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Helmut Kallmann

Sheet Music
From Canada's Past


The historical materials on this site reflect the viewpoints of the creators and the times in which they were published, and their inclusion here does not represent an endorsement of the content by Library and Archives Canada.

"Sheet music" is a term commonly used to describe unbound songs, piano pieces, etc., printed on one or more folded sheets of paper, normally measuring up to 27 cm in width and 36 cm in height. Its musical content is usually of a popular nature as opposed to the more timeless "serious" music of well-known and respected composers. In the past, because of its size and fragility, and the modest artistic aspirations of many of its composers, sheet music was often considered ephemera by music libraries and seldom formed a part of their permanent collections. In recent years, however, sheet music has become increasingly recognized as an important resource in the study of social history and popular culture, not to mention publishing and printing history.

Fortunately for Library and Archives Canada and its users, in the early 1950s Helmut Kallmann, a young CBC music librarian of exceptional vision, began to collect whatever early Canadian sheet music he could find. He also gathered data on such music from dealers' catalogues, newspapers and magazines, library catalogues and private collections. His work was continued and expanded by the Canadian Music Library Association (CMLA) as a centennial project in 1966. When Helmut Kallmann became the founding Chief of the Music Division at the National Library of Canada in 1970, his work and that of the CMLA (now the Canadian Association of Music Libraries, CAML) came with him.

Since then, the Library and Archives Canada Canadiana sheet music collection has grown to become the most comprehensive in the country, and includes over 20 000 patriotic and parlour songs, piano pieces, sacred music and novelty numbers, some dating back to the 1700s. Besides the expected Canadian imprints, it includes music by Canadians or about Canada published anywhere in the world. Many of the cover illustrations are of particular interest. Researchers and music enthusiasts from Canada and abroad turn to this collection in their search for representative musical works from Canada's past. Library and Archives Canada is pleased to make this part of our cultural heritage accessible on the Internet.

For more information please visit About This Site.

This website currently features sheet music published before 1900, from 1900 to 1913 and from 1914 to 1920, selected from the historical collection of Library and Archives Canada.