Once again, the Song of the Week is an oldie but a goody. It is “In Dulci Jubilo,” performed by the Vienna Boys Choir.
Many years ago, when I was in college, I bought a Nonesuch record called Renaissance Choral Music for Christmas. At that time, Nonesuch was a division of Warner Brothers distributing budget priced recordings of classical music. It has since broadened its scope to include contemporary music from various genres. At that time, though, budget recordings were all I could afford.
The album seems to be out of print these days – that was over 40 years ago. Still, it was a really nice collection of choral music that I have enjoyed for decades, even though I am not generally a choral music fan. One of the highlights of the album is the last track on side two, “In Dulci Jubilo.” The story of how this song came to be is told on www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com. That is a lengthy article, but the first two paragraphs will suffice for the present purposes:
One night in 1328, the German mystic and Dominican monk Henrich Suso (or Seuse) had a vision in which he joined angels dancing as the angels sang to him Nun singet und seid froh or In Dulci Jubilo. In Suso’s biography (or perhaps autobiography), it was written:
Now this same angel came up to the Servant [Suso] brightly, and said that God had sent him down to him, to bring him heavenly joys amid his sufferings; adding that he must cast off all his sorrows from his mind and bear them company, and that he must also dance with them in heavenly fashion. Then they drew the Servant by the hand into the dance, and the youth began a joyous song about the infant Jesus, which runs thus: ‘In dulci jubilo’, etc.
In Dulci Jubilo is among the oldest and most famous of the “macaronic” songs, one that combines Latin and a vernacular language such as English or German …. Five hundred years later, this carol became the inspiration for the 1853 English paraphrase by John Mason Neale, Good Christian Men, Rejoice. [Footnotes omitted.]
This version of the song by the Vienna Boys Choir is not the one that was on the Nonesuch album. Still, I feel an affinity for it because I once was on a flight from Des Moines, Iowa to Denver with the Vienna Boys Choir. That is another story, though.
This one is the Christmas story, in which we are reminded that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” John 3:16. And that God so loved the world that he gave us you and me and those closest to each of us. He truly gave us something to celebrate.
Thanks for being here. Merry Christmas!
In Dulci Jubilo
By Henrich Suso
In dulci jubilo [In quiet joy]
Let us our homage show
Our heart’s joy reclineth
In praesepio [in a manger]
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio [in the mother’s lap]
Alpha es et O. [Thou art Alpha & Omega]
O Jesu parvule [O tiny Jesus]
I yearn for thee alway
Listen to my ditty
O puer optima [O best of boys]
Have pity on me, pity
O princeps gloriae, [Prince of glory]
Trahe me post te. [draw me unto thee]
O patris caritas [O father’s caring]
O nati lenitas [O newborn’s mildness
]Deeply were we stained
Per nostra crimina [by our crimes]
But thou hast for us gained
Coelorum gaudia [heavenly joy]
O that we were there.
Ubi sunt gaudia [where be joys]
If that they be not there
There are angels singing
Nova cantina [new songs]
There the bells are ringing
In regis curia [at the king’s court]
O that we were there.