Vespers for Saint Louis, King of France, 1226-1270
Motet: Domine, salvum fac regem à 4 Jean Maillard (fl. 1538–1570)
Invitatory Versicle and Response: Deus in adjutorium Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: Ludovicus decus regnantium /Psalm 109 Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: Gaude regnum Francie /Psalm 110 Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: Te dum ipse viveret /Psalm 111 Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: Plebs ergo Francigena /Psalm 112 Plainchant
Antiphon and Psalm: In terris regimine /Psalm 113 Plainchant
Chapter reading: Benedictus Dominus Deus Plainchant
Responsory: Cum esset in accubitu Plainchant
Hymn: Gaude mater ecclesia Plainchant
Magnificat antiphon: Magnificat gesta clarissima Plainchant
Magnificat sexti toni Claudin de Sermisy (ca. 1490–1562)
Collect: Deus qui beatum Ludovicum Plainchant
Benedicamus Domino Plainchant
Inviolata, inegra, et casta à 5 Maillard
Misericordias Domini à 4 Josquin des Prez (ca. 1450–1521)
In pace Maillard
Da pacem, Domine Antoine Brumel (ca. 1460–ca. 1512–13)
Antiphon: Benedictus Dominus Plainchant
Benedictus Dominus Deus à 7 Eustache de Caurroy (1549–1609)
Friday, February 1, 2008 at 8pm
First Lutheran Church of Boston, 299 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA
Sunday, February 3, 2008 at 3pm
Christ Church Andover, 33 Central Street, Andover, MA
Shannon Canavin & Teresa Wakim, soprano
Catherine Hedberg & Martin Near, alto
Eric Rice & Steven Soph, tenor
Cameron Beauchamp & Brian Church, bass
Notes on the Program
Confronted with the two words “Saint” and “Louis” in succession, most Americans are likely to think of a mid-sized city in Missouri. With a slight change in pronunciation, some will draw a connection with King Louis IX of France, who reigned from 1226 until his death in 1270. The Midwestern city was in fact named for the medieval French saint-king, who still loomed large in the consciences of the French Catholics who established a mission there in 1703. Not until the canonization of Joan of Arc in 1920 was there a comparable saint in the French national consciousness. Three manifestations of Louis’s strong faith made him a monarch worthy for sainthood: he was an ardent crusader, leading the Seventh and Eighth Crusades in a vain attempt to reclaim Christian territory that had fallen into Muslim hands; he was reported to be unfailing in his charity, feeding as many as 100 from his palace grounds every day and washing the feet of the poor on a regular basis; and he procured important relics and commissioned astounding works of art — notably the famous Sainte-Chapelle — to contain them. Louis’s life and work led to his canonization by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297, and the canonization of such a figure required the creation of liturgical texts and music with which to explicate and celebrate the new saint’s feast.
Our concert presents liturgical music from the Divine Office for annual celebrations of Louis’s feast day on August 25, the anniversary of his death in 1270. The Divine Office (from the Latin officium, “duty”) is a ritual that is distinct from the mass: whereas the mass commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples as described in the New Testament, the Office grew out of the collective praying and psalm-singing of Jewish ritual. It was codified into services known as the Canonical Hours, which are celebrated at roughly three-hour intervals throughout the day in monasteries and (in earlier times) in most large churches. Most office services have similar contents. Certain psalms are chanted at each service, so that by the end of each week the entire Psalter or set of 150 psalms has been recited. Psalms are introduced by antiphons, short melodies that establish the musical recitation formula in which each psalm is chanted. The psalm is then followed by a doxology (“Glory be to the Father,” etc.) and a repetition of the antiphon. A short scripture reading is performed and then followed by an elaborate plainchant responsory. A hymn is also sung at many office services. It is in the rhyming texts (hence the term “rhymed office”) of these three types of pieces — antiphons, responsories, and hymns — that the celebration of Louis’s life and deeds is set forth.
The rhymed office Ludovicus decus regantium, portions of which we are performing, was probably commissioned by Louis’s grandson, Philip the Fair, and compiled by a well-known liturgist named Pierre de la Croix following Louis’s canonization. It is based a slightly earlier liturgical office, Nunc laudare, that was written shortly before by Dominicans, and contains a number of the earlier office’s texts. The texts extol Saint Louis as an exceptional ruler, one who, having ruled wisely in life, was now particularly powerful as an intercessor among God’s saints in death.
