Cérémonies de voyage


The court of Louis XIV is exemplary as a hierarchy : every craftsmen unit, from the most prosaic ones to the most prominent craftsmen and artists organize themselves around the King as a finely set clock.
However, the king sometimes decides to disrupt this organization : a royal whim – the good weather, a sudden urge to go hunting, a wish of countryside – moves the whole court from Versailles to Fontainebleau or any other royal residence.

Difficult then to move all the court’s machine (furnitures, kitchens, etc.) in a few hours. Only a limited crew go on the trip. As far as music is concerned, only 15 musicians out of the regular 80 who plays the daily mass follow the court to the new place ! The music do not change : the « grands motets » are still played, but they are converted to fit with this new cast so that the king can listen to his favorite motets wherever he goes ! We can today track down this « travel motets » in a score which contains musics by Lalande, Couperin and some other composers. The cast with 3 voices, 2 violins and a continuo characterizes these works. All the motets written by Charpentier for the same cast could have perfectly been played as well for his patroness, Marie de Guise, duchess of Alençon, during her numerous journeys in Normandy at the end of the 17th century !

Travelling goes with the idea of moving : yet the Grand Siècle is the century of processions ! Every cathedral, village church, rural chapel, fountain, river, centuries-old tree justify processions, which are artistic expression as well. Religious or secular (for the craftsmen guilds, to beg for good weather or rain), they have existed for centuries, and establish the very identity of every tiny village.

During these processions, music is always there : it punctuates the event which often lasts several hours ! The music is usually played by local musicians who also plays for the ball or the village fair. They are violinists or oboists. For the most important religious places, the music is rather played in procession by the official musicians of the cathedral (voices and instruments), outside but also inside the church, with regular stops, alternating singing and instrumental music.

These musics has rarely been written down : either it was orally spread by the musicians, or improvised most of the time from the « plain chant ». However there was still one great composer, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, who was able to write these procession musics down : his scores are even extended with precise instructions for the musicians, which say for example that they should wait for the bishop to stop at one specific place before starting playing ! These are these musics which we will share during these travel celebrations.


Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Procession music
Supplicatio pro defunctis
Super flumina Babylonis
In odorem ungentorum
Beati omnes qui timent Dominum

Michel-Richard de Lalande
La Grande Pièce royale

François Couperin
Laudate pueri Dominum

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