21st December 2017

What is it?

Gaudete is my setting - for four voices - of a 14th century Latin plainsong hymn that was popularised in 1972 by the British group Steeleye Span. There are numerous settings of it around but the point - for me at least - is that I wanted to set down what I hear in my head when I think of the melody. It's another example of me being me: and that starts with the way I pronounce the words themselves. I learned classical Latin at school; and when I first went to Romania in 1990 I was struck by how similar Romanian is to classical Latin in many ways. Having now been speaking Romanian since 1990 I tend these days to pronounce Latin as if it were Romanian.


I wrote this setting with the cadences of the Romanian language in mind but really you can pronounce it any way you like.

Gaudete! Gaudete, Christus est natus
ex Maria virgine. Gaudete!

Tempus ad est gratiae
hoc quod optabamus
carmina laetitiae
devote redamus

Deus homo factus est
natura mirante
mundus renovatus est
a Christo regnante

Ezechielis porta
clausa per transitur
unde lux est orta
salus invenitur

Ergo nostra cantio
psallat iam in lustro
benedicat Domino
salus RegI nostro


This is the music as set out, plus a backing track that I put together for our local church use. If you'd like the backing track, let me know.



Prague Christmas market in late afternoon, viewed from the Tyn Church

It's not unusual for our local church to use one of my shorter and simpler choral pieces at the start of its annual Christmas carol service. In 2017 we decided more or less at the last minute to perform my 'Advent Antiphon'. After the service my friend Ian Gibbons suggested that I should, as he put it, "do Gaudete". I thought, "Why not?"

Almost certainly somebody will ask why yet another setting of 'Gaudete' is necessary and I have a very simple answer to that: it isn't. Does something have to be necessary to justify doing it? Absolutely not! I wanted to do it because I love the words, the plainsong melody is very much up my street and I enjoy doing slightly off-beat things with conventional harmonies. If other folk enjoy it, great, but if not, I'm not going to lose any sleep! This is one of those pieces I've done for myself.

Inverted triads, inverted major seventh chords, a shifting modal base for the harmonies - these are all things that I enjoy and it shows in 'Gaudete'. I don't like slushy harmonies with overdone suspensions and half-hearted attempts to make music sound modern. Furthermore I don't like all that typically 20th century English church choral sound. This is the song as I sing it in my heart, without regard for convention.


Prague in winter, early evening, looking towards the
Tyn Church with St Vitus' Cathedral in the distance

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