Loys Bourgeois
(about 1510-1560)

The French musician Loys Bourgeois played a key role in preparing the Huguenot Psalter. He composed most of the Psalter tunes.

The most important musical composer of the psalms

  • St Pierre cathedral in Geneva © Collection privée

Loys Bourgeois was born and died in Paris. He spent some time in Geneva around 1551. He was choir master and cantor at Calvin’s church, Saint Peter’s Cathedral. He conducted psalm singing during services.

However he is best known for his part in composing the Huguenot Psalter. He was the main composer responsible for writing music adapted to the texts.

He composed new tunes for psalms versified by Théodore de Bèze and likewise adapted Latin tunes to the texts. He also modified some of his predecessor Guillaume Franc’s tunes to Clément Marot’s texts ; he was admonished by the Geneva Council and even jailed for twenty-four hours for having modified some the Psalms (« avoir corrigé les psaumes ».

He was most certainly the first to harmonise some of the Psalms in four parts.

He was also the author of Le droit chemin de musique (The right way in music), a text on musical theory presenting the principles of psalm singing according to Calvin’s rules.

Bibliography

  • Books
    • Le psautier français, Fed. Musique et Chant, Réveil Publications, Lyon, 1995
    • PIDOUX Pierre, Le psautier huguenot du XVIe siècle, Baerenreiter, Bâle, 1962
    • WEBER Édith, La musique protestante en langue française, Honoré Champion, Paris, 1979

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