Domine, salvum fac regem (Mailard)
Our hypothetical reconstruction of a Vespers in honor of Saint Louis is set in the mid-sixteenth century at Notre-Dame of Paris, which had innumerable ties to the royal court and its musicians. We open with a four-voice piece of polyphony, Domine, salvum fac regem, by Jean Maillard, about whom relatively little is known. He flourished between 1538 and 1570, and was cited in François Rabelais’s Quatriême livre de Pantagruel in a long list of illustrious composers. He dedicated two 1565 motet collections to King Charles IX and the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, respectively, suggesting that he had ties with the royal court. Indeed, Domine, salvum fac regem is a coronation motet, though it is unclear whether it was ever employed as such. An extra-liturgical piece that prays for the well-being of a current monarch would be completely appropriate at a vespers for a former one, particularly at the Sainte-Chapelle or Notre-Dame, institutions that were to pray for the monarch at every opportunity. Maillard’s motet is very tightly constructed and demonstrates an affinity for imitation in the Franco-Flemish tradition. The work presents a variety of textures, thinning from four voices to two and repeating the final phrase in homophony for rhetorical emphasis.
Antiphons and Psalms: Rhymed Office Ludovicus decus regnantium
Following this motet, the prescribed vespers begins with a versicle and response and continues with five antiphons and psalms. After an antiphon is sung, each psalm is chanted to a “recitation tone” or melodic formula specific to the mode or scale of the antiphon (in the interest of time, we shall sing only the first two verses of each psalm). A doxology with the text “Gloria Patri” (“Glory be to Father”) follows, and the antiphon is then repeated. By the twelfth century, rhymed offices were composed so that their elements progressed through the modes in numeric order. Here, for example, the first antiphon is in mode one, the second is in mode two, etc; in this way, all of the possible recitation formulas were used multiple times in the course of a feast’s Canonical Hours.
Chapter Reading and Responsory
A brief chapter reading from the book of Ezra follows. The reading resonates with the Canticle of Zachary, recited at Lauds (and in the last piece of our concert), because it begins with the same three words. It also would have had special significance at the Sainte-Chapelle, which Louis had built to house the Crown of Thorns; much of the Sainte-Chapelle’s decorative program allegorizes the building as the new Temple, rendering Paris the new Jerusalem and France the new Holy Land. The responsory text amplifies this notion, placing Louis “in a circle of good things” (one imagines the Sainte-Chapelle’s vast collection of relics) and “on the throne of Solomon.” The music of the responsory is melismatic, with multiple notes set to nearly every syllable. Such virtuosic chants were normally sung by just two people, with a soloist singing the verse and doxology. We have elected to perform the responsory with high male voices in keeping with the cleffing in the original source, but it could also have been performed by low voices.
Hymn: Gaude mater ecclesia
A hymn is sung at most of the “great” hours of the office, and it stands in stark contrast to the ornate responsory that precedes it. Most of the music is syllabic, and multiple stanzas of text are sung to the same tune, here in alternation between men and women as an analogue to alternation between boys and men that sometimes occurred in cathedrals. The themes of the text include Louis’s charity and his virtue, with no direct references to his work as a crusader. In the final few verses we have added some polyphony of a kind that might have been improvised in sixteenth-century Paris.
Antiphon and Magnificat (Sermisy)
After the hymn comes the Canticle of Mary, her response to the annunciation as recorded in Luke’s Gospel (1: 46-55), which is known more commonly by its opening Latin word, Magnificat. This is one of three canticles recited in office services and by far the one most often set polyphonically. It is always introduced by an antiphon in the same manner as the psalms, and the antiphon determines its mode. An unusual feature of the antiphons that introduce canticles in Ludovicus decus regnantium is that they employ the same first word as the canticles that they introduce. The title of this Magnificat antiphon is Magnificat gesta clarissima. Following the numerical order of the rhymed office, this antiphon is in mode six, requiring the canticle itself to be in that mode. I have selected Claudin de Sermisy’s Magnificat sexti toni, a polyphonic setting of the Magnificat in mode six. Sermisy is perhaps best known for his contribution to the genre of the Parisian chanson, but he was a cleric at the Sainte-Chapelle throughout most of his life, and his activities as a cleric in the royal court are exceptionally well documented. (He, too, in mentioned in Rabelais’s list of musicians in the Quatre Livre.) Sermisy’s Magnificat is an interesting reflection of the performance practices of royal chapel singers. These were divided into two choirs, the chapelle de musique and the chapelle de plainchant. A fairly standard division of labor between singers of polyphony and plainchant existed, and the two textures were typically alternated when singing a canticle, with plainsong used for, say, odd verses and polyphony for the even verses. Sermisy’s setting, however, gives the chapelle de plainchant simple, chordal polyphony, which reflects an improvisational technique known as falsobordone. We have not divided ourselves into two choirs, but are all performing both verse types of the Magnificat.
