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These few measures give a great opportunity to create an atmosphere, to indicate that death has entered the castle.
You lower your voice during the four meas­ures in that particular stanza, you sing with the voice of a chorister, you give the illusion of those few measures being sung by a number of monks in the funeral procession. The illu­sion becomes complete if you amplify the text by adding to that verse:
Ma fille, c'est la procession Qui fait le tour de la maison !
the following:
Requiescat in pace! Requiescat in pace!
sung with the same air.
The same four measures return in each verse, also in the dialogue between the mother and daughter who questions her about what she hears or believes she has heard.
But while the wife of Renaud uses them with a strong voice, intensified by her anxiety to know the truth, the mother's reply is given with an almost extinct voice. She hardly raises her voice, she tries to quiet her down, she remembers her promise given to Renaud to conceal his death.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III