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Festival Septembre Musical de l'Orne

(“Gather, gather your youth”)
Pierre de Ronsard (1524-2024) – A programme created as part of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Pierre de Ronsard, who belonged to the group of French Renaissance poets known as La Pléiade

This programme will include a contemporary composition by Caroline Marçot to a poem by Ronsard.

After celebrating the legacy of Joachim Du Bellay in 2022 with concerts, a recording, a project targeting young audiences and another one with the University of Angers that took us to the Académie Française, Doulce Mémoire, continuing this work on the poets of the Renaissance, will focus in 2024 on the figure of Pierre de Ronsard. The quincentenary of the poet’s birth gives us an opportunity to reflect on the perception of his poetry today. Poetry that was defined at the time as “the music of words”, and immense ambition of which went far beyond the ennoblement and enrichment of the French language.

Two conceptions of poetry emerged within the group of sixteenth-century French Renaissance poets known as La Pléiade. One of them was analogical: poetry is music, a line of verse is like a line of music, poetry is like song – a conception upheld by Joachim du Bellay, for whom poetry was self-sufficient. The other view, advocated by Pierre de Ronsard, maintained that poetry is meant to be sung, thus looking back to the ancient Greek tradition represented by Orpheus. In his Abrégé de l’art poétique françois of 1565, Ronsard recommended that poets recite, or rather sing, their verse: Je te veux aussi bien avertir de hautement prononcer tes vers, quand tu les feras, ou plutôt les chanter, quelque voix que tu puisses avoir.”

Ronsard constantly called upon musicians, ultimately becoming the poet most favoured by the composers of his century. No fewer than 393 musical settings of his poems, by some forty sixteenth-century composers, have been identified.

For Pontus de Tyard, another member of La Pléiade, the combination of music and poetry had therapeutic and cathartic effects. All the members of the group, led by Ronsard, attributed strong and beneficial psychological effects to the combination of poetry and music. Inspired by the Platonic theory of the “frenzies”, poets, seen as intercessors between the Muses – from whom they gained their inspiration – and the reader-listener, were invested with a mission: that of restoring harmony by “driving out dissonant discord”.

How can we today recapture in concert those wonderful effects, the furor poetica that Ronsard sought to create in imitation of the Ancients, the radicality advocated by the Pléiade movement?

Let us invert the commonly accepted hierarchy. For poets of the sixteenth century, poetry was said to be “natural music”, as opposed to song, i.e., poetry set to music, which was “artificial”. We shall therefore begin with musica naturalis, with a poem enunciated to a lyre accompaniment, following the example of the Greek bard, or aoidos. Once the audience has taken in that poem, we shall move on to musica artificialis, in the form of several musical settings of that same poem. The famous Mignonne, allons voir si la rose, for example, inspired composers including Guillaume Costeley, Fabrice Marin Caiétain, Jean de Castro, Rinaldo del Mel, Pierre Cléreau, and also Jehan Chardavoine, who proposed a monodic version.

Thus, the listener will be able to play an active role, in perceiving the transition from poetry to music, then noting the rhetorical means employed by composers to bring out the emotions contained in the text. To take the idea of listening to the same text in different versions one step further, Doulce Mémoire has commissioned the composer Caroline Marçot to provide a contemporary setting of one of the poems.

Our aim in presenting this new programme is threefold: to bring out the full force of Ronsard’s poetry by means of enunciation; to achieve the union of poetry and music that was so strongly advocated and desired by Ronsard; and to actively engage the listener.


  • Festival Septembre Musical de l'Orne
  • Alençon (61)


Version 1

Philippe Vallepin, narrator
Clara Coutouly, soprano
Hugues Primard, tenor
Bor Zuljan, lute, Renaissance guitar
Sébastien Wonner, harpsichord

Denis Raisin Dadre, artistic direction


Version 2

Philippe Vallepin, narrator
Clara Coutouly, soprano
Camille Fritsch, mezzo-soprano
Olivier Coiffet, tenor
Hugues Primard, tenor
François-Olivier Jean, tenor
Brice Claviez-Homberg, alto
Marc Busnel, bass
NN, bass

Bor Zuljan, lute, Renaissance guitar
Baptiste Romain, lira
Sébastien Wonner, spinett

Denis Raisin Dadre, artistic direction