Abel Gabert, Priest and composer

Abel Gabert
Priest and composer

1861 - 1929

version française
orgues en Dauphiné

on the 31st of december 2007
Audio excerpts of the second CD:
Messe du Rosaire, Motets et pièces d'Orgue


Abel Gabert was a remarkable figure for his time and for his calling. He was almost certainly the only priest from the diocese of Grenoble to have become a well-known composer. His career started in his home town of La Côte Saint André, and was to lead him as far as Washington D.C..

He was born in 1861 in Longechenal, a small village just a few kilometres outside La Côte Saint André, where he entered the Seminary school in 1872. He was a brilliant student, and showed from the earliest a vocation for music. In this he was following in the footsteps of Hector Berlioz, another native of La Côte Saint André, and a former pupil of the school.

Immediately following his ordination he obtained the post of choirmaster in the town. During this first period he communicated to the whole town his enthusiasm for the Gregorian style and for the music of Palestrina. He also introduced many new hymns in French. Above all he was a prolific composer, and each Sunday afternoon during the Church service, a large and admiring public discovered a new hymn, a motet, or for high days, a Cantata.

After a time Gabert felt the need for a larger sphere, and in 1894 he became the choirmaster at the church of Notre Dame de Plaisance in Paris. Under the influence of the composers present in the capital his style began to evolve. His work became distinctly more ambitious. It was during this period that he composed his "Cantate" which was given in the Cathedral of Grenoble in 1896, with 400 musicians participating, on the occasion of the jubilee of Mgr Fava.

In 1907 a turning point was reached in Gabert's career. He left France and settled in the USA. He became the choir master at the church of the Assumption in Morristown, New Jersey, and a few years later was engaged as a professor at the Catholic University of Washington D.C. . This establishment later awarded him an honorary doctorate. His period in Washington was fruitful for his music. He composed 10 choral masses, one of which is a grandiose Christmas Mass, for 2 choirs and 2 organs.

After 18 years, at the age of 64, he returned to France, and he spent the last 4 years of his life as professor at the Seminary and as choir master and organist of the Cathedral Notre Dame of Grenoble.