1919 - 1997
1919 - 1997
C. Alexander Peloquin, composer, cathedral organist, and director of music ministries, had a special relationship to the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. He served on our first Board of Directors; in fact, he dominated our first Board meeting, as only Alex Peloquin could! The year was 1976, and the day was November 19. NPM had just been formed and everyone on the Board had dreams of what was needed in the area of church music.
Alexander Peloquin was very much part of the Board’s discussions about what NPM ought to be. But Alex was also interested in telling us that “a lot of religious music today is boring, and I don’t think worship calls us to boredom.” He then spoke, at length, about the importance of syncopation (one of his favorite themes) and jazz rhythms and how they showed up in various religious works. He went on to point out that the harmonies in his music were reminiscent of those used by George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein. The NPM Board did not meet again for another seventeen years!
Alexander Peloquin was born in Northbridge, Massachusetts, and began music training on the piano when he was eight. He had a regular radio spot for piano performance at age eleven, gave an organ recital in his teens, and played piano with Leonard Bernstein. In World War II, he served as a bandmaster for the 314th Army Band, bringing the sounds of Gershwin to GIs in Italy, France, and Morocco. Starting in the 1950s Peloquin began a 13-year relationship with the The Catholic Hour, first on NBC radio, then on CBS television. In the course of his life he composed more than 150 works.
At the National Liturgical Week in 1964 in St. Louis, Missouri, he directed his composition of the first Mass using an English text, while during that same week Clarence Rivers was introducing “God is Love” and the rest of his “American Mass Program.” Alexander Peloquin was one of the few classically trained composers inspired by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The compositions by Peloquin that most lay people would probably recognize is the very successful Gloria from Mass of the Bells and the Lyric Liturgy.
After conducting the Papal Mass at Grant Park, Chicago, in 1979, Alexander Peloquin came across town to conduct a choir at the memorable closing ceremony of the Second NPM National Convention. After completing his beautiful version of All the Ends of the Earth and receiving a standing ovation which concluded the performance and the event, Alex, dressed in his trademark white suit, bowed to the audience several times, asked for quiet, and then suggested that “we should do it again in order to get the rhythm right.” We did.
Alex was the Organist and Director of Music Ministries for the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul in Providence (1960-1991), and he was responsible for the installation of the magnificent Casavant Frères organ in that cathedral. During this time, he was also affiliated with Boston College, teaching courses in choral conducting and composition, serving as composer-in-residence, and forming and maintaining the Peloquin Chorale, with his close friend Laetitia Blain serving as soloist on many occasions.
Alexander Peloquin received the NPM Pastoral Musician of the Year Award in 1989 and the NPM President’s Citation in 1993 on the occasion of his retirement. But no award can give adequate honor to this man who spent his life in service of the renewal of the liturgical life of the Church through music. Alex now gives glory to God with the heavenly choir, and, we are certain, he already has them singing in perfect rhythm!
Tribute prepared by NPM staff, published in Pastoral Music, April-May 1997, pg. 10. Reprinted with permission.