Archive for the ‘galego’ Category

Cantigas de Santa Maria

December 13, 2019

In recent days I have been obsessing about the Cantigas de Santa Maria a bit, so here’s a copy of a blog post I made on my personal blog (I’m more likely to keep it up to date there than here, as I log on to blogspot every day):

The Cantigas de Santa Maria – 420 songs in mediaeval Galician (aka Galician-Portuguese) collected by Alfonso X. in the 13th century – are an important foundation of Galician culture, and one or two of them have been played (as instrumental tunes) at our Galician sessions as well. However, our harper who plays them from memory, had learned them without numbers or titles, so they were almost impossible to find.



I recently attended a seminar on the cantigas (the relevant paper is here), where I learned lots of things about their structures and storytelling. Also about the fundamentals – for instance, the images of musicians, like the ones above, appear only in one of the four known manuscripts. Two others include illustrations relating to the stories of miracles told in nine out of every ten cantigas.

The seminar inspired me to look at the mystery of our harper’s cantiga again and I discovered that the lovely database Cantigas de Santa Maria for singers has a forward arrow on the pages displaying the modern notation for each cantiga. Until now I had assumed that I had to access each one separately with several clicks each time, but in fact I can just flick through them. Which I did, and starting at number one, I found that the cantiga we play most often is actually number seven. Quick and easy – not sure if I’d have had the stamina to find it if it had been number 407.

So it’s called

Santa Maria amar devemos

and here is a lovely version with karaoke text lines, so you can sing along (and unlike some other versions I found, the melody sticks very close to the version we play):

In other CSM news, I just acquired a big book of solo pieces for alto recorder (Altblockflötensolobuch by Barbara Hintermeier and Birgit Baude, Schott 2014), and that also contains two of the cantigas, namely

No. 353 Quen a omagen da virgen (lyrics video here)
No. 166 Como Poden

I really like the 353 as a recorder piece, haven’t quite gotten my head round the 166 yet.

Our gaiteiro, David Carril says he can play No. 100, Santa Maria strela do dia, so I will learn that one as well. Stop press – here’s a video where you can read the manuscript while listening to the music.

In terms of recordings, there are lots of them on YouTube, obviously. This channel has so many, it may well be all of them, but they are in no particular order and mixed with videos of other early music, so it’s hard to tell. The ones I checked usually had the lyrics displayed in some form.

This video: Fiesta en el corte de Alfonso el Sabio combines recordings of some 14 cantigas by different artists with a large number of the musicians miniatures from the manuscript.

I have a CD by Ensemble Alcatraz, called Vision and Miracles (1988) which includes CSM 103, 333, 117, 34, and 42 along with an instrumental suite using several cantigas and some other medieval pieces.

The Dufay Collective has recorded a CD full of cantigas, which is called Miracles.

Estampie have recorded a few. No. 120 Quantos me creveren (the numbers ending in 0 are songs of praise as opposed to stories of miracles) is included in their “Best Of” CD (2007) and a few more are on their album Signum (2004) including Non e gran cousa (26), Non devemos (27) and Quen na virgen (this could be 186, 256, or possibly 59, 103, or 276 – I don’t have this CD).

La Capella Reial de Catalunya have recorded a dozen cantigas with Hesperion XX and Jordi Savall, available on CD as “Cantigas de Santa Maria – strela do dia”. I’m a bit confused as Amazon seems to think it dates from 2017, but since the millennium the ensemble has been known as Hesperion XXI, so I suspect it may be a re-release of a 1990s recording. Oh, and somebody posted it on Youtube in 2013.

Galician poetry events

June 8, 2019

they are a bit like London buses, so there will be two Galician poetry events coming in next week, which I guess is related to the fact that a Galician poet will be visiting Oxford and participating in both.

On Tuesday (5pm, Taylorian Institute) we have:


7thweek1and on Wednesday (5:30 at the Galician Studies Centre):7thweek2

map your language

June 3, 2019

this event about languages tomorrow (Tue 3.6.19) looks really interesting and I am told that Galician will be represented …



Update (5.6.): If you missed the event, you can still take part in the language landscape project here.  The recordings that were made at  the event are collected here. Looking at the website now, there seems to be no recording in Galician at all, we need to do something about that!

Dia das letras galegas

May 10, 2019

Next Friday (17.5.) will be the Galician Literature Day (Dia das letras galegas), which honours a different (safely deceased) Galician writer each year.  This year’s laureate is Antonio Fraguas Fraguas (yes he does have a Wikipedia page in English! not all past laureates do).

There will be two related events around here:

Wed 15.5., 17:15 – 18:30h  Galician Literature talk with Alba Cid, the current lecturer of Galician at the Galician Studies Centre at Oxford. Happening at Room 2, Taylor Institution Library, St. Giles.  Free, but booking required.

18.5., 13-19h. Dia das letras galegas celebrations in London. Facebook event page. Yaa Centre -1 Chippenham Mews, London W9 2AN.



Galician elements

March 14, 2019

The periodic table of the elements is 150 this year, and as of today, there is an official Galician name for each of the 118 elements currently known to science. So here’s the periodic table in Galician, enjoy:


A táboa periódica en galego. Fonte: CCG.

PS Note that the jpg image above doesn’t quite have the resolution needed for a fully readable printout. You can download a PDF that prints nicely on an A4 page here.


O carro

May 18, 2018

While obsessing about the Día das letras galegas, I found this video with an adaptation of O Carro, a poem by the 2016 featured author, Manuel Maria. As it happens, the song is also part of the repertoire of our Galician session, although it may have been a while since we last played it.


