Christmas In Latin, “Gaudete” and “In Dulci Jubilo”

We had a really long round trip yesterday clocking up over 200 miles, and all because it’s the time of year when you really need to touch base with family in other parts of the country. Last year, because of a little too much alcohol being consumed, we had a bit of a family falling out after arguing over Brexit, IndyRef2 and the current incumbent of No. 10. DD was mortified at our bad behaviour for which I was truly sorry, but it made me realise the risk of another such incident this year, especially after the recent election, was very high indeed. Safer then to have a sociable daytime visit where no alcohol passed our lips and happy to report that’s what we did.

I don’t remember this ever being such an issue before and am still trying to work out whether our diametrically opposing views have become more extreme over the years, or it’s just because the country itself is going to take a long time to heal after years of very divisive elections and referenda. Will have to get back to you on that one but I have a feeling a fair few family get-togethers this festive season will similarly be in jeopardy.

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We were lucky in that the day we picked for our drive was a good one with clear skies and no rain. We passed lots of familiar landmarks and although you don’t actually pass through them any more, we skirted the edge of the village where I grew up, and the town where I went to secondary school. I was reminded of the happy times spent there (yes I was one of the lucky ones) and of the many friends made over the years.

Like most of us I had a favourite teacher and my one happened to teach Latin. She had finished her training the year we moved up to the academy, so was still only 22 when she was entrusted with filling our 12-year-old brains with the language of the Romans. Can’t say I ever used my Latin much and have forgotten most of it, but something I will never forget is the opening page of Ecce Romani Textbook 1. These books told stories of a family who lived in a fine villa with an atrium (a new word to us back then but a fairly commonplace feature now in hotels and office blocks). There was the father Gaius Cornelius, the mother Aurelia and their four children, but also living with them was the tutor Euclydes and not surprisingly, it being ancient Rome an’ all, Davus the slavus. If I remember correctly the opening chapter read as follows:

Ecce, in pictura est puella. Puella est Cornelia. Cornelia est puella parva, sed etium in pictura est puella magna. Puella magna est Flavia…. and so it went on teaching us the words for “look” (ecce), “girl” (puella), “small” (parva), “big” (magna), “but also” (sed etium), et cetera (not et cetera yet actually, but you know what I mean).

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But this of course is a music blog so how the heck do I get from the Ecce Romani Latin textbooks to a festive song pick. Well as luck would have it in 1973, our second year of being taught Latin by the lovely Miss Fraser (whose platform shoes, midi skirts and tank tops were the envy of all the girls in the class), the British folk rock group Steeleye Span had a chart hit with Gaudete, a sacred Christmas carol with lyrics in Latin. The Ecce Romani books were cast aside for a whole lesson whilst we grappled with the task of translating the song into English.

As I don’t have any Steeleye Span in my digital database, I am going to have to add another festive offering. Gaudete is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung in Latin, but in 1975 Mike Oldfield had a top 10 hit with In Dulci Jubilo. This time the Latin song was performed purely as an instrumental and it licks along at a fair old pace making me feel quite Christmassy (at last).

I could have shared a boring old clip featuring pictures of Mike Oldfield, but no, as it’s Christmas I will add a clip showcasing the talents of Pans People, the Top Of The Pops in-house dance troupe, whose very literal routines delighted the viewing public every Thursday between 1970 and 1976. In this routine they are wearing diaphanous white garments as opposed to the skimpy bikinis they were often probably forced into wearing. A jaunty festive frolic this time with a blinking great Christmas tree getting in the way for much of it – Enjoy.

In Dulci Jubilo by Mike Oldfield:

Not sure if I’ll return with anything else before the big day so time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from all of us here at WIAA. A bit thin on the ground this year what with DD having moved to the other end of the country and my little mum in the care home, but that’s just how life works, always change. Luckily for us DD is due to arrive home with her boyfriend on Christmas Eve so looking forward to that very much. With any luck some of their friends will turn up for a visit and it will be like old times again, old times I’ve missed very much of late.

Have a good one. Until next time….

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Gaudete Lyrics
(Medieval song of praise)

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

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

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Ezechielis porta clausa per transitur
Unde lux est orta salus invenitur

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria…