Friday, December 17, 2010

Six Noëls Anciens

Six Noëls , Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643 - 1704), circa 1693, French Baroque
Commonly known as Or Nouse Dites Marie (so they say!)

Many of the French carols that are known today, were not originally Christmas poetry. Instead they were songs of feasting and rejoicing with little or not sacred content or intent. The earliest forms of the Noël make appearance in 15th century manuscripts. However, the Noël was not widely popular until it was spread around France in the 16th century by printing presses.

These Noëls were likely written by known poets and were possibly old airs now set to music or commissioned music for aristocrats and special events. They represent an effort to bring "good and godly" ballads back into the mainstream of popular music in France in the 16th century.

Like many early English Carols, the French Noëls were often written half in Latin and half in the native language of the area. Here is a sample lyric:

Mille esprits angéliques,Juncti pastoribus,Chantent dans leur musique,Puer vobis natus,Au Dieu par qui nous sommes,Gloria in excelsis,Et la paix soit aux hommesBonae voluntatis.

The composer of our Six Noëls, Marc-Antoine Charpentier was a French composer who was believed to come from a family of royal painters. He studied in Rome in the mid 1600's for a few years and returned to Paris where he became maître de musique at the residence of Marie de Lorraine, Mademoiselle de Guise. While there, he composed many motets, Psalms, and other sacred music. He remained at this post until 1688 when the Mademoiselle died. When Molière separated from Lully in 1672, Charpentier was taken on as musical collaborator to Molière where he composed prologues, entr'actes, and other music for Molière. Louis XIV was so pleased with Charpentier's theater music, the composer was granted pension.

Over the years, Charpentier served in musical posts at Jesuits' St. Louis Church and Saint Chapelle. He also taught music to Philippe, Duke of Chartres. Charpentier died in 1704 but not without leaving a tremendous legacy in his published works and non-published manuscripts.

I hope you enjoyed Mr. George Becker's rendition of these lovely Noëls. You can hear more of him on clavichord and other instruments at his YouTube page:



Sacred Texts: Chapter 3, Christmas Poetry (II)

CD Universe (Composer, Period, and Date)


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