On December 28, 2016, a woman that many will not have heard of died in Paris.
Geneviève Noufflard was born on 19 July, 1920. She was the daughter of André and Berthe Noufflard (née Langweil), both of them famous impressionist painters. Her youth was divided between schooling in Paris and summers in Normandy where she met many famous artists of the time, meetings which much later she was to recall in the context of conferences as late as one in Florence in 2011.
The Second World War intervened, and Geneviève was not only studying flute at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique in Paris but also became an active member of the French Résistance, endangering herself by daily criss-crossing German-occupied Paris from 1940 onwards as a courier, passing along messages to and gathering intelligence reports from other resistance members — information that was used to mount sabotage operations and to guide the Allied bombing effort. In particular she worked with celebrated author Albert Camus and in 1944 became the secretary of Jacques Monod, a future Nobel prizewinner in Medicine. Noufflard and Monod were in the thick of the dramatic battle for the liberation of Paris.
At the end of the war she was awarded the honorary rank of Sub-Lieutenant, and was sent to the United States by the French Minister of Information. There she presented the history of the French Résistance, in English (she was fluent) and in French, in over 100 cities around the country.
Returning to France, she founded the chamber music ensemble Le Rondeau (later Le Rondeau de Paris), which gave concerts all over Europe. Her name is to be found on recordings of French Baroque music and in the credits of films, and she received a prize from the Académie Française in 1983 for a book about her parents and their work.
In the mid 1980s she founded a body which awarded a prize annually to young artists, and secretly she gave most generously to many other young artists.
Of greater interest to Pray Tell readers and liturgists generally is that she was one of the three secretaries of Père Joseph Gelineau, SJ, becoming his PA for many years and also accompanying him on many foreign trips as his interpreter. (The other two secretaries were his parish secretary at his time as Pastor of Saint-Ignace in Paris, and his secretary at the French Centre National de Pastorale Liturgique, also in Paris.) Not only that but, since she was an accomplished flautist, Gelineau wrote liturgical music for her, as did Jacques Berthier (of Taizé music fame). Both of them contributed music for flute and organ and music for unaccompanied flute.
As well as the house in Paris which had belonged to her parents and in which she was still living at the time of her death, Geneviève also had a house in Haute-Savoie, in the village of Vallorcine, very near the Swiss border. It was a large mountain chalet, able to house not only humans but animals, and she would spend the summers there. Often Joseph Gelineau would also stay there, writing music and articles. The mountain air was very good for his lungs (he had suffered from tuberculosis as a young boy). When Gelineau retired, Geneviève generously offered him a room in her house there. It was, as I described it in an article in 2003, little bigger than a cigar box, with a desk, a bed, a clavichord, lots of books and music, and a bathroom next door. He lived there until his death in 2008.
Geneviève attended many meetings of Universa Laus, the international study group for liturgical music, where her presence was discreet and valued. She was also active in support of artists right up to the time of her death. Her last wishes were that she would be buried in Vallorcine, and her funeral there is this Wednesday, January 4, at 10:00am. May she rest in peace.