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Goigs a llaor de Mare de Déu deThe most characteristic Catalan printed format is laid out with the title at the top, then a woodcut of the divinity being invoked below that (the version on the right is a slight variation) followed by two or three columns of text and, finally, the responsory and oration in Latin, all enclosed in a frame. That format for the Catalonian version seems to have been formalized by the mid-1600s. The Sardinian goigs are similar in format, printed on single-page leaflets or "flyers" with the text in columns, all within a border/frame, but they rarely have woodcut illustrations and the borders are usually simple. They are much less ornate than Catalan examples.*3 On the island, the songs have also been written in various versions of Sardinian since the 1700s.
Requesens, in Catalan and printed
in 1899 in Girona in Catalonia.
Using one of the Sardinian terms,
gosos, this example invokes
Sant'Antiogu the Martyr, the patron
saint of Atzara, a small town 45 Km
SW of Nuoro in central Sardinia.
Although the Catalan and Sardinian goigs are, by definition, religious songs, they have a secular origin. In terms of meter and the form of verses and refrains, they derive from the olden dansa and balada of the troubadours of the Provence, where songs were sung in praise of knights and ladies. Those forms were differentiated by how parts of the text repeated—small differences, perhaps, but ones that found their way into the later religious texts. James II of Mallorca seems to have been the composer of the first religious goig (Mayre de Déu e fylha) in 1305. Form and meter became standardized in the 1400s and 1500s, and the singing of these songs was widespread by the end of the 1600s both in Catalonia and on Sardinia.
Most of the texts are anonymous, although there are some examples of texts by known poets. The format of the printed goigs did not generally allow for musical notation, so the melodies were handed down orally, with some melodies doing service for dozens of texts. It is difficult to judge whether the music was composed formally, perhaps by a known musician, or perhaps simply hummed into existence by a farmer with a good ear. Although musical notation is generally not printed on the standard goigs pages, there do exist artistic renditions of goigs leaflets that display the music as well as text. One of these, for example, is a ceramic tile display of the Goigs a la Mare de Déu de Bruguers in the town of Gavà near Barcelona (photo, right).
The 1800s saw the birth of "goigistic" associations and collecting in both Catalonia and on Sardinia, but there is apparently still no systematic catalog of them all. There may be as many as 30,000. There are prominent collections of goigs in a number of libraries in Catalonia, principally the Library of Catalonia, the Public Episcopal Library of Barcelona, the Library of Montserrat (near Barcelona) and the Historical Archives of the City of Barcelona. Sardinian libraries and associations have examples, as well.
As a final note, we emphasize that not only are the religious goigs still sung, but have also re-embraced their secular origins; there are now humorous and satiric texts, and political and social ones, sung in the same specialized metric forms and to the same melodies that have praised the saints though the centuries.