Musical Memories

For some reason, earlier this week my memory dredged up the first bit of Latin I ever learned, and the music that goes with it. Probably because I’m in the process of learning Mozart’s “Laudate Domino,” and the chorus sings the “Gloria Patri” at the end, after the soprano soloist has done her bit.

Now, keep in mind, my summers were spent Southern (Fried) Baptist, and the rest of the year was Presbyterian of a more traditional inclination. Except . . . a bunch of my friends were Irish or Polish Catholic, my family supported the Jewish Community Center (and my mother used bits of Yiddish and such like around the house, and made Jewish food), and my baby-sitter was a former Roman Catholic (English) nun*. No wonder my theological background is . . . muddled.

The Latin was part of a church youth musical, the first one I really remember being in.** It was entitled “The Singing Bishop” (by Hal Hopson), and there’s a children’s chorus that sings “Hosanna filio, filio. Hosanna filio Domini. Benedictus qui venite in nomine Domini.” I remember being very excited to learn Latin, which was what the grownups got to sing at Christmas (“Gloria in excelsis Deo” and so on).

The words and tune stuck, which was probably either a sign or a warning that I had an unusual musical memory. That would have been, um, let’s call it over thirty-five years ago. Ever since then I’ve enjoyed singing and learning Latin, although my liturgical pronunciation collides with my students Classical training. Yes, I can still sing that little chorus, and I can still hear the warning about being clear to separate the sounds in “venite in nomine” so the vowels don’t blur together.

*She had been put into a convent school as a small child because no one wanted her (orphan), and then had gone from school to convent because she didn’t know of any other option, even though she didn’t have a Vocation. That is no longer permitted, for good reasons. She was released from her vows a decade later, probably as part of the reforms that were being made in the church.

** The first one was a silent role. I was a lamb, because my parents had a sheepskin rug that completely covered me. I had a lamb mask and the rug, and sat on the steps at the front of the church, looking sheep-ish. I’m told I dozed off, which was probably ideal for the role. 🙂


14 thoughts on “Musical Memories

  1. (Edges over, walks briskly out of splash zone) Oh, going nowhere near those puns.

    I’ve noticed that singing in Latin, especially with liturgical pronunciation, makes a “state change” with much of the choir or chorus. It’s an impression of getting serious about music, that doesn’t seem to happen for other languages.

  2. I remember being very excited to learn Latin, which was what the grownups got to sing at Christmas (“Gloria in excelsis Deo” and so on).

    Oh, that’s adorable!

    I had a similar nifty-fit over Hail Holy Queen on Sister Act— it’s just so JOYFUL!
    Mater ad mater inter marata
    Sanctus sanctus dominus
    Virgo respice mater ad spice
    Sanctus sanctus dominus

    (per genius lyrics search– I know how it sounds, not how it is spelled!)

    • “Mater amata, intemerata” and “Virgo, respice; Mater, aspice” are indeed from “O sanctissima/Hail holy queen enthroned above”. They literally mean “O beloved, unpolluted mother” and “O virgin, look back at us; O mother, look toward us.”

      I’ve never seen that movie, other than clips. Need to do it sometime.

  3. I was a “Golden Ring” in one of the elementary school Christmas pageants.

    Yes we did Christmas pageants in public elementary school.

    That was, um, let’s call it over thirty-five years ago. Well over.

  4. I’m with Eric, we did the same, and I’m just going to say it was a LONG time ago. I vaguely remember being a non-speaking shepherd 🙂

  5. Up and down, up and down,
    I’m as wide as I am tall.
    Up and down, up and down,
    I’m a rubber ball.

    I was bitterly disappointed that I didn’t get to be a snowflake, which was of course the deal for girls taking ballet. But I did project pretty well.

    We never did any religious pageants, even in parochial school. We did do a Christmas carol singing thing once, and the German nun taught us to sing “Stille Nacht” in her dialect.

    • What kind of hellishly PC workplace does not tolerate Blood on the Risers, max volume, in publicly accessible locations? Army Artillery School? Navy? *shudders theatrically* Air Force?


      All seriousness, thanks.

    • Thanks!

      Daughter learned it, in middle school. Wife horrified, FIL w/ 3 jump stars on his wings delighted, chimed in on the chorus.

      • I might have picked it up from Grandpa Carl, when he took me to the national paratroopers get-together when it was held in Atlanta one year. I already knew ‘Now stand to Your Glasses Steady” and two RAF songs of equally questionable taste, so I happily soaked up the lyrics to “Blood on the Risers.”

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