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King's Return
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Voices only: Singing Latin in a stairwell


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I took three years of Latin in high school, and about all I remember is translating sentences that read, “The good farmer gives much grain to the senator.” Plus semper ubi sub ubi.

I once attempted to translate Pliny the Younger’s account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. One sentence was supposed to read, “The young man brought a word of warning to the Greeks.” I translated it, “The young man brought much firewood to the Greeks.” The eruption happened in 79 A.D. (which, coincidentally, was my grade on that assignment).

But there are lots and lots of beautiful hymns written in the mother tongue of the Romance languages. Here’s one that’s been sung in cathedrals around the world — “Ubi Caritas.” (I think that basically means “where there is charity.” But remember, I got a C.)

In this video the quartet King’s Return demonstrates that when you can’t find a cathedral, a stairwell works just fine.

I know, right? They’re amazing! And the words of the hymn, believed to be written in 796, are particularly relevant in our current, divided culture:

Where charity and love are, there God is.
The love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us exult, and in Him be joyful.
Let us fear and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love each other (and Him).

Where charity and love are, there God is.
Therefore, whensoever we are gathered as one:
Lest we in mind be divided, let us beware.
Let cease malicious quarrels, let strife give way.
And in the midst of us be Christ our God.

Where charity and love are, there God is.
Together also with the blessed may we see,
Gloriously, Thy countenance, O Christ our God:
A joy which is immense, and also approved:
Through infinite ages of ages. Amen.

Here’s how King’s Return describes themselves on their Facebook page: “A vocal band of brothers. Formed in 2016 from pre-existing friendships. Our sound is rooted in Gospel, Jazz, R&B and classical music. Our name reminds us to be our brother’s keeper and to pay homage to our King, Jesus, who has Himself promised to return.” Cool!

Their version of “Ubi Caritas” is a cover of Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s arrangement of the hymn. Here’s the chamber choir at Central Washington University performing it during a visit by the composer in 2011:

What videos should we feature next? Leave suggestions and link in the comments.

•  Click here to see some of the other groups we’ve featured recently

Filed under: a cappella a cappella hymn A Cappella Hymns foreign language Latin Latin language Mount Vesuvius Mt Vesuvius stairwell Voices Only

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