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In Dulci Jubilo

(German traditional music/Heinrich Suso)

The German mystic Heinrich Suso wrote this carol in 1328, or maybe even prior, after experiencing a vision where he was sung “In Dulci Jubilo” by angels and they took his hand and danced with him.  It is a macaronic song, which is a mix of Latin and any language such as English, or in this case, German.

The music was first seen in a Leipzig University library manuscript at the turn of the 1400s and it has been performed, translated and published regularly ever since.  A new verse, “O Patris Caritas”, was added in 1545 and it is thought that the author may have been Martin Luther. The earliest translation into English was by the Scot, John Wedderburn, who had been exiled to Germany after having been accused of heresy, and it appeared in his publication Gude an Godlie Ballatis sometime around 1540.  A Swedish translation appeared in Paies Cantiones in 1582 and later translations into English appeared as “Lyra Davidica” in 1708, a version that appeared in Musical Times by Robert Lucas de Pearsall in 1795 and “In Dulci Jubilo – To the House of God We’ll Go” by Sir John Bowring in 1825.  The music itself has been re-arranged several times throughout its history with the first known arrangement by Georg Rhau in 1544 and later versions by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Michael Praetorius.

Such was the popularity of the tune that it has been said that in 1745 at the Moravian Mission in Bethelehem, Pasadena, it was sung in 13 Indian and European languages simultaneously.  A famous adaptation of the carol is “Good, Christian Men Rejoice” which was written by John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore after being given a copy of Piae Cantiones.   Two other adaptations are “Now Sing We, Now Rejoice” by Arthur T. Russell and “Now Sing We All” by Elizabeth Poston.   The song was also brought to the attention of popular music fans in December 1975 when Mike Oldfield had his own translation of it reach No. 4 in the UK charts and it is featured in Leroy Anderson’s Suite of Carols for Brass Choir.

Leroy Anderson and His Orchestra recordings
Decca B0003552-02 (CD: A Leroy Anderson Christmas)