Collect, Benedicamus Domino, and Inviolata, integra, et casta (Maillard)
A short prayer and blessing conclude the service, after which it was customary for the clerics at Notre Dame to process out of the chancel and pause before a depiction of the saint or event being celebrated while an antiphon or responsory was sung. Upon their return to the chancel, the clerics stopped in front of a statue of the Virgin and sang the chant “Inviolata, integra, et casta,” which had become popular after its addition to the liturgy in the fourteenth century. We offer Maillard’s polyphonic setting of the text, which uses melodic fragments of the original chant as the subject of imitation and occasionally in long note values (as a cantus firmus). The first soprano sings another bit of plainchant using a formula from the litany, so that two chants are set polyphonically in the same piece.
Misericordias Domini in aeternam cantabo (Josquin)
The second half of our program consists of polyphonic works for the office, particularly Compline and Lauds, by composers who had a connection to Notre-Dame or the royal court. Musicologist Patrick Macey has surmised that Josquin des Prez (ca. 1450 – 1521), the most important composer of the early sixteenth century, was active in Paris during the early 1480s in part on the connection of this motet with Louis XI (1423 – 1483), from whom the composer may have been seeking a position. The text is a collection of psalm verses that do not fit together liturgically but may have special significance for the ailing Louis XI. The motet is an early work of Josquin’s, but already displays his penchant for paired imitation and exquisite sonority.
In pace (Maillard)
Maillard’s impressive In pace for six voices was likely composed for use at Compline. The name “Compline” is from the Latin completus (“completed”), a reference to the end of the day; the service seems to have grown out of collective prayers said before going to bed. Many of the prayers and other texts recited during compline are supplications for God’s protection during sleep, and four psalms deemed particularly pertinent are chanted in Compline services: 4, 90, 30, and 133 (Vulgate numbering). The texts of In pace are not drawn from these psalms, but they from others that refer to sleep. The brevity and grammatical incompleteness of the texts suggests that chant — perhaps that of a Paris tradition — may have been performed between sections of this motet.
Da pacem, Domine (Brumel)
Celebrated composer Antoine Brumel (ca. 1460 – ca. 1512–13) was briefly (1498 – 1500) master of the boys at Notre-Dame of Paris. His Da pacem, Domine is based on an antiphon used to pray for peace (a common theme of Compline) and demonstrates his interest in intricate, diminutive forms at the end of his life. It is a double canon at the fourth: the two low and two high voices are each derived from one line of notation.
Antiphon and Benedictus Dominus (Du Caurroy)
Like Maillard, Eustache du Caurroy (1549 – 1609) deserves more attention from modern audiences. Du Caurroy is known principally for his instrumental music, but he was a composer of great accomplishment in the realm of vocal music as well. He was employed by the royal court at Paris from 1575 and possibly earlier, and became sous-maître of the chapelle royale (which is, confusingly, not the same institution as the Sainte-Chapelle, and eventually earned the title of court composer. This seven-voice work, a setting of the Canticle of Zachary, would surely have been performed at Lauds services, when recitation of the canticle is prescribed. We have chosen to introduce it with the antiphon that would have done so at a Lauds service for Saint Louis. As with the Magnificat antiphon, this antiphon begins with the opening of the text it introduces, Benedictus Dominus. Du Caurroy’s rich counterpoint makes little effort to convey the canticle’s text, preferring instead a rich, sonorous effect.
© 2008 Eric Rice
The Vespers in the first half was transcribed and edited by Eric Rice. Principal sources were Bibiothèque Nationale de France, lat. 911 and British Library Add. MS 30072. Special thanks to Margaret Brown and Cecilia Gaposchkin for encouragement and assistance with the Office of Saint Louis.