Berthier, (Jean) Jacques
Author & Composer
b Auxerre, Burgundy, France 1923, d Paris 1994. As the Organist of St Ignatius’ Ch, Paris, which became a leading centre of French liturgical renewal, he was a prolific composer. But he has become most widely known for the chants written for the Taizé community nr Cluny in E France, which have proved acceptable across a wide spectrum of churches. The village became for a while a haven for Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi death-squads; its community was effectively founded in 1940, when Roger Schutz settled there, for protestant (Reformed) brothers who took life-long vows in 1949. It has been open to RCs from 1969; from 1975, as numbers of international visitors grew, a new style of music has been introduced in which Berthier played a leading role. This was required to be simple and repetitive enough for all to participate, in a common uniting language which proved to be basic ‘neutral’ Latin rather than the more exclusive French, but of real quality enhanced by variation, response, harmony and other musical devices. Berthier began by composing to French words (for Christmas) but gradually moved to the Lat which has since spread round the world. He normally composed in Paris ‘in an 18th-c style’ in response to detailed requests (and feedback) from Taizé—which he found too busy for concentrated work. No.267.