians have increasingly turned their attention to the social history of the Canada that entered the War and the country that emerged four years later. Personal memoirs, newspapers, and the popular arts are among the sources that help to describe the personality of the nation. The music of the War is one such resource.

There are various types of music that accompany war. The military produces official music such as regimental marches and songs as well as utilitarian bugle calls. The soldiers have a repertoire of their own, largely consisting of new, often ribald, lyrics to older tunes. There has been some study of such First World War soldiers' songs and many have been collected by interested parties such as John Brophy. The evidence of letters, contemporary writings and the later recollections of veterans suggest that the songs soldiers actually sang were primarily from this repertoire, reflecting their daily privations and frustrations, along with a few popular items heard by the soldiers on leave in London or introduced by the various touring concert parties—British or American hits such as "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" and "Pack Up Your Troubles".

There exists, however, a less familiar body of First World War music—a repertoire that was slightly self-conscious and more genteel, but nonetheless sincere. This was the music that was written for the home front.

By the end of the 19th century, songwriting had become a favoured means of personal expression. In a society in which most middle-class families owned a piano, and standard education included at least the rudiments of music, when the creative muse stirred the housewife, banker, or private soldier, the result was often a song. Such stirrings frequently occurred in response to noteworthy events, and few local or national excitements were allowed to pass without some musical comment.

The enduring product of this repertoire was sheet music—a fragile, inexpensive, rapidly-produced format that allowed lyrics and tunes to circulate quickly, producing profits for the disseminators (if not the creators) and providing an excellent medium for advertising. A solid infrastructure of music printers prepared to publish "for the composer," and professional musicians prepared to polish or "arrange" any rough diamond, made such creations available to the public.

With the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1914, war became a major theme in professional and amateur composition. Possibilities for propaganda and fund-raising were not overlooked. Songs were overwhelmingly patriotic, heroic, jingoistic or "pathetic" and, predictably, many songs were written glorifying the navy, the army and the new flying corps. Individual units were often recognized in songs, official or otherwise. The American Legion, the Canadian 97th Battalion made up of American volunteers anxious to serve even before the United States entered the War, was singled out for particular encouragement. Praise was heaped upon the Empire, Great Britain and "plucky little Belgium." Ireland's initial commitment to abandon, for the duration, the internal struggle for Home Rule was greeted with choruses of approval. The requisite instrumental marches, recruiting songs, flag songs, songs of parting and of anticipated reunion resound throughout the repertoire. Songwriters, even the serving soldiers, lauded women's efforts on the home front. Never before had the humble act of knitting been so celebrated.

Composers and lyricists could be amateur or professional, female or male, civilian or military. Mrs. Florence Ballantyne was the daughter of the Speaker of the Ontario Legislature and the wife of a university professor. As described in The Canada Weekly, January 5, 1918, she wrote her song "The Call We Must Obey" when recruiting lagged, to hearten her sons already overseas. Jean Munro Mulloy from Kingston, Ontario, was the wife of Trooper Mulloy who had served in South Africa. She recycled her "Trooper Mulloy March" and incorporated her daughter's activities into new songs to encourage Canadians. The pugnacious-looking Rev. J.D. Morrow ("the athletic pastor of Dale Church, Toronto") declared "You Bet Your Life We All Will Go" and, true to his word, on the cover of his third song, "Memories of Home", he appears in uniform and is described as Chaplain to our Canadian Overseas Forces. Sadly, he died in 1921, at the age of 47, possibly as a result of war wounds. His name is recorded in the first of the Books of Remembrance, which lie in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

Professional songwriters certainly still plied their trade. Arrangers Jules Brazil and Arthur Wellesley Hughes did their bit by giving a final gloss to dozens of amateur creations as well as by composing, spontaneously or to order. Lieutenant N. Fraser Allan was a professional musician who performed in the famous Dumbells troupe. Lieutenant Gitz Rice, wounded in 1917 at Vimy Ridge, became the officer in charge of military entertainments for the Army. Rice's portrayal of the life of the soldier has a compelling ring of truth. Although he did not write the lyrics of his greatest hit "Dear Old Pal of Mine", he was the lyricist and composer of "He Will Always Remember the Little Things You Do" (encouraging women in their war effort) and "Keep Your Head Down Fritzie Boy".

