57. La Terre Promise
Written by Jules Massenet, c.1899
Performed by The Leopolis Symphony Orchestra, 2005
From the CD La Terre Promise (Erol, France 2005)


   La Voix Les Israelites

   Pastorale - Choeur d'Israel


Zero. On La Terre Promise

Composed between 1897 and 1899, La Terre Promise is an oratorio in three parts by Jules Massenet. It was the last of four oratorios composed by Massenet and was first performed at L'église Saint-Eustache in Paris on March 15, 1900.

Le Terre Promise in precis, sourced from wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Terre_Promise: The oratorio's three parts relate scenes from the Old Testament. The first part depicts Moses' pact with God: that the Jews will obey His law if He allows them passage across the river Jordan to the promised land. The second part recounts the fall of Jericho, and in the third the Jews reach Canaan and sing a hymn of praise to God. La Terre Promise has no modern performance history and is rarely performed.

One. On La Terre Promise

La Terre Promise is an oratorio in three parts by Jules Massenet. It was the last of four oratorios composed by Massenet and was first performed at L’église Saint-Eustache in Paris on March 15, 1900.

Le Terre Promise in precis, sourced from wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Terre_Promise: ‘The oratorio’s three parts relate scenes from the Old Testament. The first part depicts Moses’ pact with God: that the Jews will obey His law if He allows them passage across the river Jordan to the Promised Land. The second part recounts the fall of Jericho, and in the third the Jews reach Canaan and sing a hymn of praise to God. La Terre Promise has no modern performance history and is rarely performed.’

Two. The death of Jules Massenet

‘Hammerstein on The Dead Massenet – Last of the Great Melodicists – A Composer Who Wrote From the Heart.

To the Editor of the New York Times:

When Jules Massenet died yesterday a great musician passed away. It may almost be said of him that he was the last of the great melodicists. While other composers of the day were striving for unusual orchestral effects and strange combinations of instruments he was writing melody. It seems to me that most opera composers write for musicians. Massenet wrote for the public.

The fact of the matter is that he wrote from the heart. He had a great fund of melody in his soul, and it had to come out. He could have continued to write for some time to come. To compose had become a function with him much like breathing or eating for the ordinary person. Some of his latest operas contained a great deal of his best work, perhaps his best. It is certain that he will live, that Massenet’s works will be heard all over the world for a long time to come. That is why the public likes Massenet’s music – because it is melodious. Debussy is only harmony; Strauss invents strange combinations of instruments and makes weird dramatic effects. […] There have been few Rossini’s Donizettis, Wagner’s, Meyerbeers, and Verdi’s. I say that Massenet belongs to this number.

Oscar Hammerstein, New York, August 14, 1912.’

- Hammerstein: In Memorial, by Oscar Hammerstein. New York Times, August 15, 1912.
Sourced from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jules_Massenet

Three. The Life of Jules Massenet: background

‘Proclamation of the Second Republic

In the name of the French people:

Citizens: royalty, under whatever form, is abolished; no more legitimism, no more Bonapartism, no regency.

The provisional government has taken all the measures necessary to render impossible the return of the former dynasty or the advent of a new dynasty.

The republic is proclaimed.

The people are united.

All the forts which surround the capital are ours.

The brave garrison of Vincennes is a garrison of brothers.

Let us retain that old republican flag whose three colours made with our fathers the circuit of the globe.

Let us show that this symbol of equality, of liberty, and of fraternity is at the same time the symbol of order – of order the more real, the more durable, since justice is its foundation and the whole people its instrument.

The people have already realised that the provisioning of Paris requires a freer circulation in the streets, and those who have erected the barricades have already in several places made openings large enough for the passage of wagons and carts. Let this example be imitated everywhere. Let Paris reassume its accustomed appearance and trade its activity and confidence…’’

- The Proclamation by the Provisional Government, Paris, February 24, 1848 [Extract]
Sourced from Documents of the Revolution of 1848 in France, J. H. Robinson, ed., Readings in European History (Boston: Ginn, 1906), via Hanover Historical Texts Project http://history.hanover.edu/texts/fr1848.htm

Four. The Life of Jules Massenet: foreground

‘Were I to live a thousand years which is hardly likely I should never forget that fateful day, February 24, 1848, when I was just six years old. Not so much because it coincided with the fall of the Monarchy of July, as that it marked the first steps of my musical career a career which, even yet, I am not sure was my real destiny, so great is my love for the exact sciences!

