History hasn’t passed down too much information about Claude Goudimel. He was born sometime around 1520, in Besançon, a town in eastern France that borders close to Switzerland. Some time in his late 20’s he was studying at the university in Paris and was an active secular composer.
Around his early thirties, he moved to Metz and converted to Protestantism, being associated with the Huguenot cause there. Due to increasing hostility towards Protestants, he moved back to his home town, and then later to Lyon, where he was murdered in the St. Bartholomew Massacre, in 1572.
During his time as a Protestant, he devoted his talents to setting Calvin’s metrical Psalm tunes in various arrangements, from simple 4-part harmony suitable for a congregation, to full-scale concert-style motets, with the original melody appearing here and there throughout the performance.
The first time I heard a recording of one of his arrangements I was intrigued with the beauty and smoothness of the harmony parts, and how they wove in and out around the melody. There was a grace in them that was strikingly different from the German Protestant music, similar perhaps to the difference between the smoothness of the French language compared to the precision of German.
Some years ago, I had obtained a published set of volumes with Goudimel’s Psalm arrangements, and was able to modify a few of these to fit English metrical Psalms. In a few cases I have modified some notes to get the music to fit with the English words, but hopefully the beauty of the original will still shine through.