Gaudete (//; "rejoice" in Latin) is a sacred Christmas carol, which is thought to have been composed in the 16th century, but could easily have existed as a monophonic hymn in the late medieval period, with polyphonic Alto, Tenor, and Bass parts added during the 15th century, particularly due to its Medieval Latin lyrics. The song was published in Piae Cantiones, a collection of Finnish/Swedish sacred songs published in 1582. No music is given for the verses, but the standard tune comes from older liturgical books.
The Latin text is a typical medieval song of praise, which follows the standard pattern for the time - a uniform series of four-line stanzas, each preceded by a two-line refrain (in the early English carol this was known as the burden). Carols could be on any subject, but typically they were about the Virgin Mary, the Saints or Christmastide themes.
The complete text of "Gaudete", including the refrain:
|Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
|Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
(Out) Of the Virgin Mary – rejoice!
|Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
|The time of grace has come—
what we have wished for,
songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.
|Deus homo factus est
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
|God has become man,
(With) nature marveling,
The world has been renewed
By Christ (who is) reigning.
Unde lux est orta
|The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is raised,
Salvation is found.
|Ergo nostra contio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Salus Regi nostro.
|Therefore let our gathering
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.
The electric folk group Steeleye Span had a hit in 1973 (No. 14, UK singles chart) with an a cappella recording of the song. Guitarist Bob Johnson had heard the song when he attended a folk-carol service with his father-in-law in Cambridge, and brought it to the attention of the rest of the band. (Unlike the album version which fades up slowly and fades down slowly, the single was at the same volume for the entire length of the song.)
This single is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung in Latin (the others were both recordings of "Pie Jesu" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem; firstly by Sarah Brightman and Paul Miles-Kingston in 1986, secondly as a minor hit by the 12-year-old Charlotte Church in 1998). In 1975 Mike Oldfield had a top 10 hit with "In Dulci Jubilo" but this Latin song was performed as an instrumental.
"Gaudete" is also one of only a handful of a cappella performances to become hit singles. (Other notable examples are "Only You," sung by the Flying Pickets, "After the Gold Rush," sung by Prelude and "Caravan of Love," sung by the Housemartins.) When "Gaudete" was performed on Top of the Pops, the resident dance troupe walked onto the set in medieval-style robes, holding candles, followed by the members of Steeleye Span.
The Swedish ensemble Joculatores Upsalienses on their album "Woods, Women and Wine" 1990, with emphasis also on the rhythm by using a drum. Joc.Ups. always used authentic, sometimes a bit unconventional, but always probable instruments or hand-clapping. British vocal ensemble King's Singers recorded Gaudete for their 1990 A Little Christmas Music album. The Boston Camerata, under the direction of Joel Cohen, recorded a version of Gaudete entitled "Gaudete, Gaudete" for the 1991 album A Renaissance Christmas. An arrangement featuring the Choir of Clare College Cambridge, accompanied by a cello ensemble, descant recorder and medieval tabor under the direction of Geoffrey Simon, was recorded in 1996 for a CD entitled A Cello Christmas on the Cala Records label.
In 1997 it was recorded by the female vocal group Mediæval Bæbes as part of their No. 2 selling classical recording Salva Nos and also on their Christmas themed recording Mistletoe and Wine. Irish choral group Anúna performed Gaudete on their 1996 CD, "Omnis" with a solo by Eurovision Song Contest (1996) winner Eimear Quinn. The Canadian traditional group Ceilidh Friends included a version on their 1997 Christmas album The Spirit of Giving. A version using a male soloist was released on Anúna's CD and DVD "Celtic Origins" and was broadcast across the USA in 2007-2008 on PBS. Gaudete has been recorded a cappella by Pure Reason Revolution as a Christmas bonus track on their EP, Valour. In 1999, harpist Kim Robertson offered a rendition of the song on her disc The Spiral Gate.
Tenebrae released a version arranged by Karl Jenkins, both with percussion and as a pure a cappella version in October 2004 on the album 'Gaudete'. El Duende performed this song on Excelsis, Volume 2: A Winter's Song. Chris Squire and a choir recorded a rock version on the 2007 Christmas album Chris Squire's Swiss Choir. German medieval rock band Schelmish performed Gaudete on their 2006 album Mente Capti. Irish Singer Liz Madden recorded a version on her 2010 album My Irish Home. A parody of Gaudete, replacing the original words of the verses by sex-related terms, was recorded by the German medieval metal band Potentia Animi on their 2004 album Das Erste Gebet. British vocal group Libera recorded "Gaudete" on their 2001 album "Luminosa", and performed the song on Aled Jones' DVD "Aled's Christmas Carols" in 2008. On 28 October 2013, British synthpop group Erasure released their electronic version of "Gaudete" as the first single off their Christmas-themed album Snow Globe. Their version reached the Top 30 in UK indie singles chart and the Top 40 in Billboard dance chart. British alternative rock band Cauda Pavonis included a recording of Gaudete on their 2012 Christmas EP entitled Saturnalia.
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