Fortier, Achille

Achille Fortier. Composer, teacher, b St-Clet, near Montreal, 23 Oct 1864, d Viauville, Montreal, 19 Aug 1939; honorary D MUS (Montreal) 1926. He began his musical studies with Father Sauvé at the Petit séminaire de Ste-Thérèse, near Montreal, and continued them in Montreal with Guillaume Couture and Dominique Ducharme. Enrolled at the Paris Cons in 1885, he studied harmony with Théodore Dubois, voice with Romain Bussine, and in 1888 became the first Canadian to attend regular composition classes with Ernest Guiraud. Returning to Montreal in 1890, he taught voice, harmony and counterpoint at the Institut Nazareth, at the Dames du Sacré-Coeur Convent, at the Villa-Maria Convent, and at the Cons of the Canadian Artistic Society. Jean-Noël Charbonneau, Gabriel Cusson, and Édouard LeBel were among his pupils.

Fortier was choirmaster 1892-3 at Notre-Dame Church in Montreal. In 1893 he presented his own works at a vocal and instrumental concert conducted by Couture. Starting in 1900 he worked as a translator for the federal government in Ottawa, devoting his spare time to composition. He wrote, among other works, a Mass for four male voices, organ, and orchestra, which he conducted 22 Nov 1896 at the Notre-Dame Church; a Marche solennelle and a Valse for orchestra; a Méditation for cello and piano, and another Méditation for violin, piano and organ; several songs including 'Mon Bouquet,' to a poem by Louis-Honoré Fréchette; and some motets. In his Papiers de musique, Léo-Pol Morin praised Fortier's 'happy and fresh inspiration' and the modern romanticism, akin to Fauré's, of his 'supple and elegant harmony'.

Fortier's published works include the song 'Qui saurait?' to a poem by Armand Sylvestre (Revue nationale, vol 2, Aug 1895) and the arrangements of 20 Chansons populaires du Canada (Hardy 1893), and of 'Ô Canada! mon pays! mes amours!' ('Land of All That I Love,' Leo Feist 1928). The motets 'Haec dies' (published by the author 1900), 'Tantum ergo,' 'O salutaris hostia,' and 'Ave verum' appeared in CMH, vol 9. Although some of his manuscripts were destroyed by fire, more than 30 original scores, including sacred music, arrangements, and 13 secular songs and choral works, were deposited at the ANQ in Montreal (Claude Champagne collection).

In 1985 Montreal named a street in the Pointe-aux-Trembles district after Fortier. The Ensemble Achille-Fortier, composed of Liette Turner (soprano), Alain Aubut (cello), and Réjean Coallier (piano), was formed in 1988 and has devoted itself to repertoire of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century from Quebec. In 1989, Turner and Coallier, with the baritone Erik Oland, recorded the CD The Romanticism in Canada (SNE 557) which includes 10 songs by Fortier.