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Paschal de L'Estocart

1539 - 1584
born in Noyon, France, composed during the Renaissance period
As St. Paul, St. Ambrose, and generations of Christian theologians past had known, music can serve as a powerful spiritual and doctrinal tool. The European church learned the lesson anew during the sixteenth century (which was known both as the period of the Reformation and of the Wars of Religion). One of Martin Luther's earliest reforming actions would be to translate the service of the Eucharist into the vernacular, and to write and encourage German-language hymns. In Calvinist Geneva and Catholic France, the setting of Psalms and didactic music became a weapon on both sides. Thus the talents of a composer such as Paschal de l'Estocart might be co-opted into service for both faiths. Yet though he is known (at least late in his life) to have won a Catholic song competition, the majority of his surviving music is Huguenot and Protestant.

L'Estocart's surviving music, in fact, offers almost as many details toward his biography than does the archival evidence. The first historical note of his presence is in Lyons, where he lived starting in at least 1559; his marriage was celebrated there in 1565. Nothing else survives to document his life until the early 1580s, when he began studies at the (Protestant-leaning) University of Basel, and was granted royal permission to publish several collections of his music. Some historical evidence survives from the time demonstrating his ties to a number of French and Genevan Huguenot nobles, though he did win the Silver Harp prize in the Catholic Puy d'Evreaux composition competition in 1584. Thus ends the documentary record.

Yet more can be gleaned from an understanding of his music. His notedly Italianate -- and often intense -- sense of text-painting supports the notion that he studied music in Italy while younger. He published two volumes of music setting the texts known as the Octonaires de la vanité et inconstance du monde, a set of Protestant poetry by Chandeau, which were also given musical life by Claude le Jeune. It is in these moralizing refrains that l'Estocart shows his most surprising views on harmony. Further evidence for l'Estocart's personal Protestant faith comes in 1583, when he published a complete setting of Clément Marot's Genevan Psalter, a Calvinist translation also set by le Jeune, Louis Bourgeois, and Claude Goudimel. ~ Timothy Dickey, Rovi
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