Jean Langlais was a famous French organ composer and teacher. He held the position of organist at the Ste. Clotilde Basilica, a post formerly held by such famous composers as Cesar Franck and Charles Tournemire. A quarter of Langlais' pieces are based on Gregorian chant, including the work "Incantation pour un jour Saint (Incantation for a Holy Day)." The piece is based on a chant from the liturgy for the Catholic Easter vigil, during which the deacon enters the darkened cathedral carrying a triple candle. The deacon stops to light one candle and chants the phrase "Lumen Christi (Light of Christ)," at which point the choir responds with "Deo gracias (Thanks be to God)." The deacon then repeats this ceremony two more times, each time singing the chant at a higher pitch. Langlais depicts this ritual musically in the Incantation: he begins the Incantation with three statements of the "Lumen Christi" chant on full organ, and he repeats the chant in the middle and at the end of the piece. In between the chant statements is music which incorporates snippets of the chant and gradually increases in volume, speed and intensity. Organist Patrick Russill provided an apt description of the piece when he wrote that "the incessantly repeated invocations of the Litany of the Saints combine prayer and dance in a crescendo of spiritual fervor." This crescendo culminates in the last three measures of the piece in which the organist plays the chant a final time and settles on a glorious D major chord.
MP3 (Right-click and "Save Link As" to download):
Incantation pour un jour Saint