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Music Archives at the National Library of Canada

MUS 13

Alexis Contant family fonds.  - 1858-1933.  - 2.55 m of textual records.  - 86 photographs.  - 3 negatives.  - 3 glass-plate negatives.  - 45 audio tape reels.  - 14 audio discs.  - 1 audio tape cassette. 

Biographical sketches

Alexis Contant (1858-1918):  Composer, organist, teacher, and pianist born in Montréal, he received his first piano lessons from his mother and continued his musical education with a number of Canadian composers, one of them being Calixa Lavallée.  He was the author of the first Canadian oratorio, Caïn, performed at the Monument national in Montréal in 1905.  He played the organ in the church of St-Jean-Baptiste in Montréal for over 30 years and taught piano in numerous schools in the region.  He composed works for piano, choir, orchestra, and choir and orchestra, as well as chamber music. 

Fleurette Contant (1892-1987):  The daughter of Alexis Contant, she studied with Félia Litvinne in Paris and gave concerts as a soprano in Montréal and participated in radio broadcasts when that medium was first invented. 

Georges Delfosse (1869-1939):  Son-in-law of Alexis Contant.  Artist/painter. 

Scope and content
Most of the fonds illustrates the life and career of Alexis Contant and gives evidence of the musical creation in Canada at the turn of the century.  It includes:  his correspondence with personalities such as Emma Albani, Albert Ferland, Félia Litvinne, Arthur Letondal and Walter Damrosch; over 150 manuscript works including the oratorio Caïn, the symphonic poem Les deux âmes and masses; writings on and by Contant; concert programmes; prospectuses, invitation cards, lists of works and other miscellaneous documents:  photographs of Contant and members of his family; recordings of works by and interviews with Contant, produced by CBC.  The section pertaining to Fleurette Contant contains:  annotated works from her music library and recordings of her father's works in which she sings the vocal part.  The section pertaining to Georges Delfosse contains an autograph manuscript dedicated by Emiliano Renaud, compositions signed by a sister of Delfosse, and other family records. 

Immediate source of acquisition:  acquired and donation from Fleurette and Jean-Yves Contant, grandson of Alexis Contant, in several accessions, between 1971 and 1991; some items were also acquired from Jean Daigle. 

Restrictions:  none. 

Finding aids:  Stephen C.  Willis.  Alexis Contant:  Catalogue .   Ottawa:  National Library of Canada.  1982.  87 p.; provisional description for records acquired since 1982. 

Proactive Disclosure