Gaudete (2:22)

Cover of Spanning The Years

From Spanning The Years and 36 other releases

“Gaudete” (“Rejoice”) is a sacred Christmas carol, composed sometime in the 16th century. The song was published in the 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 text, in Latin, is a typical song of praise, probably stemming from the Middle Ages. It 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 or the Saints of Christmas.

The English folk group Steeleye Span had a hit in 1973 (No. 14, UK singles chart) with an acappella recording of the song. Band guitarist Bob Johnson heard the song when he attended a folk-carol service with his father-in-law in Cambridge (UK), and brought it to the attention of the rest of the band.

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 acappella performances to become hit singles.

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