Since the XVIIth century, in Provence (South of France), during the Christmas evening near the fire, the families traditionally used to sing Christmas Carols, while waiting for the Midnight Mass. The most famous of them, handed down from generation to generation for more than 300 years, are the 67 Christmas Carols of Nicolas Saboly (1614-1675), Choir Master of the St-Pierre church in Avignon. Every year, people impatiently expected the appearance of the latest composed carols, and the popular success was all the more considerable that the carol texts included a fair amount implications related to small and great events from the life in Avignon...
The original melodies infortunately have been denatured by an exclusive oral handing down, and even have been modified or replaced by others, "easier ones". At present, only a few handfuls of very old people rember a few of them, with great difficulty, and this Provençal cultural treasure is at the point of sinking into oblivion, completely ignored by the younger generation.
In the Archives of the St-Symphorien church in Avignon, I managed to discover an old book with the 66 original melodies (the 67th carol is "spoken"). I recorded the complete set of those carols on the organ; it is the first time that so a full recording is carried out.
Some recordings already existed, but in song version, only a part of those carols and not in original version. In consideration of the large number of verses for each song, it was not possible to put more than one dozen carols per CD. Moreover, the singers had - logically - very "typical" voices, the listening of wich became fast rather painful.
Organ does not have those disadvantages:
~ the tones are softer and do not tire, owing to the large variety of draw stops (115);
~ by restricting the verses to 2 (or even to 1 for the longest ones), we managed to put the complete set on only one CD (65 minutes).
This recording is the fruit of a five months' work. In fact, it is not all having the 66 melodies, it is also necessary to write, for them, 66 organ acceptable accompaniments, en then to study those 66 pieces of music, each with its specific character...
From a technical angle, we must point out the stereophonic obtained effect, as rare as remaquable, thanks to the windchest layout of the Organ wich had, on one side the pipes of Pedal, Positiv and "Resonanz", and on the other side those of Great, Swell and Echo. That allowed, in most of the pieces, either to spatialize both hands, or to make dialoging left and right side.
Moreover, the size of the instrument allowed to have several unusual stops: - the beautiful "Flûte traversière" (carol # 5); - the "Great Third 6 2/5" and the "Regale 16" for the unpleasant rough voice of the innkeeper, in contrast to the begging voice of Joseph, with the "Gambe Céleste" (# 26); - the "Quint 5 1/3" of # 59; - the "Seventh 1 1/7" of # 65; - the "Clarinet" (left hand) in duet with the "Short Trumpet" (right hand) in # 62; - the "Trompette en chamade" (end # 66).
In addition to its use as adapted Christmas background music, this CD can also be useful in the evenings of heavy days... or even to relax by driving, as some people informed me...
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