Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Psaumes de la Reforme

In my Christmas stocking were several nice cds, chief among them was a collection of Psalm settings from the French Reformation, under the title, Psaumes de la Reforme. Almost all of the choral music I listen to from the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods is from Roman Catholic musicians, who were commissioned by the church to set the Mass to music. Even Thomas Tallis, whose career spanned the turbulent Tudor dynasty in England, wrote music for the Protestant court, but was himself a Catholic. So it was nice to listen to music of the Huguenots: French Calvinists who revered the Psalter, and gave lie to the myth that the Reformed were cultural Philistines, with no place for art or music.

The Psalter itself was paraphrased and made "metrical" (i.e., for use with music) by Clement Marot and Calvin's successor in Geneva, the theologian Theodore Beza. The genius who set these psalms to music was Claude Goudimel (1520-1572). He skillfully used Gregorian melodies, court tunes, and the music of the streets to create a musical vehicle for liturgy, meditation, prayer, and especially for praise. The Reformed faith, with its emphasis on God's glory and sovereign grace, was now singable, even by the masses. Our current hymnals and the Scottish Metrical Psalter, owe a great debt to the French poets and musicians who pioneered the music of the Reformation, and who are largely unknown today.

Claude Goudimel's gifts and life were cut short in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, August 24th, 1572, when 70,000 French Protestants were martyred. His legacy, however, lives on in the beauty and solemnity of the Psaumes of the Reforme.

{St Bartholomew's Day Massacre}


Blogger homo unius libri said...

Darn, all I got was socks.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Again, thanks a ton, Scott!
I love this stuff. We are definitely kindred spirits.
Where do you find all this stuff?!

10:03 AM  
Blogger Scribe said...

Just perusing the offerings at Naxos led me to ask my wife for the cd, which in turn led me to research Goudimel. The internet is a wondrous thing.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Dr Annemie Godbehere said...

Snap!! I also got a "Psaumes de la Réforme" CD for Christmas. Not quite the same as yours. I have been looking for a while for Huguenot Psalms CD (in French), but couldn't find one. The one I received is sung by 'Le Choeur d'Enfants de la Maîtrise de Nîmes' "Resveillez-vous, chacun fidèle". I would like to get hold of the CD you have. Could you please send me some details. My email is annemie@godbehere.com My blog is the-old-paths.blogspot.com (presentation not as sophisticated as your but I am just learning ...)

3:46 PM  

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