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A worthy ‘Ubi Caritas’ from a contemporary composer

VOCES8 "Ubi Caritas"

VOCES8 | Fair Use via YouTube

J-P Mauro - published on 03/03/24

Let VOCES8 set the soundtrack of your Lent with this outstanding hymn with lyrics from the 8th century and music from the 21st.

VOCES8 is back in action with an 8th-century Lenten hymn, but from a contemporary composer. While “Ubi Caritas” is perhaps most appropriate for Holy Thursday, we just couldn’t wait that long to share such an imaginative and lovely arrangement of this timeless Catholic hymn. 

This rendition of “Ubi Caritas,” released by VOCES8 on February 25, was composed by Ola Gjeilo, a Norwegian composer and pianist who lives in the US. He previously played maestro for VOCES8 and Tenebrae when the two vocal groups sang with the Chamber Orchestra of London in 2016. 

Written in 2007, this arrangement of “Ubi Caritas” becomes all the more impressive when taking into consideration that Gjeilo was just 28 years old at the time of its publishing. Even at such a young age, Gjeilo’s use of dynamics and tightly knit harmonies exhibit his keen attention to every minute detail of the song. 

VOCES8 gives the song a tremendous treatment, achieving overtones that broaden the scope of the song beyond what was just on the page. Whenever they reach the long held “oooos” at the end of each line, they reverberate so strongly that the microphones almost can’t do them justice. These reverberations were aided by the monumental soundscape provided by the VOCES8 Center in London, which can almost be considered the 9th member of VOCES8

The lyrics, which are attributed to St. Paulinus II of Aquileia – remembered as “Charlemagne’s favorite Italian bishop” – translate to: 

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

Join the 267,000 followers of VOCES8 and subscribe today to hear more from these masters of sacred music and keep up with all their releases.

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