number of Voices exceeds thirty-two, the notes must be sung of different lengths, some Choirs taking each one as a Large, others as a Long, and so on. It is easy to see that a Canon of this kind is no work of Art at all. Arithmetically considered, it reduces itself to a very simple calculation; while, musically, it is nothing more than an intolerable drawl on the Chord of G. But no Canon, written for so great a number of Voices, could possibly be founded on more than one single Chord.
[ W. S. R. ]
NOËL (Old Fr. Nouel; Burgundian Noé; Norman Nud; Poitevin Nau; Germ. Weihnachts Gesang; Eng. Nowell, Nouell, Christmas Carol). A peculiar kind of Hymn, or Canticle, of mediaeval origin, composed, and sung, in honour of the Nativity of Our Lord.
The word Noël has so long been accepted as the French equivalent for 'Christmas,' that we may safely dispense with a dissertation upon its etymology. Moreover, whatever opinions may be entertained as to its root, it is impossible to doubt the propriety of retaining it as the generic name of the Carol: for we continually find it embodied in the Christmas Hymn or Motet, in the form of a joyous exclamation; and it is almost certain that this particular kind of Hymn was first cultivated either in France or Burgundy, and commonly sung there in very antient times.
Of the numerous early examples which have fortunately been preserved to us, the most interesting is, undoubtedly, the famous 'Prose de l'âne.' This curious Carol was annually sung, at Beauvais, and Sens, on the Feast of the Circumcision, as early as the 12th century; and formed an important part of the Ceremonial connected with a certain popular Festival called the 'Fête de l'âne,' on which an ass, richly caparisoned, and bearing upon its back a young maiden with a child in her arms, was led through the city, in commemoration of the Flight into Ægypt, and finally brought in solemn procession to the Cathedral, while the crowd chaunted the following quaint, but by no means unmelodious ditty:—
Scarcely less popular in Germany, than the 'Prose de l'âne' in France, were the beautiful Carols 'Resonet in laudibus' (Wir loben all' das Kindelein), and 'Dies est lætitiæ' (Der Tag der ist so freundlich)—the latter, equally well known in Holland as 'Tis een dach van vrolichkeit.' Both these examples are believed to be as old as the 13th century; as is also another—'Tempus adest floridum'—of equally tuneful character. 'In dulci jubilo'—a curious mixture of Latin and Patois, set to a deliciously simple Melody—may possibly be of somewhat later date.
These early forms were succeeded, in the 16th and 17th centuries, by Carols treated, with more or less success, in the Polyphonic style. The credit of having first so treated them is generally given to François Eustache du Caurroy, Maître de Chapelle to Charles IX, Henri III, and Henri IV, on the strength of a collection of pieces, entitled 'Mélanges de la Musique,' published, at Paris, in 1610—the year following his decease. But, Giovanni Maria Nanini, who died, at Rome, in 1607, has left us a magnificent example, in the form of a Motet—'Hodie Christus natus est'—in the course of which he introduces the exclamation, Noé! Noé! with striking effect; and Luca Marenzio published a similar composition, adapted to the same words, as early as 1588. As Du Caurroy's collection was contained in a posthumous volume, it would perhaps be impossible, now, to reconcile the claims of the rival Composers, as to priority of invention; though the French Noëls will, of course, bear no comparison with those written in Italy, in point of excellence. Still, it is only fair to say that the Italian Composers seem to have excited no spirit of emulation among their countrymen; while, for more than a century after the death of Du Caurroy, collections of great value appeared, from time to time, in France: such as Jean François Dandrieu's 'Suite de Noëls,' published early in the 18th century; 'Noei Borguignon de Gui Barôzai,' 1720; 'Traduction des Noels Bourguignons,' 1735; 'Nouveaux Cantiques Spirituels Provençaux,' Avignon, 1750; and many others. We subjoin a few bars of Nanini's Motet, and of one of Du Caurroy's Noëls, as specimens of the distinctive styles of Italy, and France, at the beginning of the 17th century.
G. M. Nanini.
- A modern German critic, F. M. Böhme, mistakes the vowels E.V.O.V.A.E—the mediæval abbreviation for seculorum. Amen—for a similar cry of joy, and is greatly exercised at the admission of a 'Bacchanalian shout' into the Office-Books of the Church! 'Statt Amen der bacchische Freudenruf, evoane!' (Böhme. Das Oratorium; Leipzig, 1861.) [See Appendix, Evovae.]