Día das letras Galegas

May 17, 2018

The annual day of Galician Literature is happening today. Read all about it in Wikipedia or check the twitter hashtag.   The Oxford Centre for Galician Studies ran a lovely little workshop, managing to coax the Centre’s founder, John Rutherford, out of his retirement to discuss a modern sonnet inspired by Petrarch (the second one on this page).

Also on twitter, there is a lovely hashtag: #euleoengalego, for which I took a selfie, below. And local celebrations continue tonight with the pandeireteiras …


UPDATE (24.5.): I’ve now finished this one, see my review here.



Lúa de prata

May 12, 2018

So the annual day of Galician literature, Día das Letras Galegas is coming up on Thursday. It features a (safely deceased) writer each year, who wrote in Galician – they don’t have to be Galician by birth, and this year’s laureate, for instance, the poet and children’s writer Maria Victoria Moreno (1939-2005), only came to Galicia and to its language at age 22. She describes her relation with the language as a love story:

“Eu non son alófona porque o que practico, se é que escribo, podería definirse coma unha amorosa autofonía […]. A miña relación con Galicia e a miña opción pola súa lingua é simplemente unha historia de amor.” (source)

For this year’s Día das Letras Galegas the band Fuxan os Ventos has set music to one of Moreno’s poems, watch their video here. With their polyphonic arrangement, the band make it sound quite difficult, but it isn’t really. The tune only has 5 notes which are in G major and can be easily played eg on a tin whistle in D.  To demonstrate that it isn’t as hard as it seems, I’ve recorded my approximation of the tune here (also in G major, just an octave lower than Fuxan os Ventos play it).

There is a major cultural gathering in London on the Sunday (13th) ahead of the day, but not much going on around here on the day itself, so I’m hoping we can at least have a go at singing Moreno’s words (scroll down to find the poem below the image), even if it may not turn out quite as perfect as the Fuxan os Ventos version.







Neste amencer de pombas indecisas

conversarei coas fontes

onde beben pesares cristalinos

as sombras que se axitan pola noite.


Esa lúa de prata

atopou o tesouro

que eu perdera na auga.


No laio dos farois agonizantes

evocarei os nomes

que acenderon lucernas balbucintes

nas fragas mestas onde os medos dormen.


Esa lúa de prata

atopou o tesouro

que eu perdera na auga.


Neste tremor de chumbo e de diamante

serei luz que se esconde

no ardor aceso que xerou os días

ou na xerfa esfiañada en surtidores.


Esa lúa de prata

atopou o tesouro

que eu perdera na auga.


No rubor das estrelas acaladas

achegareime á morte,

sentirei o feitizo dos seus ollos,

eo seu bico na fronte.


(Maria Victoria Moreno. Do libro: Elexías de luz, editado por Edicións Xerais. 2006)

Nooooon me deixes …

May 1, 2018

Galician word of the day (week, month? haven’t quite established a regular pattern yet!):


A Portuguese friend informed me that Galician is exactly like her language, only with lots of “x”es thrown in. Which, confusingly, are pronounced “sh” most of the time, but “ks” in some modern words like taxi (although e.g. galaxia doesn’t count as modern in this way).  So what’s with the “x”es that set Galician apart from its close relatives Portuguese and Spanish?

One small part of the answer hit me when I was reading a book about the Catalan language, which is geographically at the opposite end of the Iberian peninsula, so not much at risk of contamination with Galician words. I learned that it, too has “x”es that are pronounced “sh”, to the extent that some words containing one are actually written the same way in Catalan and Galician, although differently (and x-less) in Spanish. For instance (Spanish / English translations in brackets): deixar (dejar / to leave), baixa (baja / low; f.) caixa (caja / chest/bank) – note, however that the standard version of Catalan subsumes the letter i into the “sh” sound, so it is not heard and the pronunciation is different from the Galician one.

I don’t think there is a general rule for how these originated, and I’m slightly held back in my efforts as the big monolingual dictionary of the Real Academia Galega contains zero etymology, so I have to trust my Spanish dictionary and whatever I can find online. In the case of deixar, at least, I found out that the Spanish dejar derives from Latin delaxare, so the “x”es in Catalan and Galician must be ancestral, and the j in Spanish is a modern mutation. (Update: here is an explanation of how Spanish lost half its fricative sounds, including the one in deixar, in Spanish, and in German, thanks to Asun for the hint.)



(The title quote is from the song Lela, of course.)

This has been the fourth instalment of my series Galician word of the day, I think I’ll reproduce the accumulating dictionary at the bottom of each entry, see how far I get:


deixar – dejar – to leave

graciñas – gracias – thanks

estrañar – echar de menos – to miss

maruxiña – mariquita –  ladybird


The Galician Studies Centre in Cork, Ireland, has a Word of the Week feature on its blog, written in Galician and translated into English, which is here.

PS in other Galician language news, I liked this comment about a school project encouraging pupils to live in Galician for 21 days. Incidentally, this is the first article in “La voz de Galicia” that I’ve seen that is entirely written in Galician. A few that I saw were in Spanish with quotes from interviewees left in Galician.


Galicia somos nós

April 14, 2018

lovely video combining hiphop choreography with the Muiñeira de Chantada, which is also part of our session repertoire (the version in the video is by Carlos Nuñez and the Chieftains). We’ll all dance it like that next time …

The lines recited at the beginning of the video are the tail end of the poem

Galicia, by Manuel Maria

Galicia é o que vemos:
a terra, o mar, o vento…
Pero hai outra Galicia
que vai no sentimento!

Galicia somos nós:
a xente e maila fala
Se buscas a Galicia
en ti tes que atopala!

BTW, Manuel Maria is also the author of the poem O carro, the song version of which is also in our session repertoire, although we haven’t sung it very often.