At that time I lived with my parents in the Rue de Beaune in an apartment overlooking the great gardens. The day promised to be fine, but it was very cold.

We were at luncheon when the waitress rushed into the room like a maniac. ‘Aux armes, citoyens!’ she yelled, throwing rather than placing the plates on the table.

I was too young to understand what was going on in the streets. All I can remember is that riots broke out and that the Revolution smashed the throne of the most debonair of kings. The feelings which stirred my father were entirely different from those which disturbed my mother’s already distracted soul. My father had been an officer under Napoleon Bonaparte and a friend of Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia. He was all for the Emperor, and the atmosphere of battles suited his temperament. My mother, on the other hand, had experienced the sorrows of the first great revolution, which dragged Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from their throne, and thrilled with worship for the Bourbons.

The memory of that exciting meal remained the more deeply fixed in my mind because on the morning of that historic day, by the light of tallow candles (wax candles were only for the rich) my mother for the first time placed my fingers on the piano.’

- My Recollections – The Master, Jules Massenet, The Authorised Translation Done At the Master’s Express Desire, By His Friend H Villiers Barneti. Published by Small, Maynard & Co, Boston, 1919. www.archive.org

Five. From France to America…

‘Immigration from France to the United States also increased during the 1880’s (Olsen 1979). Many of those leaving for France for the United States were fleeing the political upheaval that resulted from the failed French revolution in France. By 1851, more than 20,000 French immigrants had arrived in the United States. The French quickly made their presence known in the United States by establishing a network of French newspapers in New York City and Philadelphia. French immigrants were attracted to three cities in the United States: New York, Chicago, and New Orleans.’

- Racial and Ethnic Diversity in America – A Reference Handbook, by Adelberto Aquirre, ABC-CLIO, 2003.

Six. Massenet on La Terre Promise

‘I was staying at Aix-les-Bains in remembrance of my father who had lived there, and I was deep in work on La Terre Promise. The Bible furnished a text and I got out an oratorio of three acts.

Since I have spoken of ‘La Terre Promise’, I may add that I had an entirely unexpected ‘hearing.’ Eugene d’Harcourt, who was so well thought of as a musician and a critic, the greatly applauded composer of Tasse which was put on at Monte Carlo, proposed to me that he direct a performance at the church of Sainte Eustache with an immense orchestra and chorus.

The second part was devoted to the taking of Jericho. A march seven times interrupted by the resounding outbursts from seven great trumpets ended with the collapse of the walls of that famous city which the Jews had to take and destroy. The resounding clamor of all the voices together was joined to the formidable thunder of the great organ of Saint Eustache.

With my wife I attended the final rehearsal in a large pulpit to which the venerable cure had done us the honor of inviting us. That was the fifteenth of March, 1900. […] the memorable time of the Great Exposition.’

- My Recollections – The Master, Jules Massenet, The Authorised Translation Done At the Master’s Express Desire, By His Friend H Villiers Barneti. Published by Small, Maynard & Co, Boston, 1919, www.archive.org

Seven. The migration of ideas: two visits to the Paris Exposition

Jules Massenet:

‘[…] All Paris was en fete. The capital, one of the most frequented places in the world, became even more and better than that: it was the world itself, for all people met there. All nations jostled one another; all tongues were heard and all costumes were set off against each other.’

- My Recollections – The Master, Jules Massenet, The Authorised Translation Done At the Master’s Express Desire, By His Friend H Villiers Barneti. Published by Small, Maynard & Co, Boston, 1919, www.archive.org

W.E.B DuBois:

[1] On the banks of the Seine, opposite the Rue des Nations, stands a large, plain white building, where the promoters of the Paris Exposition have housed the world’s ideas of sociology. […]

[2] The United States section of this building is small, and not, at first glance, particularly striking. […]

[3] In the right-hand corner, however, as one enters, is an exhibit which, more than most others in the building, is sociological in the larger sense of the term – that is, it is an attempt to give, in as systematic and compact a form as possible, the history and present condition of a large group of human beings. This is the exhibit of American Negroes, planned and executed by Negroes, and collected and installed under the direction of a Negro special agent, Mr. Thomas J. Calloway.

