About the piece

“Personent Hodie” is a medieval Christmas carol. The form in which it comes down to us was first published in Piæ Cantiones, a collection of medieval Latin songs that were sung at the cathedral school in Turku (Finland). It was compiled by Jaakko Suomalainen, a Finnish clergyman, and published in 1582. The carol’s melody is very similar to a hymn found in a German manuscript from 1360, and it is assumed that Personent Hodie dates from the mid- 14th century.

A copy of Piæ Cantiones was given to the English scholar and hymnist J.M. Neale in the mid-19th century by the British ambassador to Sweden, and Neale may be credited with introducing Personent Hodie to the Christmas traditions of the English- speaking world.

Performance Notes

To reflect on this piece’s origins with Gregorian chant, the piece should be sung as “white” and “pure” as possible, meaning that little or no vibrato should be used, except for during the Maestoso bars at the end of the work.

Breathing should be staggered during long, extended phrases (provided that the forces are available), and breaths should only be taken at commas. The piece should start quietly, and gradually increase in volume and texture until the conclusion of the piece.

Some rubato should be used (where appropriate), particularly during passing notes in inner parts; any dissonances (particularly in the form of suspensions) should be highlighted and accentuated.

In the Refrain sections where a syllable is repeated three times (for example, et de vir, vir, vir), the syllable should be reenergised each time using a slight glottal (but not too much) – the sound should be continuous.

Libretto

Below can be found the Latin text, along with its English translation, as translated by Jane M. Joseph (1894-1929):

Personent hodie
voces puerulae,
laudantes iucunde
qui nobis est natus,
summo Deo datus,
et de vir, vir, vir (2x)
et de virgineo ventre procreatus.

In mundo nascitur,
pannis involvitur
praesepi ponitur
stabulo brutorum,
rector supernorum.
Perdidit, dit, dit, (2x)
perdidit spolia princeps infernorum.

Omnes clericuli,
pariter pueri,
cantent ut angeli:
advenisti mundo,
laudes tibi fundo.
Ideo, o, o, (2x)
ideo gloria in excelsis Deo.

Sample Score

Purchase Score

To purchase the score for “City Sounds”, please visit Quinlan Music, where all orders are fulfilled.

Performance Licensing

All performances of this piece must be carried out with a performance license. The licensing costs for performances of this piece from September 2017 are as follows:

  • Professional performances; £20
  • Religious / amateur performances; £0 (license not required)

To purchase a license, please contact the Quinlan Music Licensing Department.