Sheet music from Canada’s past

Did you know that Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has one of the most comprehensive sheet music collection in the country? Thanks to Helmut Kallmann, the founding Chief of the Music Division at the National Library of Canada (now part of LAC), who collected any early Canadian sheet music he could find.

Recently, over a thousand pieces of sheet music from this collection were digitized and are now available online. These titles were published before 1918 and include a wide variety of patriotic and parlour songs, piano pieces, sacred music, etc.

Colour image depicting people dancing in a barn.

Sheet music cover image of a musical piece entitled, “The Village Barn Dance” by Mollie King. Source

Visit LAC’s Sheet Music from Canada’s Past website to learn more or to search for music sheets. Here’s how:

  1. Click on Search Sheet Music located in the left menu.
  2. In the first box, click the down arrow and choose the time period you would like to search, e.g. “1900-1913.”
  3. In the second box, click the down arrow and choose the type of search, e.g. Title keyword (song title).
  4. In the third box, you can enter a search term, e.g. “barn”.
  5. Click the “Submit” button at the bottom.

The browsing options in the fourth box allows you to limit your search to digitized music for which there is either printed music or audio files available. Please note that default searching has been set at “All Time Periods”, “Any Keyword” but you can modify these settings by following the above steps.

Once you have found a piece of sheet music, you will see some or all of the following information:

  1. A description of the music.
  2. A small colour image of the front cover.
  3. A large colour image of the cover.
  4. A “View sheet music” icon.
  5. An “Audio” icon

As the sheet music is available as PDFs, you can print the music on letter size paper.

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