[5] The history of the Negro is illustrated by charts and photographs; there is, for instance, a series of striking models of the progress of the coloured people, beginning with the homeless freedman and ending with the modern brick schoolhouse and its teachers. There are charts of the increase of Negro population, the routes of the African slave-trade, the progress of emancipation, and the decreasing illiteracy. There are pictures of the old cabins, and, in three great manuscript volumes, the complete black code of Georgia, from colonial times to the end of the nineteenth century.

[6] The bulk of the exhibit, is naturally, an attempt to picture present conditions. Thirty-two charts, 500 photographs, and numerous maps and plans form the basis of this exhibit. The charts are in two sets, one illustrating conditions in the entire United States and the other conditions in the typical State of Georgia. At a glance one can see the successive steps by which the 220,000 Negroes of 1750 had increased to 7,500,000 in 1890; their distribution throughout the different States; a comparison of the size of the Negro population with European countries bringing out the striking fact that there are nearly half as many Negroes in the United States as Spaniards in Spain. The striking movement by which the 4 2/5 per cent of Negroes living in the cities in 1860 has increased to 12 per cent. in 1890 is shown, as is also the fact that recognised mulattoes have increased 50 per cent. in 30 years, even in the defective census returns. Twenty per cent of the Negroes are shown to be home-owners, 60 per cent of their children are in school, and their illiteracy is less than that of Russia, and only equal to that of Hungary.

[7] It was a good idea to supplement these very general figures with a minute social study in a typical Southern State. It would hardly be suggested, in the light of recent history, that conditions in the State of Georgia are such as to give a rose-colored picture of the Negro; and yet Georgia, having the largest Negro population, is an excellent field of study. Here again we have statistics: the increase of the black population in a century from 30,000 to 860,000, the huddling in the Black Belt for self-protection since the war, and a comparison of the age distribution with France showing the wonderful reproductive powers of the blacks. The school enrolment has increased from 10,000 in 1870 to 180,000 in 1897, and the Negroes are distributed among the occupations as follows:

[8] In agriculture, 62 per cent; in domestic and personal service, 28 per cent; in manufacturing and mechanical industries, 5 per cent; in trade and transportation, 4 1/2 per cent; in the professions, 1/2 per cent.

[9] They own 1,000,000 acres of land and pay taxes on $12,000,000 worth of property – not large, but telling figures; and the charts indicate, from year to year, the struggle they have had to accumulate and hold this property. There are several volumes of photographs of typical Negro faces, which hardly square with conventional American ideas. Several maps show the peculiar distribution of the white and black inhabitants in various towns and counties.

[10] The education of the Negro is illustrated in the work of five great institutions – Fisk, Atlanta, and Howard Universities, and Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes. The exhibit from Fisk illustrates, by photographs and examination papers, the work of secondary and higher education. Atlanta University shows her work in social study and the work of her college and normal graduates; Howard University shows the work of her professional schools, especially in medicine, theology, and law. From Hampton there is an especially excellent series of photographs illustrating the Hampton idea of ‘teaching by doing,’ and from Tuskegee there are numerous specimens of work from the manual-training and technical departments.

[11] Perhaps the most unique and striking exhibit is that of American Negro literature. The development of Negro thought – the view of themselves which these millions of freedmen have taken – is of intense psychological and practical interest. There are many who have scarcely heard of a Negro book, much less read one; still here is a bibliography made by the Library of Congress containing 1,400 titles of works written by Negroes; 200 of these books are exhibited on the shelves. The Negroes have 150 periodicals, mostly weekly papers, many of which are exhibited here.

[12] We have thus, it may be seen, an honest, straightforward exhibit of a small nation of people, picturing their life and development without apology or gloss, and above all made by themselves. In a way this marks an era in the history of the Negroes of America. It is no new thing for a group of people to accomplish much under the help and guidance of a stronger group; indeed, the whole Palace of Social Economy at the Paris Exposition shows how vast a system of help and guidance of this order is being carried on to-day throughout the world. When, however, the inevitable question arises, What are these guided groups doing for themselves? There is in the whole building no more encouraging answer than that given by the American negroes [sic], who are here shown to be studying, examining, and thinking of their own progress and prospects.’

