Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bean and Latin

When I was a kid, the TV show Mr Bean was compulsary viewing in our house.

We all loved it, the daft facial expressions, the novel way of solving problems, the interactions with other people and the much-abused Teddy, and the Mini, the undoubted comic genius that is Mr Atkinson. Even my mum, known in our family as She Who Has No Sense of Humour, was known to crack a smile at particularly funny moments. And as for my dad and younger brother, they'd regularly laugh until they cried. We got all the videos one Christmas, and spent the rest of the holiday watching them over and over. One of the few programmes I remember we all approved of.

So why this post? Bear with me.

I was listening to a CD yesterday, one of my prized possessions, the recording of In Paradisum, my first concert with Socii Cantorum and the Ladies' Choir back in October. Mostly this was Fauré's Requiem and Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, but we did other pieces as well, including Bruckner's beautiful Locus Iste (you can listen to our recording of this piece and some others at my Multipy site).

I've played the CD hundreds of times because every piece on there is so wonderful to sing - I often use it to practice and warm up. Poor Michael is probably sick to the back teeth of it by now, but he doesn't say anything, bless him.

Anyway, back to the point. After a few times of hearing it, Michael commented that Locus Iste sounds a bit like the theme tune from Mr Bean. And he's right, the first couple of notes do indeed closely resemble it.

I remembered this last night, and decided to find out what the song was that was used as the theme tune - so today I started with Wikipedia and this is what I found.

Mr. Bean is unusual amongst comedy series in featuring a choral theme tune, written by Howard Goodall and performed by the Choir of Southwark Cathedral. The words sung during the title sequences are in Latin:
  • Ecce homo qui est faba – "Behold the man who is a bean" (sung at beginning)
  • Finis partis primae – "End of part one" (sung before the commercial break)
    Pars secunda – "Part two" (sung after the commercial break)
  • Vale homo qui est faba – "Farewell, man who is a bean" (sung at end)

That really is the coolest thing I've seen today. I'm fascinated by Latin anyway, but I'm very impressed and delighted that the "church music" I remember from the programmes actually means something meaningful within the context.

I also love the idea of using a Latin choral piece to express something other than some kind of religious sentiment. Like how cool would it be to have your shopping list sung in Latin, the instuctions for assembling a piece of flat-packed furniture, or maybe your old school report? Everything sounds better in Latin!

It almost inspires me to learn Latin specifically so I can write choral pieces about mundane things.


  1. Hey Anna, just discovered this new blog, it's really cool! I loved Mr Bean too, one of the funniest sketches was the one where he is packing his suitcase to go on holiday, and cant get everything in, so he cuts things up to make them smaller (including his Teddy!) only one sock etc. Then he puts the whole lot into a bigger case !! hahaha.

  2. Hey, I never really have been a fan of stupid comedy. I have seen parts of the movie and I admit it was funny. It would fit that they would sing something so simple in such a complicated language. Just manages to make the entire show funnier.

  3. Hi and welcome Jan!

    Oh, that poor Teddy, I felt so sorry for it.

    My personal favourite was the one where he was singing in church and didn't know the words until it came to the "Alleluia". Reminds me of Simon, one of our tenors, who somehow manages to sing without using any consonants (until we come to the concert that is, when he sings perfectly).

  4. Cindy, I liked the film but the TV series was much better, cleverer I thought.

    I do love the "secret joke" effect of the theme tune, it's rather like the tune from Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em which is the title in Morse code.

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