It’s a bright, uplifting Christmas song which is thought to have it’s origins in 14th century Germany – an example of one of the earliest Macaronic songs – which means it has a combination of latin and vernacular lyrics.
The story goes that the Dominican Monk Heinrich Suso had a vision in which angels danced to the tune of ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ (In Sweet Jubilation’). Suso later wrote that ‘…they drew the servant (Suso) by the hand into the dance and the angel began a joyous song about the infant Jesus…’
When it came to arranging this Christmas carol for string quartet, violinist Vaughan Jones ‘s first aim was for it not to sound like Mike Oldfield’s classic Christmas chart hit! He slowed the tempo down and different ideas came from that. The opening is a medieval style rhythm with trilled notes and a pizzicato accompaniment that sounds hopefully like a lute or other such plucked instrument. All in all, it is an active and cheering rendition that causes a lot of smiles when we play it at concerts, so should definitely be on a string quartet Christmas album!
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: