He wrote only fourteen published works, the most famous of which is his Requiem, Op 9.
As a schoolboy, he attended Rouen Cathedral Choir School where he was a chorister, and where he studied piano and organ. When he was 17 he went to Paris, and studied organ with Tournemire, and at 18 he entered the Paris Conservatory, where he studied composition under Paul Dukas, and organ with Louis Vierne.
Between 1922 and 1928 he won several prizes, including prizes for composition, piano accompaniment, harmony and organ. In 1927 he became assistant to Vierne at Notre Dame, a position which he held until 1937.
In 1929 he won the Paris "Friends of the organ" prize, for organ and improvisation, and he obtained the position of organist at the church of St-Etienne-du-Mont, Paris. His Op 3. piece Prelude, Recitative and Variations for flute, viola and piano was given its first performance by Marcel Moyse, Maurice Vieux and Jean Doyen.
From 1942 he assisted Marcel Dupré in organ classes at the Paris Conservatory.
In 1947 he wrote his most famous piece, his Requiem Op. 9, for choir, soloists and orchestra, which was given its first performance by Paul Paray. The Requiem has some similarities with Faure's, though it also shows the strong influence of Gregorian chant. The piece was reworked into two other versions, and now exists in three versions - one for full orchestra, one for reduced orchestra, and a version with organ.
The organist Marie-Madeleine Chevalier became his assistant a St-Etienne-du-Mont in 1947. He married her in 1953 at the age of 51. They shared the position of organist at St-Etienne-du-Mont thereafter.
He gave up performing after a car accident in 1975.
His last published work (1977) is a setting of the Lord's Prayer for 4 mixed voices.
Although he is most famous for his Requiem, it must not be forgotten that he was a distinguished organist, and he gave numerous performances, including the premieres of Louis Vierne's 6th Symphony (1935) and Poulenc's organ concerto.
He also made numerous recordings, including his own Requiem, but also Poulenc's organ concerto, Saint-Saëns's 3rd Symphony, Charpentier's Midnight Mass for Christmas, and performed in recordings of Faure's Requiem, and Honegger's Christmas Cantata, and King David. He also made recordings of Bach's organ music, some of them with his wife Marie-Madeleine, besides other recordings of organ music including works by Tournemire and Vierne and other composers.
He died in Paris in 1986.