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Jean Langlais and His Choral Works for Boys Town, With a Choral Conductor's Focus on Missa Misericordiae Domini

Colt B Ballou, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Jean Langlais (1907-1991) is regarded as one of the most influential composers of the French post-Romantic school. Despite a complete loss of sight by the age of two, Langlais excelled at music. He attended the Paris National Institute for the Young Blind and later the Paris National Conservatory of Music where his teachers included Marcel Dupré, Charles Tournemire, and Paul Dukas. Langlais was influential at his teaching positions at the National Institute for the Young Blind and the Paris Schola Cantorum where he taught both French and international students. He was organist at Sainte- Clotilde from 1945 to 1987, succeeding Cesar Franck and Charles Tournemire. In 1952 Langlais began a series of American tours that occurred on a somewhat biennial basis until 1972. Five of these tours brought Langlais to Boys Town, Nebraska where he was a guest instructor at the annual Summer Liturgical Music Workshops. During this time Langlais composed four works that had a special relationship with Boys Town. The first two, Missa Misericordiae Domini and Sacerdos et Pontifex, were commissioned by the Boys Town Choir in 1959. The third, Psaume Solennel no. 1, was premiered at the 1963 Summer Liturgical Workshop. The fourth work, Mass “God Have Mercy,” was published in 1964 with a dedication to Father Francis Schmitt, director of the Boys Town Choir. Despite the high regard for Langlais’s organ music, most of his 107 works for choir and voice remain relatively unknown, as does the rich history of the Boys Town Choir and the Summer Liturgical Workshops. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the compositional style and artistic merit of Jean Langlais’s choral music through discussion and analysis of one of the works written for Boys Town, Missa Misericordiae Domini, as well as interviews with former students and Langlais scholars. Suggestions for performing Missa Misericordiae Domini, including adapting the three-part work for SATB choirs will also be discussed. The conclusion of this study will demonstrate the significance of Langlais’s sacred choral music, as well as increase awareness of the musical history of Boys Town.

Subject Area

Music history|Musical composition|Music

Recommended Citation

Ballou, Colt B, "Jean Langlais and His Choral Works for Boys Town, With a Choral Conductor's Focus on Missa Misericordiae Domini" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10793061.