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                  THE GEORGES DELERUE MUSEUM
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CHRONOLOGY

HE LEFT HIS MARK ON A WHOLE GENERATION OF COMPOSERS.
HIS UNIQUE, UNFORGETTABLE WORKS HAVE TRAVELLED 
TO THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE WORLD…

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I 1925

Georges Delerue is born, March 12, rue de Valmy in Roubaix, France to Georges Delerue and Marie Lhoest.

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I 1939

Although he learns music and his alphabet at the same time, he is not particularly interested in music at school. He plays the clarinet at the local Music Conservatory, enrolled there by his mother, but he spends more time playing with his schoolmates than practicing.

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I 1940

War erupts in France. Daily life becomes more and more difficult. Children commonly start a life of hard work early in order to help their families make ends meet. At fourteen and a half Delerue gives up his study of metallurgy at the Turgot Institute in order to work at a factory that produced metal files, where his father was a foreman. (Photo >Georges et son père) Still, his family stimulates him with music.

 

His maternal grandfather, nicknamed “Man of the Wind,” has a powerful voice and leads an amateur chorale. His mother plays some piano and loves to sing well-known melodies from Faust or Carmen at family gatherings. In this ambiance he becomes seriously interested in music.  In the evening, after long days of work at the factory, he enjoys playing the clarinet with local bands.

This stimulates him to practice the clarinet more and more seriously. He asks his parents for permission to divide his time between the factory in the mornings and the local music conservatory in the afternoons, in order to study solfeggio and clarinet.

After many difficult discussions, his parents agree unenthusiastically to the plan, convinced that “music would never pay any bills.” The war is about to rage in Europe. The Nazis invade Poland and the future looks bleak for all the young men called up for military service. Worried about her son, Marie encourages him in his music studies, hoping that he can do his military service in the relative safety of a military band. But at the conservatory he gives up the clarinet for the piano, which attracts him much more.

Auditioning for the instructor Madame Picavet-Bacquart, he performs a Romance without Words by Mendelssohn, which he had learned on his own. She agrees to teach him, with both a reservation and a compliment : “Mister Delerue, you’re not a pianist, but you are certainly a musician.” He enthusiastically studies Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, Grieg, and many others. Delerue had already been diagnosed with scoliosis.

Five months after beginning his piano studies, he has a simple bicycle accident that would worsen this congenital condition.The doctor orders an operation followed by six-months bed rest in a body cast. This confinement to a sickbed and isolation, along with all the usual privations of war time, is one of the most difficult periods of his life. Nevertheless, an important transformation occurs. Gradually, the musician in him grows more and more pronounced. Released from his body cast and inspired by Richard Strauss, he decides to become a composer.

 

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I 1941

On the recommendation of Madame Picavet-Bacquart, he enrolls in a class on musical harmony, the professor of which is the director of the conservatory. From the very first day of class, there is friction between him and his professor. His deficiencies in solfeggio and in musical culture are, in the opinion of his professor, fatal. Moreover, the socially conservative conservatory is taken aback by Delerue who arrives every afternoon from the factory dressed in his overalls.

The director assigns him a homework task obviously impossible to complete, simply for the pleasure, as Delerue would later say, of getting rid of him. Distraught, he arrives the following morning with no homework to turn in. But, as fate would have it, the director had died during the night. Delerue remains at the conservatory and his future in music is assured.

 

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I 1943

The new director of the conservatory, Alfred Desenclos, realizes the potential of his student and encourages him in what appears to be a real vocation. Desenclos intervenes with Delerue’s parents. Before long he is released from his morning factory hours and works constantly to catch up on all he must learn. ​

 

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I 1945

Now twenty years old, he has finished his local conservatory studies. This is a year marked by recognition of his talents, with graduation prizes from the Roubaix Conservatory : First Prize for Piano, First Prize for Chamber Music, First Prize for Harmony, and Second Prize for Clarinet. The director of the conservatory, Desenclos, urges him to enter the competitive auditions for entry into the National Conservatory of Music in Paris. He is accepted at the National Conservatory and in October he begins classes with Simone Plé-Caussade on the fugue and with Henri Büsser on composition.

 

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I 1946

Although studies go well at the National Conservatory, living in Paris proves to be difficult. Although he wins a scholarship for a thousand francs, awarded by a distinguished Roubaisian donor, the young student is obliged to earn a living. He performs regularly at Parisian and suburban dances, baptisms, marriages. For funerals he perfects his organ playing.  But he is also drawn to jazz and performs in the piano bars located around the Opéra Garnier in Paris.

 

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I 1947

He makes his first entry into competition for the Rome Prize and wins an honorable mention.

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I 1948

Henri Büsser retires from the National Conservatory of Music. His place is taken by Darius Milhaud, who has been in exile in America during the war.

Milhaud will have a decisive influence on Delerue’s career. Milhaud the professor leads his students to a new musical eclectisme. Realizing his gaps in general culture, Delerue turns more and more to literature, theater, and the cinema. In this year, he enters the Rome competition once more and wins the Second Grand Prize. Darius Milhaud identifies in him a composer who seems to be made to write music for the theater. Milhaud, in bad health and fatigued, asks Delerue to replace him as conductor of the music he had composed for Scheherazade, written by Jules Supervielle and directed by Jean Vilar. The occasion is the second Theater Festival of Avignon. 

