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BOUCHER, ADÉLARD-JOSEPH (baptized François-Adélard-Arthur), organist, choir master, music dealer, magazine owner, composer, numismatist, and teacher; b. 27 June 1835 in Maskinongé, Lower Canada, son of François-Xavier-Olivier Boucher, a physician, and Émilie Munro, who had been born in the United States; m. 24 April 1854 Philomène Rousseau in Montreal, and they had 15 children; d. 16 Nov. 1912 in Outremont, Que.

At the age of five months Adélard-Joseph Boucher lost his father, and when he was nine his mother died. He was sent to Mount St Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md, by his guardian, François-Antoine La Rocque*, who was his mother’s half-brother. From 1845 to 1851 he took lessons in piano, organ, voice, flute, and violin at the college from Henry Dielman. In September 1851 he began studying at the Sulpician seminary in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, and in March 1852 he went to the Collège de la Providence in Amiens, which was run by the Jesuits. On his return to Canada in August 1852 he took up permanent residence in Montreal. Over the next decade or so he was employed by the firm of Morison, Cameron, and Empey, studied law in the office of George-Étienne Cartier*, and worked for the Montreal and Bytown Railway Company (of which he was secretary late in 1854), the Seigneurial Commission from 1855 to 1858, and the Trust and Loan Company of Canada in the course of the same period. In 1858, drawn to politics, he ran in a by-election in Maskinongé against Jean-Baptiste-Eric Dorion* and George Caron, but he withdrew his candidacy almost immediately to ensure that Caron would win the seat. From that year until 1861 he was involved in the literary program of the Cabinet de Lecture Paroissial, speaking on aesthetic matters, topics related to Canadian history, and religious subjects. The year 1858 also saw the beginning of his musical career. He was organist at Saint-Pierre-Apôtre in Montreal from 1858 to 1860 and, after he had organized a choir, served as choir master there in 1859–60. He then went to the church of Saint-Jacques, where he was organist for three years. In 1860 he founded the Société Sainte-Cécile.

A significant turning-point in Boucher’s career occurred in 1861. The interest he had shown in business led to his association with Laurent et Laforce, which owned a publishing and importing firm in Montreal. For a year Boucher would be manager of the music department. In 1862, in partnership with Joseph-Amable Manseau, he bought out both J. W. Herbert and Company and Laurent et Laforce and opened a store at 131 Rue Notre-Dame. Boucher and Manseau published sheet music and in 1863 founded the literary monthly Les Beaux-Arts, which they brought out until the end of that year. After the company was dissolved in 1864, Boucher himself set up A. J. Boucher, which would remain in business until 1975 and at first was located at 260 Rue Notre-Dame.

The difficulties Boucher experienced during the firm’s early years may explain why he returned to the church of Saint-Jacques in 1865 after a two-year absence, to become choir master. They may also explain why he sold his “magnificent and precious numismatic collection,” consisting of some 4,000 pieces. His interest in this collection had prompted him to found the Numismatic Society of Montreal in 1862, with Stanley Clark Bagg* and Joseph-Amable Manseau, and to serve as its president; the first organization in Canada for the study of coins, it remained the only one until about 1890. Probably for financial reasons also, on 1 Sept. 1866 Boucher established and began publishing Le Canada musical. The stated aim of this monthly, “to create and disseminate good taste in music and the fine arts in general,” was not without commercial incentive, as the many advertisements it carried demonstrate. Devoted to news, programs, anecdotes, and announcements about music, the periodical, which had 300 subscribers, ceased publication after a year; it reappeared much later, in 1874, to continue for seven years.

From 1868 Boucher tended to diversify his activities further. He became the first choir master of Le Gesù church in Montreal and conducted its choir and orchestra until 1882. Throughout this period he presented many concerts of both sacred and secular music, “devoted, for the most part, to philanthropic and charitable causes.” In 1869 he was teaching at the Collège Sainte-Marie, in 1870 at the Pensionnat Villa-Maria, and in 1871 at the Pensionnat Mont-Sainte-Marie and the Catholic Commercial Academy in Montreal. The high regard in which he was then held as a musician and teacher may explain his appointment to membership in the Académie de Musique de Québec shortly after it was formed in 1868.

From 1874 Boucher’s firm specialized in importing European music. He went to Europe in 1876 and, through the contacts he established with its major musical centres, he was in a position by November to guarantee that he could “definitely fill, within the space of three or four weeks, all orders . . . for European music not to be found in America.” The direct relations with Europe on which the firm prided itself were maintained largely through his travels over the ensuing years. His efforts to introduce and popularize European music were profitable, as witness his company’s changes of address around that time. “In 1875,” according to Le Canada musical, “he took possession of a larger store across from Côte St-Lambert, from which, under the pressure of constantly growing business, he moved his establishment in the spring of 1879 to the magnificent building of the Beaudry estate, No. 280 Rue Notre-Dame. . . . This store, which is almost 100 feet deep and four tall storeys high, is rightly considered the most beautiful edifice devoted to this branch of business in all America.” The climax of this expansion coincided with a number of events. Boucher participated in the Dominion Exhibition of 1880, where he was awarded a first prize for music engraving and for European, American, and Canadian editions of music, as well as an honourable mention for artistic journalism. His competitor Joseph Gould withdrew from the business of selling instruments and music, and two rival companies moved away to the west end of Montreal. Boucher’s firm had also profited from the importation of sacred music from Europe stimulated by the bishop of Montreal’s decree late in 1878 that church music, which until then had been performed by mixed choirs, would henceforth be sung only by men. Around the same time and until about 1884, when Boucher moved his business to 1676 Rue Notre-Dame, a section of the “magnificent store” was set aside for music lovers. A music reading-room gave people access to artistic publications and music magazines from France, Belgium, England, Spain, Italy, the United States, and Canada; a concert hall was used for rehearsals and other purposes. In 1882 Boucher and his son François opened a store in Ottawa. He dropped a number of duties he could have carried out, including those of choir master at Le Gesù, on the grounds that he was frequently away from Montreal. From 1890 to 1912, however, he served as choir master of the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Montreal.

