Paul Benoit (1893-1979) was born December 9, 1893 in Nancy, France.
During World War I, Benoit first began to feel called to the vocation of a Benedictine monk. After the Armistice of 1918, he entered a retreat at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maurice and St. Maur, at Clervaux in Luxembourg, and he joined the abbey in 1919. After taking his vows in 1921, and was ordained to priesthood in 1926.
He had begun music lessons at the age of seven, taking piano lessons from his mother. He took organ lessons from Mademoiselle Hess, the daughter of the organist of Notre Dame Cathedral in Nancy. After his priestly ordination, he studied the organ with Albert Leblanc, then studied with Augustin Pierson.
In 1931, Benoit took over as organist of the Mutin-Cavaillé-Coll organ at the abbey, replacing his predecessor who suffered from health problems. Although he had already composed small pieces as a child, it was at this time that he began composing seriously. In an autobiography, he said that he drew inspiration from Bach, Vierne, Debussy and Ravel. His main source of inspiration was Gregorian chant, which he heard daily in the monastic liturgy.
Benoit's compositional style can be described as melodic-pentatonic, with the occasional harmonic influence of Impressionism. He skillfully uses ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths, and the melody is often set against sustained chords.
This brilliant and amazing work is found in the "Liturgical Suite for Easter" published by J. Fischer & Bro. in 1948. It takes the Gregorian "Offertoire" for Easter Day, "Terra tremuit" for its subject.
The piece is a wild one, in the style of an improvisation, sweeping the listener along in a dramatic scene where you will the earthquake and the power of the Resurrection!
The translation for the chant is in the FIRST COMMENT and photos of Benoit, of the chant melody, and of "The First Easter" by Arthur Hughes are attached below.
Contact me if you are interested in the score.