Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Schola Cantorum

269, rue Saint-Jacques

Latin Quarter

In 1920 American popular song writer Cole Porter enrolled for a two-year study of harmony, counterpoint and orchestration at the Schola Cantorum, which then had an enrollment of about 500 students. The recently married Cole Porter, just back from his honeymoon in southern France and Italy, was living in Paris at the time, and for a short while he fancied himself a writer of serious instrumental music. He eventually dropped out of this music school to get back to writing popular songs.

Established by Vincent d’Indy, Alexandre Guilmant and Charles Bordes in 1896, the school is situated between the Luxembourg Gardens and the Val-de-Grâce military hospital. Founded as a counterbalance to the Paris Conservatoire's emphasis on opera, its students have been taught by a faculty of such notables as Darius Milhaud, Albert Roussel, Maurice Duruflé, Louis Vierne, Jean Langlais and Olivier Messaien. Distinguished alumni include Erik Satie, Edgard Varèse, Isaac Albéniz, Herman Berlinski, John Jacob Niles, Seth Bingham, Prince Edmond de Polignac, Douglas Moore and Joseph Canteloube.

The building, a converted English Benedictine convent, is little changed in the hundred plus years since its move to this location in 1900 – a cream-colored stucco building of somewhat faded elegance with a cobblestone courtyard bordered by a privet hedge, and a fine interior staircase with wrought iron bannisters. A plaque on the wall next to the courtyard doors offers details of its founding as a school of music, dance and dramatic arts.