On examination, Boucher’s career may appear to have begun somewhat uncertainly. In fact, the combination of study and experience for the first 30 years laid down the lines of his long life, whose distinguishing feature was the dissemination of music in all its forms. As a musician, he was far from being in the same class as the great musicians of the last third of the 19th century in Quebec. His compositions stand as mediocre examples of the salon music of the first half of the century. His choice of musical masses, performed, according to a contemporary witness, “with considerable skill” on the major feast days of the liturgical year, manifests a tendency towards the dramatic genre which would be opposed by popes Leo XIII and Pius X and the diocesan clergy, who followed their example. Nor is there evidence that he had any success at all as a music teacher. It seems fair to claim, however, that Boucher’s unflagging work with the amateur choirs he helped organize and direct qualifies him as one of the pioneers of music in Montreal, preparing the way for the likes of Guillaume Couture. A similar claim can be made about the role he played in publishing musical periodicals. Le Canada musical remains an invaluable source of information about the musical life of Canada in the final third of the 19th century.

Lucien Poirier

Adélard-Joseph Boucher is the compiler of Catalogue abrégé de nouveaux morceaux favoris composés par des auteurs européens et américains pour piano et chant publiés ou importés (Montréal, 1864) and Tableau synoptique de lhistoire du Canada . . . (depuis 1534 jusqu’à 1854) (Montréal, [1854?]), of which a second edition, . . . (depuis 1506 jusqu’à 1858), was published there around 1858. He is also the author of several addresses published in LÉcho du Cabinet de lecture paroissial (Montréal) between 1858 and 1861. His output also includes at least three musical compositions, Coecilia, mazurka caprice, Les canotiers du St-Laurent, quadrille canadien, and Jolly dogs galop, all published in Montreal at some time between 1861 and 1866.

AC, Montréal, État civil, Catholiques, Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (Montréal), 20 nov. 1912. ANQ-M, CE1-51, 24 avril 1854. ANQ-MBF, CE1-10, 27 juin 1835. Le Devoir, 29 mars 1975. La Minerve, 16 févr. 1866. Les Beaux-Arts (Montréal), 1863–64. Raymond Boily, Monnaies, médailles et jetons au Canada ([Québec], 1980), 69–70. Maria Calderisi [Bryce], Lédition musicale au Canada, 1800–1867 (Ottawa, 1981), 30, 60-–61, 86, 99–100. Le Canada musical (Montréal), 1866–81. Adélard Desrosiers, Histoire de la musique, de lantiquité à nos jours (Montréal, 1939), 70. Dictionnaire biographique des musiciens canadiens (2e éd., Lachine, Qué., 1935), 32–34. Directory, Montreal, 1862–1900. LEcho du Cabinet de lecture paroissial, 1 (1859): 2–5, 29, 90–93; 2 (1860): 46, 293–96; 3 (1861): 75; 6 (1864): 166–67, 181–83. Encyclopedia of music in Canada (Kallmann et al.), 142–43. Clifford Ford, Canadas music: an historical survey (Agincourt [Toronto], 1982), 57–58, 81. J. Hamelin et al., La presse québécoise, 2: 32–34, 83, 214. Helmut Kallmann, “A century of musical periodicals in Canada,” Canadian Music Journal (Sackville, N.B.), 1, no.1 (autumn 1956): 37–43; no.2 (winter 1957): 25–36; A history of music in Canada, 1534–1914 (Toronto and London, 1960; repr. [Toronto], 1987), 106, 113–15, 125, 128, 135, 151, 194, 258. G. M. Leclerc, “La musique religieuse d’Alexis Contant et son apport à la vie musicale de Montréal” (thèse de ma, univ. d’Ottawa, 1992), 20. T. J. McGee, The music of Canada (New York and London, 1985), 72. E. C. MacMillan, Music in Canada ([Toronto], 1955), 26. [J.-L.-]O. Maurault, “Adélard Boucher (1835–1912),” La Musique (Québec), 2 (1920): 3–6; “Adélard Boucher (1835–1912),” RSC, Trans., 3rd ser., 32 (1938), sect.i: 85–97; “Les musiciens du passé: Adélard Boucher,” Entre-Nous (Montréal), 1 (1929–30): 69. Pierre Quenneville, “Guillaume Couture (1851–1915): l’éducateur, le directeur artistique et le musicien d’église” (thèse de phd, univ. de Montréal, 1988), 59. P. J. Slemon, “Montreal’s musical life under the Union, with an emphasis on the terminal years, 1841 and 1867” (ma thesis, McGill Univ., Montreal, 1975). Wallace, Macmillan dict.

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Lucien Poirier, “BOUCHER, ADÉLARD-JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 28, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/boucher_adelard_joseph_14E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/boucher_adelard_joseph_14E.html
Author of Article:   Lucien Poirier
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   September 28, 2023