Sunday, December 2, 2012

“La Mare De Déu”

A happy Sunday, friends, & the first Sunday of Advent at that.

I have a very special series planned for this December on Early Music Sunday: songs sung by the incomparable Catalan vocalist Montserrat Figueras, who passed away in November 2011 at age 69—far too young. For those of you who don’t know, Montserrat Figueras was married to Jordi Savall (who appeared in an earlier video, playing viola de gamba, along with their daughter, harpist Arianna Savall), & along with Savall founded the early music group Hespèrion XX (now Hespèrion XXI), as well as La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations. Montserrat Figueras also recorded extensively as a solo artist (though typically with backing by members of her other groups.)

Figueras’ singing is as nearly elemental as any I have heard. In the New Yorker in 2005, Alex Ross stated that her “voice falls somewhere between grand opera and rural folk singing, and combines the best aspects of both.” But Montserrat Figueras didn’t rely solely on the native power of her voice—she was also a learned student of early music.

Jordi Savall wrote recently on the anniversary of her passing:

L’âme de Montserrat continuera de nous inspirer toujours, dans toutes les musiques que nous réaliserons et ensemble avec tous ceux qui dans le monde se sont assouvis de son chant, nous continuerons, en travaillant avec ses chers idéaux de paix et d’harmonie, à maintenir son souvenir toujours vivant.

Montserrat’s soul will forever continue to inspire us in all our music-making, and together with all those everywhere who have been nourished by her song, we will continue to keep her memory alive as we are guided by the ideals of peace and harmony that she held so dear.

Both the original French & the English translation are from the Alia Vox site, where you can read the entire text of Savall’s statement, on a memorial page for Montserrat Figueras maintained by the Alia Vox recording label. The page plays selections from her extensive catalog.

Today’s selection is an anonymously composed Catalan lullaby titled “La Mare De Déu,” (the Mother of God) which seems a fitting selection for today. The recording comes from her 2003 Alia Vox release, Ninna Nanna: Lullabies (1500-2002).

This is amazing music by a truly extraordinary artist.  

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Image links to its source

(By the way, here’s a rough English translation of the Catalan by yours truly—only possible because I found a French translation! However, I can find no source to explain the "Garindo, garindeta" line; that's left intact from the Catalan in the French translation as well)

The Mother of God

The Mother of God
When she was young
Went to school
To learn to read
With her pillow
& her little basket

In the basket
She had four apples
A slice of bread
And also some hazelnuts
And she had walnuts
And many raisins

The angels were singing
"Garindo, garindeta !"
Later, when she retired
To her small bedroom
The angel entered
Through a little window

God save you, Mary,
You are full of grace,
On Christmas night,
You, a virgin, will give birth,
You will bear a son, beautiful as a star,
He will be your son,
The son of a virgin.

And the name they will give him.
And the name they will call him
Will be Savior
Of Heaven & Earth
He will be called Jesus
King of Heaven & Earth.


  1. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for getting my Sunday off to a great start, John!


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