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December 9: Riu, Riu, Chiu December 11, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Advent Calendar of Carols, Christianity, Just for Fun, Music.
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These past few days I’ve been going to and having Christmas parties. Today (yes, December 11; excuse the late post :D) was my piano masterclass and Christmas party. Great music, great cookies and a chance for the students to meet one another – though I seemed utterly unable to persuade anyone to sing carols. Why is our culture apparently terrified of singing?

Now maybe if we lived in Spain…

“Riu, riu, chiu”, a traditional Spanish carol, is just sheer fun to sing and listen to. It’s the perfect Christmas party song. What’s ironic is that the lyrics – a rather stuffy theological metaphor comparing the Immaculate Conception to a river guarding a lamb (the Virgin Mary) from a ravenous wolf (the Devil) – aren’t exactly prime material for a party song. (The later verses do get better though – not that the meaning makes a difference to a non-Spanish speaking listener like me!)

A couple years ago I heard this song done by an all-men’s choir at a university Christmas concert. The guy who did the solo was obviously a native Spanish speaker and he did a fantastic job, rattling off verse after verse of tongue-twisting lyrics. By the look of it, he was enjoying every moment of the performance as much as we were!

I couldn’t find a performance on Youtube to match that one, but the Oxford Camerata does a pretty good job.😀

English Translation:
Chorus: Riu, riu, chiu
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf from the lamb.

The rabid wolf tried to bite her,
But God Almightly knew how to defend her,
He wished to create her impervious to sin,
Nor was this maid to embody original sin.
(Chorus)

He comes to give life to the dead,
He comes to redeem the fall of man;
This Child is the light of day,
He is the very Lamb Saint John prophecied.

A thousand singing herons I saw passing,
Flying overhead, sounding a thousand voices,
Exulting, “Glory be in the heavens, and peace on earth,
For Jesus has been born.”

(Chorus)

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