Macaronic text

Over Christmas, I was watching a repeat of a BBC programme – one of a series about the history and development of church music – when there was reference to “macaronic” text in church music. This, I learned, is where a text uses a mixture (or, at least, more than one) language. Lyrics mixing Latin with the venacular, I read in Widipedia, was not uncommon in Medieval Europe in the 12th – 15th centuries. One of the most widely know examples today is In dulci jubilo:

In dulci jubilo,
Let us our homage show!
Our heart’s joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

Macaronic text seems to be an ideal solution to one of my dilemmas. (That is, a mass is typically in Latin while West Gallery hymns and anthems are in English.) Maybe this will please no-one, but I like the idea of connecting the familiar (to many) Latin words with an English translation.

Ed. Some weeks later, I learned that J.S. Bach wrote a macaronic mass! He composed a Kyrie-Gloria mass using the words of a German paraphrase of the Gloria as well as the Latin text ( This was a work acceptable in the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Church of the day.