Created specifically for the Utrecht Early Music Festival 2017 season, our programme “Airs de cour – les parodies spirituelles” focuses on the religious adaptations of the airs de cour.

The most famous composers of the air de cour during the reign of Louis XIII were Guedron, Boesset and Moulinié. While they were originally sung in the court by four or five voices, they were published for voice and lute to be sung in the home. The air de cour’s popularity was not only reserved to the Parisian elite, as they were adopted and translated in many countries throughout Europe. Some noteable examples include Constantijn Huygens, who wrote Dutch poems to existing airs de cour and also Robert Dowland, who included some airs de cour in his ‘Musical Banquet’.

As demand for these songs continued to grow, the French Catholic church did not hesitate at the opportunity to assume them into a religious setting, with poets rewriting these popular tunes to convey a spiritual text. Thus the “parodies spirituelles” were born.

We find these parodies spirituelles in many different collections, including Pieuse Allouette (Valenciennes, 1621), Despouille d’Egypte (Paris, 1629), and La philomele seraphique (Tournai, 1632 and 1640). In one of the earliest publications, Amphion sacré (1615), the compiler Louis Muguet also included canons based on the catchy Parisian chanson. The text of these canons are basic religious concepts, such as “tout avecque le temps”, or everything with it’s own time.

Composers: Pierre Guédron (1570 – c. 1620), Antoine Boësset (1586 – 1643), Étienne Moulinié (1599 – 1676), Francois Richard (c. 1585 – 1650)