Gordon V. Thompson, one of the most prolific composers of the war years, was also the owner of the long-lived Thompson Publishing Company. With an acute sense for popular taste, he quickly shifted his compositional themes from the evangelical and religious to the patriotic and sentimental, all with lavishly illustrated covers. The frequent appearance of the song "I Want to Kiss Daddy Good-night" on present-day sale lists, and the evident heavy use of the surviving copies, indicate that this sentimental ballad was one of the best-selling and most frequently played items in the Canadian repertoire.

Not all songs were newly written. "A Handful of Maple Leaves" by William Westbrook, a very popular song from the South African War (1898-1902), was rejuvenated by substituting "Belgium" for "South Africa" in the second verse with a minor musical adjustment.

Another example of textual adjustment, although for different reasons, can be found in Herbert Ivey's extremely successful song "Somewhere in France". According to the printer's copies from the Whaley, Royce & Company files, held at Library and Archives Canada, this piece was reprinted at least nine times. As the War ground on, alternative lyrics were included for the last verse "... for he doesn't advertise and God bless him where he lies Somewhere in France" became "for he doesn't make a fuss, pray God send him back to us from Somewhere in France". In its final printings, the original lyrics were omitted entirely.

Recruiting was a dominant theme, reflecting the intense pressure exerted by government and society to enlist. The powerful role of the mother as recruiting agent is well represented in these songs. The sense of stigma attached to non-serving young men can be witnessed in the following declaration which composer John C. McFadden felt compelled to attach to his song "Liberty"—"Being unfit for the Fighting Front as my certificate shows, ...." Those who were not enlisted were urged to contribute money—in the words of Walter St. J. Miller "If we cannot do the fighting we can pay" (lyric from "He's Doing His Bit - Are You?"). Conscription was addressed obliquely, one of the few examples being O.P. Cochrane's "The Call for Soldiers": My men sign now for your King and country call. Don't wait to be forced to answer it, But step up one and all. In her sheet music, Canada preferred to volunteer.

Reading accounts of the War, it is hard to reconcile the cynical, disrespectful and often bawdy soldier presented as typical, with the patriotic, upright and faithful young man portrayed in these songs, some of them written by soldiers themselves. In Grace Morris Craig's book But This Is Our War, she quotes a Canadian soldier writing home: "One sees some rather dreadful sights in this place which it pays to forget about as quickly as possible and not to write about at all...." The sensibilities of the audience at home were indeed respected, but a basic decency and perhaps even some patriotism seems to have survived among many fighting men. Attempts to appear to be "one of the boys"—like Morris Manley's somewhat precious "What the Deuce Do We Care for Kaiser Bill?"—are rare.

Few songs opposing the Great War appear in Library and Archives Canada's collection. The most famous Canadian example for the period, "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier" (lyrics by Alfred Bryan), was written not against the war in Europe but to oppose the establishing of a cadet corps in New York schools. In "Song of Freedom" by T.A. Simpson, lyricist Alex W. Grant, wishing for a better world, presents a policy of forgiveness: "Come men awake the dawn is near, Forget the night of strife and fear, Lift up your voice in mighty song, Forget the frightful wrong." Pacifism might have been present but not often in public. By contrast, even previously pacifist suffragette women rallied 'round the flag and pressed their sons into service.

Among Library and Archives Canada's approximately 500 pieces of Canadian sheet music relating to the First World War, there is a noticeable shortage of material in French. That the War did not have the support in Quebec that it enjoyed in other parts of Canada is an historical fact, but French-Canadian troops did participate, and composers like Alexis Contant wrote marches in praise of the Allies, while songwriters portrayed the plight of sweethearts, wives and mothers left behind. Many songs about the War were published in periodicals such as Le Passe Temps and are therefore not represented in this database. In addition, many items published in Quebec in the early part of the century were not dated, and those without explicit wartime subject matter might have been missed. By and large, songs produced in Quebec represented the same themes and concerns as those from English Canada, with perhaps a reduced emphasis on the defence of the British Empire.

