“Christo Resurgenti”, by Francois Couperin (1668-1733)

This article first appeared in the April 2014 issue of the parish magazine.

St Margaret’s choir was introduced to this for the first time a couple of years ago during Lent in preparation for that year’s Easter Day service. The text is:

  • Christo resurgenti, Christo triumphanti, applaudant sydera.  Alleluia.
  • Fide vindicata, morte superata laetentur omnia.  Alleluia.

Which translates as:

  • To Christ now arisen, to Christ high in triumph, his praise the skies proclaim. Alleluia.
  • Through faith he redeems us and death has been vanquished, let all people rejoice. Alleluia.

Although I liked the sound of the piece when Jeremy first played it through on the piano at choir practice, it was not a case of ‘love at first looking’ (at the music) for me. This was largely because of the way the text of the song is laid out in the book in relation to the staves of music. Although the altos and sopranos sing different notes, the words are in unison, so to save on space the words are only printed once, between the alto and soprano staves. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, except that words are usually printed under the notes, not above, and I found it ridiculously hard to accommodate that whilst singing. To make matters worse, there are four lines of text between the lines of alto and soprano music to contend with:

  • Verse 1 Latin
  • Verse 1 English
  • Verse 2 Latin
  • Verse 2 English

So to sing verse 1 in Latin altos have to look a long way above the notes for the words. My fellow altos and I found this so hard that I remember pleading with Jeremy for the choir to be allowed to sing in English, but to no avail. Now that I know the piece well I’m glad he insisted on sticking with the original Latin text!

Almost entirely in thirds, the music itself trots along at a cracking pace with some quite tricky rhythms to fit the words to. Further, some of the alleluias have a feel of operatic laughter about them, which fits the celebratory mood, but presented yet another challenge whilst learning how to sing it.

A deeper problem for me was learning the song in Lent. Of course, in order to be ready for Easter Day, we had to begin learning it then. However, the sheer joyfulness of the words in combination with particularly happy music was deeply at odds with my Lenten preparations, and so I felt significant unease with it at every rehearsal, both musically (because I found it technically demanding) and spiritually (because is was ahead of its appropriate time). As a Christian whose faith is facilitated almost entirely by music, this was a tough experience for me.

Marked ‘gracieusement’, the composer clearly intended it to be sung ‘gracefully’; it took me a fair while to achieve a state of gracefulness while singing it with so much to concentrate on!

Perseverance paid off in the end and I think the ladies of the choir gave better performances of “Christo Resurgenti” each time it was subsequently offered at Easter services.

Although the arrangement used at St Margaret’s is for two female voices, soprano and alto, there is a lovely recording of a boys choir singing “Christo Resurgenti” here.

Christo Resurgenti! Alleluia!

He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Carol P

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