Date of Graduation


Document Type

Problem/Project Report

Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


School of Music

Committee Chair

Nicholas Perna

Committee Co-Chair

Andrew Kohn

Committee Member

William Koehler

Committee Member

Alison Helm


In his work, Motets for One Voice by Franck, Gounod, and Saint-Saëns, Richard Benefield began the scholarly study of a unique body of repertoire, the organ-accompanied solo motet repertoire of nineteenth century France. While Benefield chose to restrict his project to the work of only three major composers, he indicated other collections of Latin texted solo motets, one of which was the solo motets published in the Parisian church music journal La Maîtrise,between 1857–1861. These songs are examined in terms of historical context, musical features, and possible contemporary uses.

As France recovered from the ravages of the Revolution, the French Catholic church began to rebuild its physical, pedagogic, and musical structures. Replacing instruments destroyed in the Revolution, Cavaillé-Coll developed the French Romantic organ, while French scholars researched and restored the historic Gregorian chants. A new generation of French organists, composers, and church musicians were trained at the Paris Conservatoire and at the newly founded École de musique classique et religieusby professors such as François Benoist and Louis Niedermeyer. Although the operatic style dominated church music, a new, more serious style began to develop, influenced by the works of the Renaissance polyphonic and German Baroque composers.

The solo motets of La Maîtrise are composed in a variety of styles, illustrating the tensions that still remained in mid-nineteenth century France but which gave rise to some of the major developments in church music during the nineteenth century. However, the songs present a variety of possible uses to vocal performers and pedagogues today. From introducing young singers to Latin diction to expanding the solo vocal literature available for the bass voice and church musicians, the motets of La Maîtriseare a versatile collection comprising only a portion of the organ-accompanied solo motet repertoire that is yet to be examined. With additional collections of motets to be examined and a variety of related topics and musical repertories, the organ-accompanied solo motets in La Maîtrisepresent a starting-point for many lines of future research. A unique repertory, cultivated in a time or extraordinary change, the organ-accompanied solo motets of La Maîtriseare a compelling collection that is well worth investigating by the singing community.