Congaudeant Catolici was performed by us in Spain whilst we were on our choir tour of Galicia.

One of our hosts, Pablo Nieves, kindly made this clip from one of the concerts and added shots of various other churches/cathedrals we sang in.

Congaudeant Catholici (opens new window on YouTube)

Peter, our MD, writes: Congaudeant Catholici is from the Codex Calixtinus, which is an extraordinary 12th century collection of travel writings and music held in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It’s one of their most iconic possessions, being both a stunningly beautiful illustrated manuscript but also a valuable record of pilgrims’ routes. “Don’t stop at town Y”, it says, “for they will rob you”. “The people of X are debauched but those at Z are kindly and will let you stay for a night”.

Congaudeant Catholici is seen by music scholars as a landmark piece, being the first three-part polyphonic work in existence. Its modern versions are surrounded by controversy, since they’re very discordant, leaving some scholars believing that it was never intended to be sung in three parts.

The problem we face in modern transcriptions lies in the neumes (they’re like squiggles) placed above the notes. These are early attempts at musical notation and we’re not always sure what they mean.

My edition approaches its reconstruction from a different perspective (which is too dry and academic to detail here) but I’ve produced a version which works well to our ears, making the piece much more acceptable and performable. I’ve also based it on a lively walking tempo, unlike most other editions, which are slow and ponderous.The text mentions St James (Sant Iago) and was a song sung by pilgrims on the Camino. So this is why it was the centrepiece of our tour and why we processed singing it in two of our concerts.

Congaudeant catholici,
letentur cives celici

Refrain: die ista

Clerus pulcris carminibus
studeat atque cantibus.

Hec est dies laudabilis,
divina luce nobilis.

Vincens herodis gladium,
accepit vite bravium.

Qua iacobus palatia,
ascendit ad celestia.

Ergo carenti termino
benedicamus domino.

Magno patri familias
solvamus laudis gratias.

Let the whole church rejoice,
let the heavenly host be glad

Refrain: this day

Let the clergy diligently sing
their lovely tunes and songs.

This is a praiseworthy day,
made glorious by divine light.

Conquering the sword of Herod,
he received the crown of life.

To the heavenly mansions
James ascended.

Therefore without ceasing
let us bless the lord.

To the great father of us all
let us send forth our thanks with praise.