As the day draws to a close we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist with the hymn ‘Ut Queant Laxis’. The performers are Cappella Sanctae Catharinae, in the atmospheric setting of the Oratory of St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta Malta.

Besides being a hymn in honour of St John the Baptist this is also the hymn that Guido d’Arezzo used to develop his Sol-Fa system. He realised that each versicle started on successive notes of the scale, and he took the first syllable of each to name the notes, resulting in Ut-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La. Eventually the 7th note ‘Si’ was added, and ‘Ut’ was replaced by the easier-to-sing ‘Do’.

This performance is brought to you by The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation.

Lyrics

Ut queant laxis resonare fibris
mira gestorum famuli tuorum,
solve polluti labiis reatum,
sancte Joannes.

Nuntius celso veniens Olympo,
te patri magnum fore nasciturum,
nomen, et vitae seriem gerendae,
ordine promit.

Ille promissi dubius superni
per didit promptae modulos loquelae;
sed reformasti genitus peremptae
organa vocis.

Laudibus cives celebrant superni
te, Deus simplex pariterque trine;
supplices ac nos veniam precamur:
parce redemptis.

Ventris obstruso recubans cubili,
senseras Regem thalamo manentem:
hinc parens, nati, meritis, uterque,
abdita pandit.

Sit decus Patri, genitaeque proli
et tibi, compare utriusque virtus,
Spiritus semper, Deus unus, omni
Temporis aevo. Amen.

English translation

For thy spirit, holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen;
So by thy children might thy deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.

Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending,
Bears to thy father promise of thy greatness;
How he shall name thee, what thy future story,
Duly revealing.

Scarcely believing message so transcendent,
Him for a season power of speech forsaketh,
Till, at thy wondrous birth, again returneth
Voice to the voiceless.

The heavenly citizens celebrate you
with lauds, one God and at once triune;
we also come imploring forgiveness;
spare us among the redeemed.

Thou, in thy mother’s womb all darkly cradled,
Knewest thy Monarch, biding in His chamber,
Whence the two parents, through their children’s merits,
Mysteries uttered.

Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power. possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
Ever resoundeth.
Amen.

 

Photo/Video: The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation

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