Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe
Across the Channel
Some European courts were inspired by the French motet, notably Charles II of England, first cousin of Louis XIV. In the early 1660’s the English King promoted a new musical genre, the symphony anthem, which produced excellent musicians like Henry Purcell, a foremost English composers from the latter half of the 17th century.
Henry Purcell, composer and organist in Charles II’s royal chapel, was indubitably the most famous baroque musician in England. He died at the early age of 36 but left a rich legacy of music ranging from opera to religious works.
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During the Age of Enlightenment the Royal Chapel repertoire slowly made its way to Paris and the French provinces. How was it received? Researcher Bénédicte Hertz explains….
An abrupt end came in 1789
Giroust, the last chapel master
Louis XVI ascended the throne in 1774 with the revolution already looming. François Giroust was one of the chapel masters of the new King. He was the son of a Paris candlemaker. He started his career as master of music at Orléans cathedral where he was much appreciated by his superiors. Aged 38 he arrived at the Royal Chapel in the spring of 1775, the year the young King was crowned.
A Life in Music
Born in Paris into a family of artisans, as a boy he was trained at the Notre-Dame choir school.
At the age of 19 he became chapel master at Orleans cathedral.
In the year of the coronation of Louis XVI, Giroust became chapel master at the Royal Chapel.
Five years later he applied for the post of Superintendent of the King’s Music.
The year the French revolution erupted. The Royal Chapel closed its doors on 6th October, almost three months after the storming of the Bastille.
Giroust lost his post at the Royal Chapel and ended up, somewhat surprisingly, as concierge at the Palace of Versailles!
The former chapel master died in the Palace in 1799 at the turn of the century, as the Age of Enlightenment waned.
10th August 1792, Paris laid siege to the Tuileries Palace and the King was removed from his office. With no King there was no King’s Music.
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After 13 years of silence, chapel music rose from the ashes at the turn of the century, not at Versailles but in the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Who were the new faces in the Royal Chapel in the 19th century?
The Royal Chapel, a living environment
Thanks to the researchers and musicians at the CMBV and its choir Les Chantres & Les Pages, the public can enjoy the Royal Chapel’s vast musical repertoire and its stream of latest discoveries.
The CMBV in Versailles is a true centre for French baroque music and it promotes the spread of the Royal Chapel repertoire worldwide.
Music resounds in the Royal Chapel
Centre de musique baroque de Versailles
Since 1987 the CMBV has been actively resurrecting 17th and 18th century French music. Its research centre, publications, training programme and concert performances work to promote this immense musical repertoire.
Every year the CMBV coaches 17 young adult singers in the performance of French baroque music and choral conducting. The Chantres choir participates in numerous concerts and stage productions, offering them career opportunities. Today, of course, female singers are also welcome to join the choir!
The CMBV coaches around twenty high school pupils at its choir school Les Pages & Les Chantres.
Château de Versailles Spectacles
Around a hundred performances take place every year in the Royal Chapel at Versailles. Most of the concerts are organised by Château de Versailles Spectacles (CVS) a private company within the National Museum and Domaine of Versailles. Thanks to the programme compiled by Laurent Brunner and his teams, the Palace of Versailles remains the prestigious venue of a wide range of cultural events.
The Royal Chapel
"Jeudis musicaux" concerts
At 5.30 pm every Thursday throughout the school year, the CMBV choir Les Pages & les Chantres joins forces with Early Music students from Versailles conservatoire, a student organist from Paris national conservatoire and occasionally guest musicians, to perform a concert in the Royal Chapel at the Palace of Versailles.
A living chapel
One can listen to music in the Royal Chapel in Versailles 310 years after it was built! Laurent Brunner, director of Château de Versailles Spectacles, organises concerts in the Sun King’s palace all year round.
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What is it like to be a Page or a Chantre at the Royal Chapel in 2020? Arthur and Eva describe their experience…