Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More about Letabundus

I've found the Latin words for Letabundus - or some of them, anyway - in these program notes of a Christmas concert sung by the "Blue Heron Choir," (here's the mp3 again, so you can follow along):
Letabundus exsultet fidelis chorus:
Regem regum
intacte profudit thorus:
res miranda.
Angelus consilii
natus est de virgine,
sol de stella,
Sol occasum nesciens,
stella semper rutilans,
semper clara.
Sicut sidus radium,
profert Virgo Filium,
pari forma.
Neque sidus radio,
neque mater filio,
fit corrupta.
Cedrus alta Libani
conformatur hyssopo
valle nostra.

Full of joy,
let the chorus of the faithful exult:
The King of Kings
is brought forth from an intact womb,
a thing of wonder.
The Angel of Counsel
is born of a virgin,
the sun from a star:
A sun that knows no setting,
a star ever shining,
always bright.
As a star its ray,
the Virgin produces her Son,
alike in form.
Neither the star by its ray,
nor the mother by her son,
is corrupted.
The tall cedar of Lebanon
is formed by the low hyssop
in our valley.

Here's another interesting note in that program:
Finally, a word on words. Our human nature, too, is double, containing both good and evil, and it is a bitter truth that some of the most joyous Christmas texts are marred by venomous barbs aimed at Jews and others regarded by Christianity as unbelievers; some of these were set to beautiful music. There is no single solution to this problem. Our choice is to emend the texts so that we can sing them wholeheartedly, and Richard Tarrant and Larry Rosenwald devised good solutions for Nova vobis gaudia and Letabundus. As for the Middle English of the carols, we sing it as if it were modern English, our own mother tongue. We lose thereby the savor of
the original pronunciation (insofar as we can know what that was), but gain immediacy in understanding and in communication between singer and listener.
Again, no solution is perfect; for those who wish to enjoy the original texts, we have included them among the printed texts

I hadn't noticed these "barbs" in Letabundus, actually; I'd only read through about half of the hymn. I totally understand what he means by wanting to sing these hymns "wholeheartedly" - but being unable to do so as they were originally written; I run into that problem all the time.

So why not rewrite them - and at the same time make sure to write program notes like the above? There's no denying the reality of the pain and damage caused by the Christian church and its people in their (our) sinfulness, and we shouldn't sweep it under the rug - but at the same time, is there any reason to sing words that today we recognize as having caused much pain? I don't think so.

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