A jaw-droppingly beautiful Christmas carol from ... The Monkees?

Perhaps I'm the last person to know about this, but have you ever heard this Christmas carol?

It's extraordinary. The pitch and harmony are flawless, and according to the twitter commentators below the tweet, the unexpected group that did it, the 1960s pop rock band, The Monkees, did it in one take.

It's a 1556 Spanish Christmas carol called Ríu Ríu Chíu, sung in old Spanish, heavily religious in tone, with apparently some Catalan words in its lyrics. Native Spanish speakers on Twitter say the accent is pitch perfect, and it does sound natural. A fan site called Monkees Live Almanac has the story of how the unusual song came to be.

 Briefly it was originally made as part of a television show the Monkees starred in in 1967 and later incorporated into an album of theirs. Apparently, one of their managers was into this kind of music and taught the boy-band to sing it. A shorter version of the song,  Ríu Ríu Chíu, can be heard on YouTube and the song can be downloaded on music apps, too. 

And yes, it's beautiful. The voices sound like young Spanish peasants singing of Christmas as they thought about it back when much of Europe (think France, Poland, Russia, Italy, as well as Spain) was haunted by wolves, and the Lord protects the Virgin Mary from such predators. There's no sarcasm, no irony, no overwrought treacliness, just a matter-of-fact singing of the carol in all earnestness, without over-earnestness. Here's a shareable translation from lyricstranslate.com:

Riu, riu, chiu
The river bank is protected
God has kept the wolf
From our ewe lamb
God has kept the wolf
From our ewe lamb

The rabid wolf
Wanted to bite her
But Almighty God
Knew how to defend her
He willed to make her
Unable to sin
Even original sin
This virgin did not have

Riu, riu, chiu...

The one who is born
Is the Great Monarch
Christ the Patriarch
Clothed in flesh
He has redeemed us
By making himself small
Though he was infinite
He became finite

Riu, riu, chiu...

He comes to give
Life to the dead
He comes to repair
The fall of all mankind
This Child
Is the light of day
He is the Lamb
Of whom St. John spoke

Riu, riu, chiu...

I saw a thousand Angels
Who were singing
Flying around
Chanting in a thousand voices
Saying to the shepherds
Glory in Heaven
And peace on earth
For Jesus is born

Riu, riu, chiu...

Now we have
What we desire
Let us go together
To present him gifts
Let us all give him
Our will
For he came
As our equal

Riu, riu, chiu...

It's an amazing song with its fresh religious overtones, local European adaptations and context, and beautiful, slightly Medieval-sounding, melody. One hears the Monkees sing it, and it doesn't take much to hear people several centuries ago singing it -- a song that was written and sung less than 50 years after the 1517 apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico, which triggered the biggest spontaneous mass conversion to Christianity in history.

It makes one wonder what other cultural treasures we have been missing, particularly today as wokesters seek to destroy history. I asked a Mexican friend if there were other comparable Christmas carols from Spain out there and he asked me to check out Campana Sobre Campana, Los Peces en el Rio, or check out Sinfónica de Minería, 2012 Villancicos Tradicionales, on YouTube.

I think I will.

It's a marvelous surprise that The Monkees of all people, the so-called "no talent Monkees" could bring this ancient carol song to the life it deserves and alert the rest of us to the western cultural treasures still out there. 

For those who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas!

Image: Twitter screen shot

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