Well-Known Songs in Latin
By Teddy Irwin, CC Couch
Treat your ears, your soul, and your students to the beautiful, clear Latin vocals of C. C. Couch and the amazing, new musical arrangements of Teddy Irwin.
This CD contains in Latin:
- Oh, Susannah
- Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In
- Row, Row, Row Your Boat
- Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)
- America the Beautiful
- This Old Man
- My Bonnie
- What Shall We Do with The Drunken Sailor
- Polly Wolly Doodle
- Gaudeamus Igitur
- Old MacDonald
- Auld Lang Syne
Teddy Irwin, who is an arranger, composer, and musician, has scored numerous historical documentaries. In addition to working with such talents as Bette Midler and John Lennon, Teddy has composed music for The Guiding Light and Another World.
Constance Claire Couch has toured in France and performed the French educational series, Oh, Là Là: Sing Your Way to French. C.C. has also co-written and performed several children’s albums including Calendar Kids and Colors.
Together the Nashville musicians, Teddy Irwin and C.C. Couch, have arranged the music and performed the songs on the three CD’s entitled A French Christmas, An Hispanic Christmas, and O Abies.
Comments and Reviews
You won't believe this until you hear it, and maybe not even then. Words may sound "low" or "high" in English, slangy or erudite, but quiquid Latine dictum sit altum viditur — whatever is said in Latin sounds profound. This turns out to apply to everything from "America the Beautiful" to "Shenandoah" — which are but two of the 15 popular songs heard here in Latin translations that range from the elegant to the frankly silly. (Yes, Latin can be silly even while sounding profound.) Listen to "Old Macdonald Had a Farm" if you disbelieve: Mac Donaldo rustico/Fundus est, Euoe! (that exclamation coming about as close as the Romans would have wanted to come to E-I-E-I-O).
This is, by the way, Roman — that is, classical — Latin, not the debased form used in the Middle Ages and as a church language even today. C.C. Couch, who has several children's and Christmas albums to her credit, obviously took a crash course in classical Latin before recording this CD — or remembered proper pronunciation from studying the language herself. "V" is pronounced "w," the letters "g" and "c" are always hard (as in "go" and "cow"), and so on. This pronunciation is especially enjoyable in "Gaudeamus Igitur," a song originally written in medieval Latin and therefore never intended for classical pronunciation. Singing it as the Romans would have sung it is a marvelous "in" joke.
The vast majority of the fun here is far less subtle, though no less entertaining. You do have to know the English words to these songs to enjoy the Latin versions — the full Latin text is provided, but not the English. So you need to know that "Oh, Susannah" starts with "I've come from Alabama" to appreciate "Reliqui Alabamam," and that "Old Folks at Home" opens with "Way down upon the Swanee River" to enjoy "Quo loco fluit Swanee flumen." Hmm...or maybe it doesn't matter after all. "This Old Man" counts up from one in English ("he played one," "he played two," etc.), but there is poetic license here that leads to verses that begin "Senex hic tympano," "Senex hic sandalis," and so on. This too doesn't really seem to matter. Nor do pronunciation and emphasis issues caused by Latin phrasing: The music of "Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In" puts the emphasis on "saints" and "in," but "Cum intrant caelum sancti" has the beats on "cae" and "ti." That's a bit odd. But of course, all this is overly analytical: this is a hilariously offbeat rendition of well-known music, bouncily played by Couch and Teddy Irwin, and the words really are accurate Latin. Audiamus! Gaudeamus!
“That’s really neat!” was the first reaction of my students to the Latin songs on this CD, and a week of singing along with the CD and studying the texts only increased their enthusiasm. Carmina Popularia is the latest in Bolchazy-Carducci’s admirable series of musical offerings in Latin. All the texts recorded here can be found in Franz Schlosser’s collection Latine Cantemus, published by Bolchazy-Carducci in 1996, with many translations into Latin by Schlosser, as well as appendices of old favorites like “Gaudeamus” and “Adeste, Fideles.” “Gaudeamus Igitur” is the only one of fifteen songs on the CD with a text originally in Latin; “Guantanamera” is from the Spanish of Cuban poet Jose Marti, “Auld Lang Syne” from the Scots dialect of Robert Burns (how many New Year’s Eve revelers know that the title means “Old Long Since”?). The rest are from different periods of British and American English, from the anonymous Tudor
ballad “Greensleeves” (sometimes attributed to Henry VIII) to the modern children’s song “This Old Man.” The Latin texts (but not the English or Spanish or Scots originals) are all reprinted with the notes to the CD.
The musical arrangements by Teddy Irwin, performed here by Irwin on guitar and C. C. Crouch on guitar and vocals, are pleasant updatings of traditional favorites; they make the songs fresh and interesting without destroying your sense that you know how to sing them. Crouch’s pronunciation (classical not ecclesiastical) is clear and comprehensible, making the CD suitable for classroom sing-along purposes, although it is impossible to sing this arrangement of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as a round.
It is probably inappropriate to cite here Robert Frost’s remark that “Poetry is what gets lost in the translation.” The original texts included here are loved for their homey familiarity, their nonsense syllables and animal noises, their simple patterns and returning refrains, as much as for any poetic greatness they may possess. Schlosser understands this about them, and works skillfully to duplicate their sound effects, their metrical and rhyming patterns, taking liberties as needed with the sense.
I used two groups of my students at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, one intermediate, one advanced, as guinea pigs with this disk. I played snatches from all the songs for them, then sang a couple of my choosing with them, then let them choose a few of their own to sing and occasionally to study. I asked the advanced students to do a literal translation back into English of some of Schlosser’s translations, and to compare the results with the originals. My students’ responses to every part of the experience were positive, although the students I asked to do
translations said they wished that the texts had long marks and that the more difficult words and constructions had been glossed.
In general, a teacher has many options in using this CD. You can just give the students the texts, play the songs, and ask students to sing along; if you play the same song over a period of several days, students may report that they find themselves singing it in the shower or on the street. You can notice as much or as little in the text as you like: Mac Donaldo rustico/ Fundus est. Euoe!/Gallinae hoc in rustici/ Fundo sunt. Euoe!/ Clamant gac gac hae/Aves plumeae:/ Illic gac/ Hic et gac/ Nihil nisi gac gac. What is the word that means “farm”? What is the difference between the “old” of the original and Schlosser’s rustico? Why is Mac Donaldo in the dative case? Does the change of tense from “had” to est make any difference? What are the sound effects of the original ee-eye-ee-eyeoh (donkey braying?) as compared with Schlosser’s Euoe (Bacchic rites?)? Why do English-speaking chickens, or chicks, say “chick chick,” while Latin-speaking gallinae say gac gac? Why does the Latin seem a little harder to speak or sing—is it just unfamiliarity or the larger number of consonants?
Maybe I am lucky in my students, but I found that they had so much fun with the music that they were willing to sit still for quite a lot of analysis of the Latin grammar and vocabulary. This CD will never replace your regular textbook, or the Odes of Horace, but it does provide a nice change in the classroom, and a richness of pedagogical opportunity.
— Mark Speyer
Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School