- The American Negro at Paris, by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois (1900), The American Monthly Review of Reviews, vol. XXII, no. 5 (November 1900).
Sourced from http://www.webdubois.org/dbANParis.html

Eight. From Africa to France…

Of the thousands that attended the Paris Exposition of 1900, we were wondering whether, in addition to Massenet and Dubois, migrant labourers from the Soninke tribe who, from what we gather, arrived in France in the 1840s, also attended. Considering their background, we wonder what they would have made of Calloway’s Negro exhibition. Here are a few extracts about the Soninke. The first is from a review of Francois Manchuelle’s Willing Migrants: Soninke labor diasporas, 1848 – 1960 [Ohio University Press; Oxford: James Currey, 1997] by K. Swindell, and was published in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 70, No. 2 2000, which we sourced from findarticles.com

‘The Soninke, whose core region comprises the upper Senegal valley, have a prodigious history as traders and migrant workers. Manchuelle’s text offers a fine sweep of a remarkable diaspora, as well as contributing alternative views on the development of labour migration in West Africa. As the title indicates, one of his major arguments is that the Soninke were willing migrants, and their labour history questions a number of assumptions espoused by radical theories popular in the 1970s. Instead of colonial tax-driven migration from marginal areas, Manchuelle explores the cultural, economic and political history of the Soninke and their nodal location on the margins of the Sahel. Also, pioneer migrants often came from the better-off villages and households, not the poorest. One of the interesting aspects of Soninke labour migration is that it was pre-colonial, and the Soninke were scarcely passive victims of colonial rule.

These arguments are developed in seven chapters tracing the Soninke labour diaspora from the 1840s to the 1960s, which encompasses the shift from predominantly rural agricultural migration to urban migration. The opening chapters emphasise the Soninke as the oldest and most successful of trading societies–the original Jula of the Sudan. […] Soninke society was competitive; clientage, wealth and influence were important attributes maintained by seasonal or periodic trading embracing columns of professionals and farmers, including second-generation slaves. Profits were aggressively reinvested, especially in slaves, who formed a substantial proportion of Soninke society.

The Atlantic slave trade in Senegambia was dominated by Soninke, who also supplied grain to the ships and merchants. Importantly, as the slave trade declined, the Soninke entered the new groundnut trade as periodic or seasonal migrants, called navetanes, who exchanged their labour for a groundnut farm and food from local hosts. Thus a pre-colonial migrant labour force evolved from the old Atlantic slave and grain trades. Even earlier were the migrations of Soninke and Wolof as sailors (laptots), some from royal families who worked on the French and metis river fleets.’

This second extract is from a summary by Gunvor Jónsson of his MPhil thesis in anthropology, Migration Aspirations and Immobility in a Malian Soninke Village, which was presented at Actualité de la Recherché sur les Migrations Maliennes in Bamako in June 2008. You can read the full summary at www.reachacross.net/The_Soninke.

‘Already by the late 18th century, members of the Soninke aristocracy started working as labour migrants, serving as indigenous sailors (laptots) for the French Navy on the Senegal River (Manchuelle 1997). In the mid-19th century, the Soninke also became involved in seasonal labour migration to peanut plantations in the Gambia and later, Senegal.

This activity became known as the navetanat and was one of the most important migrations in the modern history of West Africa (ibid:53). One of the reasons for this modern labour migration was the increasing need for money that was caused by colonial domination; many young Soninke men became navetans in order to accumulate the cash that their local economy could not generate (Kane & Lericollais 1975).

After the Second World War, Soninke migration to France increased, as these unskilled labour migrants took part in post-war reconstruction. In 1960, this migration flow was spurred significantly, both by the economic decline of the Soninke homeland, and the need for manual labour in France. In 1960, France opened its borders to foreign labourers, which resulted in increased immigration, especially by Sub-Saharan Africans.

The acute labour shortage in France resulted in a complete breakdown of official immigration control, and French enterprises ran their own recruitments abroad. The efficient and well-established Soninke migrant networks and the French employers’ preference for these workers explain why, in 1968, the Soninke constituted 85 % of sub-Saharan immigrants in France (cf. Manchuelle 1997:2). By 1975, about one third of the active male population in the Soninke homeland had emigrated to France (Kane & Lericollais 1975:177).’



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