Franc, Guillaume


A French composer, whose name is sometimes spelled Le Franc. Was born at Rouen, and was a musician at Geneva. His name is scarcely known among musicians of the present day, except as one of the original composers of the tunes of the French version of psalms by Marot, fifty in number and first printed at Strasburg in 1545, and afterwards set in parts, with several others by Bourgeois and Goudimel. It is known that he was a noted composer of church music and the reputed author of the French psalm tune, but these seems to be some doubt as to his connection with the psalter.

Guillaume Franc was a son of Pierre Franc of Rouen, and is believed to have been one of the French Protestants who fled to Geneva as a refuge from persecution at the time of the Reformation. He established in that city a school of music and in 1542 became master of the children, and a singer at St. Peter's. He is believed to have left Geneva in 1545 and to have joined the choir of the cathedral at Lausanne, remaining there until his death. For a long time Franc's name was chiefly known in connection with the psalter published at Geneva by Calvin for the use of the reformed churches, the first edition of which appeared in 1542. He was generally believed to have been the musical editor, but recent researches show this claim to have been without foundation. Franc did compile a psalter, for he obtained a license in Geneva in 1552 to print one. No copy of this book exists, if it was ever printed, but the license shows that it consisted of the psalms of Marot, with their original melodies and the thirty-four psalms translated by Beza in 1551, to which Franc had adapted melodies of his own. His work, by some authorities, is said to have been printed at Lausanne, three years after the completion of the Genevan psalter (1565) and in its preface Franc is said to have declared that he had not attempted to compete with the "very commendable work brought out at Geneva," but that his object was merely to fit each psalm with its proper tune and avoid confusion. He supplied new tunes to some of the psalms and adapted or composed twenty-seven melodies of his OWTI to the psalms left without music in the Geneva psalter of 1562. This psalter was, not long afterwards, entirely supplanted by that of Bourgeois.