The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Louis Bourgeois

For fifteen years, beginning in 1542, Louis Bourgeois was entrusted with writing, selecting, and arranging the music for the French psalters. His date of birth is placed sometime between 1500 and 1510, in Paris.

He became a follower of Calvin and went with him to Geneva in 1541. He became a music director there, and edited the Genevan Psalter. He then became the choirmaster at St. Pierre and St. Gervais. He was regarded quite highly for his contributions to the psalter, his high character and his teaching of children. The Genevan citizens even granted him special privileges and rights.

He had great musical skills, but because he made some unauthorized changes in some of the tunes, he was imprisoned for a day. However, his changes were later accepted, but only after John Calvin’s personal intercession. In 1557 he left Geneva to return to Paris and after the publication of his harmonizations of psalm tunes, was never heard about again.

Bourgeois is remembered for his arrangements of the Calvinist Psalter in syllabic homophony. He arrangements were not received wholeheartedly by the church leaders who feared they would disorient the congregations who already knew the old tunes.

Bourgeois published a manual on sight-reading and singing for congregational use. It contained the concept of solfege and explained basic music theory. He also advocated the use of instrumental music in worship. Bourgeois also contributed to the 1551 version of the Huguenot Psalter.



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