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  Music Theory
  Music Sample

   Fourth of a family of twelve children, Conrad Letendre was born on a farm in St-Zéphirin-de-Courval (Yamaska) Qué., January 9th, 1904. He lost his sight gradually between the ages of two and ten years, but this did not prevent him from taking part in every family undertaking and attending the local country school.

   From 1913 to 1927, he received his education in Montreal at a boarding school for blind youth, the Grey Nuns' Nazareth Institute, which, without bearing the name, could be considered a music conservatory in the fullest sense of the term. He studied piano, violin, and majored in organ and theory. His teachers were Arthur Letondal, Camille Couture, Romain Peletier and Achille Fortier.

   Their training stemmed predominantly from the French School; they had studied in Paris under such teachers as Dubois, Gigout, Marmontel and Guiraud. Achille Fotier was the first Canadian to be officially admitted in a composition class at the Paris Conservatory. Conrad Letendre came thus directly under the influence of that School which contributed in shaping his artistic personality and which was to leave an imprint on his musical thinking and throughout his work. As a young organist he used to perform, among other compositions, the Symphonies by Louis Vierne and the PRELUDES AND Fugues by Marcel Dupré.

   Upon his graduation in 1927, he was appointed organist at the Church of Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire in St.-Hyacinthe, Qué., a position he held until 1933, and music teacher at the Seminary of that city, where he was to remain until 1935. Throughout his career, his teaching actually extended to most if not all the religious institutions of that city.

   In 1930, he married Alice Daudelin, daughter of the organ builder Napoléon Daudelin. His wife died three years later, after having given birth to a daughter, Madelaine, who, like her father before her, played the organ at the Church of Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire. Madeleine passed away in 1966.

   In 1936, Conrad Letendre established his home permanently in Montreal. Although the young musician would face years of hardship, this new independent life style in the big city suited him well. He did a good deal of research and spent much of his time exchanging views on harmony with Gabriel Cusson (Prix d'Europe 1924) recently back from Paris where he had been a student of Nadia Boulanger for six years. Conrad Letendre and Gabriel Cusson had grown up together in the same school; from then on, they were to remain close collaborators and lifelong friends.

   From 1942 to 1954, Conrad Letendre pursued his career simultaneously in both cities. In St.Hyacinthe, he taught in most of the religious institutions, was adviser to "La Bonne Chanson" (founded and published by Father Charles-Émile Gadbois), and from 1952 to 1954, was the editor of the magazine Musique et Musiciens. In Montreal, in the meantime, he married his nineteen year old student, Aline Chénier-Lavergne, who was to become his assistant. His students, namely Gaston Arel, Mireille Bégin, Raymond Daveluy, Kenneth Gilbert, Bernard Lagacé and Lucienne L'Heureux, among others, founded "Le Groupe Conrad Letendre", and under that name gave organ recitals on some of the larger instruments of the metropolis. Noteworthy is the fact that Raymond Daveluy, the eldest of the group, paved the way and was a guide to the younger organists. Two of Conrad Letendre's students won the Prix d'Europe, several others won scholarships and studied abroad. During that period, a whole new generation of organists was born, among whom are to be found the pioneers of the organ renewal initiated in Montreal in the early sixties.

   Recipient of a scholarship from "l'Aide à la recherche", an organism of "le ministère des Affaires culturelles", Que., for his research in theory applied to harmony and counterpoint, Conrad Letendre is the author of a treatise on harmony which many musicians consider to be his most important achievement. Among other music schools where he taught, he implemented the principles of this treatise at the Music Faculty of the University of Montreal. One must remember, however, that the core of his teaching in this field was done mostly at home, where every aspect of his personality could be more easily revealed, where one could discuss every topic under the sun and generally lose track of time. Among the flow of students came his closest followers: Jean Chatillon, Raymond Daveluy, Michel Perrault, Gertrude Perreault.

   At the very outset of his career in St.Hyacinthe, Conrad Letendre was involved in the field of organ building. Between the years 1950 and 1960, he was consulted and entrusted by "La Maison Casavant" with the designing of several larger instruments built by that firm; in the Church of St. Sixte, St.Laurent, Que., Les Saints Martyrsin Victoriaville, Qué., St. Jude in Montreal; and, his specifications were followed when the organ of the Gesù Church, which was built in 1900, was restored in 1954.

   In the summing up, there is no doubt as to the importance of this musician's contribution. Conrad Letendre exerted a decisive influence on his followers, and his generous, uncompromising character and forceful personality certainly left an imprint on all those who came in contact with him.

   He was surrounded by colleagues when he died, suddenly, on November 23rd, 1977. As he had wished, he passed away while still actively engaged in his work.

   A year after his death, a music festival called "Le Festival Conrad Letendre" was founded in St.Hyacinthe. Four have taken place since then. Thus, his memory lives on each spring in the Cathedral, and in our hearts forever.

Aline Letendre, August 1982


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