LAVALLÉE (Paquet; Paquet, dit Lavallée), AUGUSTIN, blacksmith, violin maker, music teacher, and conductor; b. 22 Aug. 1816 near Verchères, Lower Canada, in what is now Calixa-Lavallée, son of Jean-Baptiste Paquet (Paquet, dit Lavallée), a blacksmith, and Charlotte Lalu; m. 5 April 1842 Caroline Valentine in the parish of Saint-François-Xavier at Verchères; d. 15 Feb. 1903 in Montreal.
When he was still very young, Augustin Lavallée showed great talent for music and an aptitude for delicate workmanship. During the rebellion of 1837 he was with his father at the battle of Saint-Charles-sur-Richelieu. Shortly after his first child was born, towards the end of 1842, he decided to leave his blacksmith’s shop and settle in Verchères near a better-equipped smithy to work at his trade. In his spare time he became a fiddler and violin maker, and set about putting together an orchestra.
Around 1848 Lavallée moved with his family to Saint-Hyacinthe and worked in Joseph Casavant*’s atelier, where he learned more about the art of making organ pipes. At that time also, he began teaching music and conducting the Saint-Hyacinthe band. “Monsieur A. Lavallée’s beautiful band” was no mere village orchestra: it was invited to play at the reception held in honour of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, at Montreal’s Crystal Palace in August 1860. Lavallée also knew how to play all the stringed and wind instruments and thus was able to repair them. In 1852 he opened his own shop in Saint-Hyacinthe, specializing in such repairs.
Around 1865 Lavallée moved his business to Montreal. He located first on Rue Saint-André, and later on Rue Saint-Lambert and on Rue Sainte-Élisabeth. With his son Charles, who according to the Montreal directory was his partner from 1888 to 1894, he is said to have made more than 200 violins. Jules Jehin-Prume reports he did such a good job of repairing the Guarnerius belonging to his father, violinist Frantz Jehin-Prume*, after the instrument had been run over by a sleigh, that he returned it “like new.” He retired from the business in 1895–96 and Charles took over from him.
Four of Augustin Lavallée’s seven children devoted their lives to music. Calixa* became a famous pianist and composer. Charles, his partner, made a career for himself as a cornetist. Joseph was a trombonist, and Cordélia a pianist and singer.
ANQ-M, CE1-26, 22 août 1816; 5 avril, 28 déc. 1842. NA, RG 31, C1, 1861, Saint-Hyacinthe, Saint-Hyacinthe county, Que. Le Passe-Temps (Montréal), 28 févr. 1903. L.-J.-N. Blanchet, Une vie illustrée de Calixa Lavallée (Montréal, 1951), 4, 10. C.-P. Choquette, Histoire de la ville de Saint-Hyacinthe (Saint-Hyacinthe, 1930). Dictionnaire biographique de musiciens canadiens et un vocabulaire de termes musicaux (Lachine, Qué., 1922), 144. Directory, Montreal, 1865–99. Encyclopedia of music in Canada (Kallmann et al.), 527–29. Jehin-Prume [J.-J. Prume], Une vie d’artiste, avec notes biographiques (Montréal, ), 195. [J.-] E. Lapierre, Calixa Lavallée, musicien national du Canada (3e éd., Montréal, 1966), 11–12, 19–25, 30–34. Gilles Potvin, “The bands played on,” Horizon Canada; a new way to discover the history of Canada, under the direction of B.-A. Robert et al. (10v., Québec, 1987), 1: 216.