In a large market, the cheap price of sheet music made it suitable for fund-raising. Patriotic individuals wrote and published their compositions to be sold for patriotic causes. How seriously the sentiments expressed in these items were taken is a matter for conjecture. In Library and Archives Canada's collection, one item (whose proceeds were promised for patriotic purposes) includes the handwritten note Gordon: Picked this up at last night's meeting. As I have no use for it, it is yours. Many publications specify the charity they support—often the Red Cross or a regimental fund—but many simply promise that proceeds will be used "for patriotic purposes." Judging from the numbers of copies that appear in collections periodically offered for sale, these must have sold fairly well. Several items have stickers indicating that they were being sold by returned wounded soldiers as a means of livelihood. Some stickers insist that the seller was not asking for charity, but one can infer that support was considered a matter of duty.

The covers of Canadian sheet music present an interesting study in themselves. Few of the illustrations are signed, and internal evidence suggests that fewer were produced by professional artists. Artists Lou Skuce ("We'll Love You More When You Come Back Than When You Went Away" by Harry Taylor) and J. Glynn ("There's a Fight Going On, Are You In It?" by Herbert Kohler) are two obvious exceptions. Among the unsigned examples, the figure drawing is often stiff and sometimes bizarre ("Good Bye Lad" composed by John Stewart, "Will Daddy Come Home Tonight?" by Edwin J. Pull). Uniforms and equipment are treated in an imaginative way with little attempt at accuracy. Even one of the best drawings, the unsigned cover of "Kiss Your Soldier Boy Good Bye" by Sam Marks, includes a rifle far too short for the standard-issue weapon. The visual impact of the wonderful colours on Harry R. Pearse's "Men o' the North" is negated by the peculiar positioning of the eye of the moose. Other animal drawings are of widely varying quality. The splendidly active horse on Art Benet's "Then We'll Sheath Our Sword of Justice" and the unabashedly rodent-like beavers on Charles O'Neill's "The Land of the Maple and Beaver" stand in stark contrast to the strange menagerie on C.A. Yates's "Forward the Union Jack".

It cannot be claimed that sheet music either influenced Canadian reaction to the War or accurately reflected the reality in which most Canadians lived. This collection, however, gives a good idea of how Canadian society probably wanted to be seen. This was Canada's public face. Perhaps Canada, in her sheet music written by ordinary Canadians, was advertising herself.

Selected readings

  • Brophy, John; Partridge, Eric, eds. The long trail : what the British soldier sang and said in the Great War of 1914-18. [London]: A. Deutsch, 1965 (a revision and rewriting of the same authors' Songs and slang of the British soldier, 1914-1918. London: E. Partridge, 1931)

  • Craig, Grace Morris. But this is our war. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, c1981

  • Fussell, Paul. "The fate of chivalry and the assault upon Mother". Thank God for the atom bomb, and other essays. New York: Ballantyne Books, c1988

  • Encyclopedia of music in Canada, 2nd ed. Kallmann, Helmut; Miller, Mark; Potvin, Gilles; Winters, Kenneth, eds. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, c1992, "Wars, rebellions and uprisings," "Patriotic Songs" and other articles about individuals or groups

  • Moogk, Edward B. Roll Back the Years: History of Recorded Sound and its Legacy (Genesis to 1930). Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1975

  • Morton, Desmond. Album of the Great War. Toronto: Grolier, c1986

  • "The Pedlars Pack: The call we must obey". Canada Weekly. Vol. XXIV, No. 1 (January 5, 1918), 11

  • Read, Daphne, ed.; Richardson, Gus, comp. The Great War and Canadian society : an oral history. Toronto: New Hogtown Press, c1978

  • Rutherford, John E. "Some Canadian sheet music of World War I (1914-1918)". Antique Phonograph News. (March - April 1994), 6-7

  • Swettenham, John. Canada and the First World War. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1969, 1973

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