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No. 2561:
In Dulci Jubilo

Today, a Christmas carol. The University of Houston's College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.

In dulci jubilo … in sweet rejoicing. It's one of many carols passed down through the ages, arranged and performed countless times. The online music service Rhapsody lists six-hundred forty-four different recordings. Yet we hear something different with each arrangement.

Picture of In Dulci Jubilo

[Choral: Thomas Neumann Choir]

Choral arrangements are popular — and beautiful. But contrast those melodic voices with this early arrangement by Johannes Sebastian Bach.

[Organ: Bach Fantasia, BWV 729, performed by Scott Lamlein]

Classical guitar makes for wonderful listening.

[Guitar: The Classical Guitar Maestros]

The music even translates well to a new age arrangement.

[New Age: E. A. Boyd]

A melody is a starting point, but with each arrangement comes a different musical experience. For arranger/composers, the challenge is to take a familiar melody and create such an experience. Carols are a good source of melodic material. Many began as simple folk melodies whose origins are steeped in legend. Folklore traces In Dulci Jubilo to the supernatural visions of twelfth-century Christian mystic, Henry Suso. In one vision, Suso joyously danced with angels, who, legend has it, provided music and words for the carol. With the carol rooted in dance, it's easy to understand why this arrangement reached number four on the U.K. music charts in 1976.

Picture of Henry Suso Dancing

[Jig: Mike Oldfield]

Whatever the tune, we can be thankful for the many arrangers and performers whose talent and ingenuity have brought so much music to our ears.

I'm Andy Boyd at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work. 

(Theme music)

Notes and references:

In Dulci Jubilo. From the Hymns and Carols of Christmas Web site: Accessed December 8, 2009.

The picture of Henry Suso is from Wikimedia Commons.

There are many translations of In Dulci Jubilo. The earliest versions were passed down as a combination of Latin and German. One common English translation keeps the Latin, translating only the German. The translation shown here is entirely in English.

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say
Jesus Christ was born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss
Jesus Christ was born for this!
He hath opened the heavenly door
And man is blessed evermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave
Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one, and calls you all
To gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!