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Alfred Montmarquette, folksong composer and accordionist (1871-1944)

Photograph of Alfred Montmarquette, seated, with accordion

Alfred Montmarquette

Alfred Montmarquette was born in New York on April 6, 1871. A self-taught man, he quickly learned and mastered the folksong repertoire while still an adolescent. Having moved to Montréal in the early 1920s, he was more than 50 years old when Conrad Gauthier's Veillées du bon vieux temps made him known to city audiences.

With the bones player Adélard Saint-Jean and the pianist Henri Langlois, Montmarquette formed a trio that recorded first on the Brunswick label (1928) under the names of Trio du Vieux-Québec, Trio Sainte-Catherine, Vieux Quatuor québécois and Vagabonds de Montréal. Between 1928 and 1932, Alfred Montmarquette recorded more than 110 pieces for the Starr record company, including "Marche Montmarquette", "Marche Cécilia", "Valse Clarisse", "Valleyfield Reel", "Valse des nations" and "Marche de Trois-Rivières". Alfred Montmarquette also recorded with Ovila Légaré, Eugène Daigneault and Mary Bolduc, the singer who was also his neighbour. Like most traditional musicians of his era, he could not make a living from his music. Sickness, age and alcoholism condemned him to poverty, and he died in an asylum for the elderly in Montréal on May 24, 1944.

For more information on Alfred Montmarquette's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.

Robert Thérien, music researcher, Montréal