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MARTIN, CHARLES-AMADOR, musician, the second native Canadian to be ordained a priest; b. in Quebec, 7 March 1648, son of Abraham Martin*, dit L’Écossais, and Marguerite Langlois, godson of Charles de Saint-Étienne* de La Tour; d. at Sainte-Foy near Quebec, 19 June 1711.

Martin obtained his elementary and theological education from the Jesuits in Quebec. As part of his training, on 15 July 1667 he and his fellow student Pierre Francheville engaged in a public disputation “on the whole of Philosophy, with honour, and in presence of a considerable audience.” Ordained a priest by Bishop Laval on 14 March 1671, Martin spent his career in or near Quebec. His first position was that of parish priest at Beauport; in 1672, while he was incumbent, the wooden church there was replaced with a stone building. Later he was pastor at Sainte-Famille, again at Beauport, at Château-Richer and Ange-Gardien-de-Montmorency. In 1673 he assisted in the conduct of elections at the Quebec Hôtel-Dieu, the first native priest to do so. He spent several years as teacher at the Quebec Seminary where from 1678 to 1681 he also acted as bursar, in charge of food supplies, repairs and the account books of the farm. On 8 November 1684 Bishop Laval appointed Martin one of eight canons of the new chapter of Quebec. Allaire asserts that, “as a gifted musician, Martin was able to raise greatly the level of the performance of the religious ceremonies at the Quebec cathedral.” He resigned from this office in 1697 and the following year entered his last and longest assignment, that of priest of the newly established parish of Notre-Dame-de-Sainte-Foy. He held this position until his death during a purple fever epidemic. His remains were buried in the cathedral at Quebec.

As early as 1662 Father Jérôme Lalemant* refers to one “Amador” as a singer. Sister Regnard* Duplessis de Sainte-Hélène, who had come to Quebec nine years before Martin’s death, states that Monsieur Martin, an able singer, composed the chant for the mass and the Office of the Holy Family celebration, which had been established by Laval in 1665. A musical manuscript preserved at the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec includes the prose of the Office. Though it is unsigned and undated, local tradition claims that it is in Martin’s handwriting. Comparison of it with Martin’s known handwriting makes this appear a possibility, but establishes no definite proof. Dated 18th-century copies survive at other Quebec institutions and the music was printed with slight modifications in the 1827 and later editions of the Graduel romain, It was sung on the appropriate occasion at the Quebec basilica until the middle of the 20th century. In 1902 Ernest Gagnon, former organist of the church, judged it a piece of plain-chant of undeniable beauty and remarkable correctness, from the point of view of both rhythm and modality.

Recent investigators reject the claim that Martin also wrote the music for the mass of the Holy Family celebration. Judging by what is known about the writing of the words, the musical composition of the prose “Sacræ familiæ felix spectaculum” should be dated near the turn of the century rather than about 1679, as previously assumed. Indeed, no conclusive evidence has been found that Martin is the composer of Canada’s earliest preserved musical composition.

Helmut Kallmann

AHDQ, Messe de la Sainte-Famille, Prose: “Sacræ familiæ felix spectaculum” (the ASQ and AMUQ have copies of this manuscript dated 1748, 1783, and 1810.); Sœur Duplessis de Sainte-Hélène, Notice sur la fête de la Sainte-Famille, 11. Caron, “Inventaire de documents,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 206, 209, 213, 215, 258, 303, 324, 334. Graduel romain (2e éd., Québec, 1827), 203ff. (This contains the plain-chant prose “Sacræ familiæ felix spectaculum” without composer’s name or any reference to its origin; the first edition (1800) of the Graduel romain does not contain this prose.) JR (Thwaites), XLV, 119, 271; XLVII, 295; L, 213. Juchereau, Annales (Jamet), 177. Provost, Le Séminaire de Québec: documents et biographies, 65, 420.

Allaire, Dictionnaire, IV, 8. [Allaire gives the most complete description of Martin’s career as a priest.  h.k.] Ernest Gagnon, Louis Jolliet, découvreur du Mississipi et du pays des Illinois, premier seigneur de l’île dAnticosti (Montréal, 1946). Helmut Kallmann, A history of music in Canada, 1534–1914 (Toronto, 1960), 22, 23.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Helmut Kallmann, “MARTIN, CHARLES-AMADOR,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/martin_charles_amador_2E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/martin_charles_amador_2E.html
Author of Article:   Helmut Kallmann
Title of Article:   MARTIN, CHARLES-AMADOR
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1969
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   November 29, 2023