 

This proves to be an exciting challenge. Vilar is demanding and there are the usual difficulties and risks of conducting an orchestra in the open air. He does so well that he is asked by Jean Vilar to compose the music for  Büchner’s Danton’s Death, scheduled for the same festival. In the following year, he will work with Vilar at the National Popular Theater on five dramatic presentations, including Corneille’s The Cid.

 

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I 1949

Again he attempts the Rome Prize and wins the First Second Grand Prize.  Nevertheless, it will be the First Prize for Composition, won the same year, of which he shall be most proud. Greatest musicals hours...

 

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I 1950

A year spent composing for short films.

 

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I 1952

A year of constant work.  Delerue alternates between composing theatrical music for the impresario Jean-Marie Serreau’s Théâtre Babylone, on the Left Bank of Paris, and for Raymond Hermantier’s Opéra Comique, on the Right Bank. The Théâtre Babylone, a major venue of the avant-garde,  is important in his career. It brings him into contact with such writers as Arthur Adamov, Samuel Beckett, Frederic Schiller. He and Boris Vian immediately take to each other and begin a collaboration. Out of Vian’s and Delerue’s friendship would emerge a theatrical adaptation of The Snow Knight  and The Builders of Empire, along with an oratorio, A Regrettable Incident, an operatic adaptation of The Snow Knight, as well as a ballet, The Barker. In this same year, Delerue becomes part of the Club d’Essai of French National Radio and Television where he will direct its orchestra.

 

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I 1953

Construction of the first French television studios, Rue Cognacq-Jay, Paris. His first composition for a television drama, Les Princes du Sang. The orchestra played live from behind a curtain where Delerue waited for a cue from the producer to begin conducting.

 

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I 1954

Presentation in Caen of the theatrical piece The Snow Knight, which is enthusiastically received over six days by 50,000 spectators. First compositions of music for historical spectacles of light and sound (Son et Lumière Presentations): Lisieux  and The Liberation of Paris.

 

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I 1955

Concert Symphony for Piano and Orchestra

 

 

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I 1957

Premiere at Nancy on January 31 of the opera The Snow Knight, a popular success. The Snow Knight  is scheduled for the Opéra Comique in Paris in 1960, but rehearsals that will begin in 1959 are cancelled in April, 1960 because of the Algerian war.

 

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I 1960

First score for a feature film : Le Bel Age by Pierre Kast. Score for his first film with Philippe de Broca : The love game First score for a François Truffaut film : Shoot the Piano Player.

 

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I 1963

Premiere of the ballet, The Lesson, story by Eugene Ionesco, choreography by Flemming Flindt. This ballet is still frequently performed.

 

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I 1963

Ken Russell brings Delerue into the world of Anglo-American film production by asking him to do the score for French Dressing.

 

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I 1965

Russell produces for the BBC a film on Delerue : Don’t Shoot the Composer.

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I 1966

 

Fred Zinneman calls on him for the score for A Man for All Seasons. Premiere of the ballet The Three Musketeers, based on Alexander Dumas’s novel, choreography by Flemming Flindt.

 

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I 1967

 

Composition for British television of a hymn, Our World, sung in many languages for the official inauguration of Mondovision.

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I 1968

The hymn Our World is honored with an Emmy Award in the United States.  

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I 1975


Premiere in Strasbourg of the opera Medis and Alyssio, book by Micheline Gautron, which opened to a lukewarm reception.

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I 1979

 

A César (French equivalent of an Oscar) for best film score: Préparez vos Mouchoirs by Bertrand Blier. An Oscar for best film score: A Little Romance, by George Roy Hill.

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I 1980

César for best film score: L’Amour en Fuite by François Truffaut. First film score completed while in Los Angeles for True Confessions by Ulu Grosbar.

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I 1981

 

César for best film score: The Last Metro by François Truffaut.

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I 1983

Composition of Three Prayers for Sorrowful Times, for solo baritone, mixed chorus and instrumental ensemble. The text is drawn from passages in the Latin Vulgate Bible on war, deportation, and genocide. Score for Truffaut’s last film, Vivement Dimanche. Composition of Concerto for Violon and Orchestra.

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I 1984

Delerue grieves for François Truffaut, friend and creative partner,

who had died on October 21.

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I 1986

Score for Alexandre Volkoff’s Casanova (1927). One of the great silent films, starring Ivan Mosjoukine, Casanova had been restored by the Cinémathèque française.

The project  projection of the film with live orchestra directed by Delerue was produced

by Robert Maniquis and Geoffrey Gilmore for the UCLA Film and Television Archive and found

its way to Paris and New York and several other cities.

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I 1990

 

Composition of  Mouvement Concertant pour Orchestre.

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I 1991

The sudden death of Georges Delerue. He had just composed the score for Rich in Love, the fifth film in collaboration with the director Bruce Beresford, a new creative partner and friend. He is laid to rest in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

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