Plough My Account Sign Out
My Account
    View Cart

    Subtotal: $

    Colorful detail from Wassily Kandinsky's painting "304."

    The Joyous Prayers of Lili Boulanger

    By Marianne Wright

    March 17, 2015

    Available languages: Français


    The Plough Music Series is a regular selection of music intended to lift the heart to God. It is not a playlist of background music: each installment focuses on a single piece worth pausing to enjoy.

    Lili Boulanger’s setting of Psalm 24 ends with choir and organ at full pitch: “He is the king of Glory: Jehovah.” This exuberant praise was written in 1916, an agonizing year for Europe and in particular for the young composer, who was coming to realize that the ill health that had troubled her since childhood would probably allow her only one or two more years to live. During those few years, her musical creativity and skill increased, as did her devotion to the Catholic faith of her childhood. She returned home to Paris from Rome, where, as a winner of the composition prize Prix de Rome, she was studying composition in the Villa de Medici. (Lili Boulanger was the first woman to be awarded this prize; previous winners included Berlioz, Gounod, Bizet, Massenet, and Debussy.) Deeply affected by the suffering of soldiers at the front, she helped set up a foundation to support them, meanwhile continuing to compose. Her last work, a setting of the “Pie Jesu” had to be dictated to her sister Nadia since she no longer had the strength to write.

    Lili Boulanger died in 1918 at the age of twenty-four. One of the last pieces of music she composed, the “Vieille prière bouddhique,” includes words which reflect her acceptance of the path that was assigned to her along with her longing for a world where war has given way to “peace and joy”:

    Let every creature, all living souls,
    and the spirits unborn,
    let every woman that liveth,
    let every man that liveth,
    without a foe, without hindrance,
    pain and sorrow transcend,
    at last attain peace and joy.
    Let all creatures freely move,
    each one in the path which to him is assigned.

    This recording was made by the Monteverdi Choir, with the tenor solo sung by Julian Podger.

    Lili Boulanger, composer.
    Contributed By MarianneWright Marianne Wright

    Marianne Wright, a member of the Bruderhof, lives in southeastern New York with her husband and five children.

    Learn More
    You have ${x} free ${w} remaining. This is your last free article this month. We hope you've enjoyed your free articles. This article is reserved for subscribers.

      Already a subscriber? Sign in

    Try 3 months of unlimited access. Start your FREE TRIAL today. Cancel anytime.

    Start free trial now