PERRAULT, JOSEPH-JULIEN, Roman Catholic priest and church musician; b. 8 May 1826 in Montreal, son of a merchant, Julien Perrault, and Marie-Sophie Gauvin; d. 22 Aug. 1866 in Varennes, Canada East.
Joseph-Julien Perrault received his basic education at the Collège de Montréal from 1836 to 1844, then began to study theology at the Grand Séminaire of Montreal. He completed his formal education at the Sulpician seminary in Paris, 1847–49. At the church of Saint-Sulpice he also directed post-communion instruction; on 22 Dec. 1849 he was ordained a priest. When he returned to Montreal he was admitted into the Society of Saint-Sulpice and from 1850 to 1853 taught at the Collège de Montréal. In 1853 he was appointed to the parish of Notre-Dame and from 1854 to 1862 was also director of the Congrégation des hommes de Ville-Marie. He helped to obtain new organs for the churches of these groups and to initiate a renovation of Notre-Dame Church. In 1862 Perrault was appointed chaplain of the Christian Brothers. On 9 March 1866 he suffered a stroke, and died a few months later. Well liked as a priest, and fluently bilingual, Perrault won a reputation as a fine orator.
It is as a musician that Perrault is best remembered. Although he learned to play the flute as a boy he never had the opportunity to study a keyboard instrument. Self-taught in music, he became a good score-reader and an inspiring chorusmaster. He conducted the parish choir of Notre-Dame from September 1859 until February 1861 in the absence of the regular choirmaster, Abbé Arsène-Louis Barbarin, and again from October 1863 until his final illness. His conducting included a Haydn mass for the Saint-Jean Baptiste festival in 1860, and in the following year two performances of Félicien David’s symphonic ode for choir and orchestra, Le Désert, and excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem.
Although he did not aspire to professional status as a composer, Perrault was skilled enough to employ in his writing such technical devices as imitation and fugato; he had an instinctive feeling for effect and tone colour. His earliest known work is a four-part choral, Salve Regina (1849). Haydn was his favourite composer and model, but his best-known work, the Messe de Noël, Deo infanti, is patterned after the Petite messe pour la nativité de Notre-Seigneur . . . by the French composer Stéphane-Louis Nicou-Choron, which was made up of Christmas songs. Perrault’s work integrates some 15 traditional noëls into an artistic whole, punctuated by contrapuntal passages and recitatives. He wrote the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei in 1859–60 and added the Credo and Magnificat in 1865 for a Christmas day performance at Notre-Dame church. Perrault’s other compositions, about 12 in all, were also intended for specific occasions, for example a Tantum Ergo for choir and orchestra for the Pentecost service in 1864. His Messe des morts was published, as was his edition of Henry de Thier, dit Du Mont’s Messe du second ton, but Perrault also circulated lithographed copies of his compositions. The Messe de Noël, published posthumously in 1870, enjoyed popularity for a long time; a rearrangement was issued in the 20th century by Eugène Lapierre.
ASSM, 25, Dossier 3, 18 sept. 1866. Le Canadien, 24 août 1866. L’Écho du cabinet de lecture paroissial, 1er sept. 1866. Allaire, Dictionnaire, I, 427. Catalogue of Canadian composers, ed. Helmut Kallmann (rev. ed., Toronto, 1952). Ernest Myrand, Noëls anciens de la Nouvelle-France (2e éd., Québec, 1907), 95–101. “Feu messire Joseph-Julien Perreault,” Le Canada musical (Montréal), I (octobre 1866), 17–20. O.[-M.-H.] Lapalice, “Les organistes et maîtres de musique à Notre-Dame de Montréal,” BRH, XXV (1919), 243–49.