Ecce novum gaudium from Piae Cantiones (1582/2013)

The Piae Cantiones was a large collection of late medieval songs in Latin which was compiled by Jaakko Suomalainen, the headmaster of Turku’s cathedral school (published 1582). The book gives the text of each song, along with the melody line. It contains many simple carols for Easter and Christmas (including Good King Wenseslas and In dulci jubilo). In 2013, Malcolm Hill set one of the less-familiar carols: Ecce novum gaudium.

The Field of Agincourt : a setting of Caroline Heaton’s poem

In the early 20th century, Waller Goodworth composed a series of motets based on the extended compass of late plainsong – most plainsong had been limited to the compass of an octave (plus a note at times) while maintaining the early Greek modes, but in later plainsong, five more notes of the scale were added at the top, one of which might not be an octave above the lowest five notes (so that there might be a low B flat but a high B natural in the scale). Goodworth accompanied this set of notes within a plainsong environment by a single drone, reminiscent of the 13th century or hurdy-gurdy. This technique forms the basis for the setting of the first section of Caroline Heaton’s poem, where contrast is evident by quasi early 15th century three-part chordal singing and by accompanied solo parts where more recent scales are incorporated.

After some discussion with the poet, a coda was added to address more precisely the French feeling about the end of chivalry.

Caroline Heaton wrote,

“I have taken my inspiration for the Coda to my poem Agincourt from the Mediaeval French poem, Le Livre des quatre dames by Alain Chartier, which appeared just a year after the Battle of Agincourt, although I have not used Chartier’s words (though I approach them in one stanza spoken by the ‘dishonoured’ lady)

Chartier’s poem was one of a number of French responses to what was widely conceived as national tragedy at the time. He exploits the tradition of courtly love verse to explore French losses through the voices of four noble ladies, who debate whose is the greatest grief after the loss of their lords in battle.
I have created some new personages for Agincourt.  The first of my additions is a robust and sceptical Beldame who has the controlling voice, while the second introduction is of a ‘humbly-born’ lady, the Fourth Woman, who acts as the voice of ‘Everywoman’. The latter implicitly undercuts residual sentiments of chivalric destiny and sacrifice, which the Beldame and other ladies more strongly challenge.

The Fourth Woman also voices the poignant consideration that the opposing French and English armies was composed of many men whose lineages are closely interwoven.

woman                   All our warriors,

bloodying the ground

3rd woman             Alençon, Bar, Brabant, Fauquemergue, Blamont

                               Nevers, Roucy, Vaucourt, Vaudémont –

Ist Woman            Grandpré, Marle, Pousaye
Finally, I make an explicit link to the tragedies of modern warfare in the concluding stanza, which references the nearby lands of the Somme, crossed and re-crossed by the English to reach Agincourt.”

Freedom on St. Nicholas’ Day

Malcolm Hill’s Manifica, minun sieluni had been completed in 1980 during a visit to Sotkamo and at that time he considered it a work to stand alone.  The chorus sings only in Latin (at the opening, in a derivative form without plosive consonants), the soprano soloist sings only in Finnish (1908 translation).  By the end of the work the whole canticle has been set, accompanied by alto flute – the Chandos Singers gave the first U.K. performance of this version in 2004.

In 1983, Malcolm interviewed a number of Finns who had suffered under pre-Independence rule, and decided to compose a cantata which both continued the tradition found in contemporary Finnish opera of citing “the marauding bear” as a metaphor for Russian expansionism and including texts from the Bible which were not associated with Russian Orthodoxy. By referencing St. Nicholas in the title, he further drew attention to the western-rite calendar which gives 6th December as St. Nicholas’ Day, the day when in 1917 Finland officially gained independence from Russia. For the text of his first two sections, Hill chose to use the 1776 Finnish Bible, the best-loved version in pre-independent Finland.

Most of the original Magnificat was retained as the final section of the piece, but the alto flute part was re-worked for solo violin, an instrument that could be further exploited in the earlier sections. The only other instrument used was a solo bell, which is three times given a single “Fate” stroke, an idea that the composer took from the Bruckner/Mahler/Wagner tradition, but spread out so that each stroke represents a change for the depicted population.

The existence of Rautavaara’s Op.29 Independence Cantata (1967) was not known to Hyvönen, but he was aware that Rautavaara had been one of the first Finnish composers to set the Magnificat text in Finnish.

Slightly amended translations from King James Bible of texts from the Finnish Bible of 1776


The work opens with the first “fate” bell-stroke. After it has died away, the chorus gradually enters with “the suppressed murmurings of the population, fearful to articulate its grievances”; a chorus too fearful to use words, they hum melodies “reminiscent of what the Sibelius authority, Tawaststjerna called whaling-wailing songs”, with elements of runic and shamanistic chant. Representing disconnected pockets of the population, each vocal line hums at a different, unrelated speed. Finally a “naïve or child” emerges, putting into words what the repressed were thinking:

Solo Soprano:

Me olemme orvot ilman isää, kaulallamme me vaivaa kärsimme; ja äitimme ovat niinkuin lesket.

