Françoise Aubut | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Françoise Aubut

Françoise Aubut-Pratte (née Aubut), organist, educator (born 5 September 1922 in St-Jérôme, QC; died 8 October 1984 in Montréal, QC).

Françoise Aubut-Pratte (née Aubut), organist, educator (born 5 September 1922 in St-Jérôme, QC; died 8 October 1984 in Montréal, QC). Françoise Aubut-Pratte was one of the first performers to play the works of Marcel Dupré and Olivier Messiaen widely in Canada. She studied with Eugène Lapierreand Antonio Létourneau at the Conservatoire national de Montréal, and with Dupré and Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory, where she became the first North American to win the Grand Premier Prix. She gave numerous recitals and taught at the Université de Montréal, the Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique du Québec and the École Vincent-d'Indy. Her repertoire included the works of Canadian composers Jean Papineau-Couture and Roger Matton. She received the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée in 1961.

Education and Early Career

Aubut was descended from a second cousin of Calixa Lavallée. Her mother, Yvonne Paquette, was a sister of Dr. Albiny Paquette, Québec’s senior minister of health, and her father, Joseph Aubut, was an electrical engineer.She began her piano studies around the age of six with her sister, Rachel. At the Conservatoire national de Montréal she studied organ with Eugène Lapierre, and harmony and piano with Antonio Létourneau. She gave her first recital on 23 August 1936, at St-Stanislas Church in Montréal. That same year she was awarded an organ diploma from the Schola cantorum, playing from memory Bach's six trio sonatas.

She continued her studies (1937–38) at the New England Conservatory in Boston with Carl McKinley (organ), Jesús María Sanroma (piano) and Marian Mason (harmony). At the entrance examination, noticing that two notes of the organ refused to speak, she transposed the set piece a semitone higher. She earned a soloist diploma in 1938.

In Paris (1938–44), Aubut's teachers were Olivier Messiaen (harmony), Marcel Dupré (organ and improvisation), Simone Plé-Caussade (counterpoint and fugue), Norbert Dufourcq (history), Nadia Boulanger (theory), Alfred Cortot (piano) and Henri Busser (composition). Despite the Second World War and an eight-month internment in Besançon (where Commonwealth citizens were held following the Battle of France), she won an exceptional Grand Premier Prix covering all the courses taken at the Paris Conservatory. She was the first North American to receive this honour.

Aubut was organist at the Église de l'Assomption in Passy and also played at the Palais de Versailles (on one occasion before General Dwight D. Eisenhower), the Palais de Chaillot, the Église St-Sulpice and elsewhere. Following her concert at Chaillot, Messiaen wrote, “She has shown us the measure of her immense qualities” (letter dated 11 June 1946).

Career Highlights

After her return to Canada in 1945, she was one of the first Canadians to play widely the works of Dupré and Messiaen, and at her many recitals she won much respect both as an interpreter and an improviser. She took part in numerous seminars and conferences in Europe between 1955 and 1965, performed at the Brussels World Fair in 1958 and at Expo 67.

In Montréal from the 1950s onwards, she was the organist at St-Édouard Church, then at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Church and at St-Albert-le-Grand Conventual Chapel. She inaugurated organs throughout Québec (e.g., at Cap-de-la-Madeleine and in Louiseville), and performed regularly on CBC Radio, including the 1955 premiere of Jean Papineau-Couture’s Psaume CL. At the request of French radio in 1963, she performed Roger Matton’s Suite de Pâques.

She made two LPs in 1956, one (RCI 122) consisting of Franck's Chorale No. 3 and Dupré’s Pange lingua, Ave maris stella and Symphonie-Passion, and the other (RCI 128/6-ACM 4) containing Papineau-Couture's Psaume CL with the Montréal Bach Choir.


She began teaching organ and theory at the Université de Montréal in 1951 and organ at the École Vincent-d'Indy in 1967. She also taught at the Institut Nazareth, the Conservatoire de musique du Québec, the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and the Collège de musique Ste-Croix. Her pupils included Françoys Bernier, Victor Bouchard, Marthe Lesage and Denis Regnaud.


She was a jury member in 1956 for the Prix d'Europe, and in 1962 and 1978 for the examinations at the Paris Conservatory. She received the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée in 1961. Her papers are held at the Université de Montréal.

A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.

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