Advent Carol for December 9: Personent Hodie

I can remember singing, or at least hearing, an English language version of this, but traditionally it is sung in Latin and is kind of terrifying. This is all the fault of Gustav Holst, whose setting this is, and whose use of unison singing combined with that crashing organ part goes not at all well with the words, which if you translate them are certainly steadfast and vigorous, but not actively frightening. However, despite its sixteenth-century Scandinavian origin as a song sung on St Nicholas’s Day (December 6th, so I am playing hard and fast with our dates here, sorry), it has in more recent times become associated with the massacre of the innocents (I know! It’s surprising how many people must at some stage have thought this was an occasion to be sung about), and so I imagine it’s intentionally disconcerting. Tomorrow’s song is sweetness and light, I promise.

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One thought on “Advent Carol for December 9: Personent Hodie

  1. Mali says:

    Broken video! Try this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrh4aVREeKE
    My little choir just sang this (as the third part of an inspired triptych with “Gaudete!” and Praetorius’ “Parvulus Nobis Nascitur”) at a series of events. Weirdly, we sang it in English even though the other pieces were Latin. The English text is rousing but surprisingly sweet (“peace and love he gave us”), and we sang it a cappella. (verse 3 women only, which of course wouldn’t work at King’s.) The lack of thundering organ allows the chorus to be much lighter, like other “gloria” refrains.

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