We are orphans and fatherless, Our necks are under persecution, our mothers are as widows.   

Lamentations 5:3


Two elders with nothing to lose, one from the urban south-west, the second from the far poorer peasant and shamanistic north-east, lead the people to copy them and add words to their complaint:

Bass Solo from South:

Me olemme läsnäasuvaisillemme nauruksi tulleet, häväistykseksi ja pilkaksi niille,

jotka meidän ympärillämme ovat.                                                                                           We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.

Psalm 79:4

Bass Solo from North:

Meidän perintömme on muukalaisten osaksi tullut, ja huoneemme ulkonaisten omaksi.

Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.                                      

Lamentations 5:2

The second “Fate” bell-stroke shows the population, while still afraid, now putting words to their murmurings. Generally faster than the opening, as they get less fearful so they split into more and more different pulses and build up the tension. This eventually leads to a very aggressive and furious quotation from the Book of Proverbs, with the first mention of the Greedy Bear (ahne karhu).

kaulallamme me vaivaa kärsimme; ja ehkä me jo väsyneet olimme,

ei kuitenkaan meille lepoa annettu.

Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest.                                 

Lamentations 5:5

Meidän perintömme on muukalaisten osaksi tullut, ja huoneemme ulkonaisten omaksi.

Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.                                      

Lamentations 5:2

Vettä, joka meidän omamme oli, me joimme rahalla, omat halot me ostimme hinnalla.

We have drunken our water for money; our own wood is sold unto us.                                

Lamentations 5:4

Orjat meitä vallitsevat; ja ei ole kenkään, joka meitä heidän käsistänsä pelastaa.

Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.      

Lamentations 5:8

Me olemme orvot ilman isää, ja äitimme ovat niinkuin lesket.

We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.

Lamentations 5:3

Angry Solo Soprano:

Jumalatoin päämies, joka köyhää kansaa hallitsee, on kiljuva jalopeura ja ahne karhu.

A wicked ruler over the poor people is as a roaring lion, and a greedy bear.             

Proverbs  28.15


The second section is a mixture of individual recitatives [sung “by members of the population who are very fearful but who tentatively express further quotations in a bid to spread their feelings”] and organized groups who repeat the angry solo soprano’s quotation. The final group ends in a brief improvised outburst which symbolizes the domination of the dissonance of oppression. A short, tonal coda quotes the Second Book of Samuel as Independence Day arrives.

Niin tuli synkiä pimeys koko maan.

and there was a thick darkness in all the land

Exodus 10:22


ja huoneemme ulkonaisten omaksi.

Our houses are turned over to aliens.                                                            

Lamentations 5:2

Jumalatoin päämies, joka köyhää kansaa hallitsee, on kiljuva jalopeura ja ahne karhu.

A wicked ruler over the poor people is as a roaring lion, and a greedy bear.

Proverbs  28.15


He antoivat sinun palveliais ruumiit linnuille taivaan alla ruaksi, ja pyhäis lihan maan pedoille.

            The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven,

the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.

Psalm 79:2

Jumalatoin päämies, joka köyhää kansaa hallitsee, on kiljuva jalopeura ja ahne karhu.

A wicked ruler over the poor people is as a roaring lion, and a greedy bear.

Proverbs  28.15

ja Herra leppyi maakunnalle, ja vitsaus lakkasi…

So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed…

2 Samuel  24:25



The third “Fate” bell-stroke heralds the Magnificat movement, which for the most part is relaxed and without dissonance. Its opening section demonstrates Mary’s quiet innocence, with the chorus providing shifting harmonies (with the single mantra ‘Manifica’) beneath the solo soprano and solo violin.  Once the choir has sung their first section of Latin text, Mary’s mood changes to insistent with the Finnish translation of He has shewed strength with his arm, he hath scattered the proud…in a fast-paced duet with the violin, before the calm of the opening returns.  The final statement of the soprano is a quotation from a simple Finnish song, answered much slower in the chorus’s almost-hidden alto line by a quotation from a hymn-melody.

Minun sieluni suuresti suuresti ylistää Herraa,

ja minun henkeni riemuitsee Jumalasta, vapahtajastani,

Sillä hän on katsonut palvelijattarensa alhaisuuteen.

Katso, tästedes kaikki sukupolvet ylistävät minua autuaaksi.

Sillä Voimallinen on tehnyt minulle suuria, ja hänen nimensä on pyhä,

minun sieluni suuresti ylistää Herraa,

ja hänen laupeutensa pysyy polvesta polveen niille, jotka häntä pelkäävät.

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

            Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.

            Sanctum nomen eius Et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies timentibus eum.

Hän on osoittanut voimansa käsivarrellaan;

Hän on hajottanut ne, joilla oli ylpeät ajatukset sydämessään.

Hän on kukistanut valtiaat valtaistuimilta ja korottanut alhaiset.

Nälkäiset hän on täyttänyt hyvyyksillä, ja rikkkat hän on lähettänyt tyhjinä pois.

Suscepit Israel puerum suum recordatus misericordiae suae.

niinkuin hän on meidän isillemme puhunut.

Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros Abraham et semini eius in saecula.