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English: Pronouncing Jesu in English

Dear listers,

Here is a compilation of the wonderful range of often-contradictory opinions
on the pronunciation of "Jesu" in English-texted, (particularly English
cathedral) music.

Thanks to all who replied!

I also work in an Episcopal church, and use that pronunciation, for
example, in the Ghanaian hymn that begins "Jesu, Jesu." Frankly, whenever
I can, especially in translations, I substitute "Jesus," unless of course
there's an accent on the second syllable as there is in that hymn. To me,
the pronunciation "Yay-zoo" in an English-language context sounds as
though there's suddenly a little Latin or German in there. On the other
hand, Britten, in "A Boy Was Born" and maybe in something else as well,
specifically called for "Yay-zoo" in the English-language context. I
don't know how that "Gee-zu" pronunciation started; probably way back when
Anglicans were trying to purge themselves of Latin. It does seem though
that English choirs usually pronounce it that way. Obviously, my response
is not based on heavy-duty scholarly research but just on personal
preference, so it probably isn't worth much."

reminds us. Yay, zoo! is of course correct in German as well as standard

>From Johannesburg, South Africa: "In general, one sings Italianate Latin when
singing in Latin, and the

Anglicisation when singing in English, e.g. "Sah-bah-ot" in Latin, and

'Sa-bay-oth" in English.>>>


example, consider the various pronunciations of the Latin Mass (Germanic,

French, Italian, American, English). You might consider using an

"Anglicized" pronunciation when singing music composed for the Anglican

church or by English composers.

Otherwise, "eeYEH-soo." See "Latin Pronunciation According to Roman

Usage" - Hall.>>>>

Episcopal gig), he said that in British music you ALWAYS pronounced the 'J'
in these cases as the 'g' in gentle. The vowel would still be open 'e'. He
also insisted that when writing a title in English one only capitalized the
first word (not all the nouns or words), like "Jesu, joy of man's

"Jesu" is in an
English language context, you pronounce it "GEE-ZYU". If it is in a
Latin language context, then "YEH-SOO".
Of course, in this part of the world everyone seems to want to be
"politically correct" and insists on pronouncing all the words borrowed
by English in their original language form. Most choirs ignore them!">>>>


describe, but to use the latin pronounciation "Yeh-su" or "Yeh-zu"

(depending on the conductor) in latin situations. (use any you can think

>From the midwest:
the text is Latin, you say Yay-zoo or -soo.
Pretty easy, huh!" >>>

then use the English pronunciation. Otherwise, modern practice
is to use the Italianate pronunciation. Why? The best explanation
I can think of is imperial English chauvinism.

If you attempt to use historical pronunciations in any language,
you're at the mercy of whichever scholar is directing you this
time. I've lost track of the many ways I've been directed to
pronounce "Adam lay ybounden"...">>>>

in Italian, and the Italians pronounce is Gee-su (Jay-zoo), so believe
it or not the Christmas song is Gee-su Bambino not Yee-su like most
people sing it.">>>>

spelled Jesu. I consider it just a variation of Jesus, but still an English
word in an English-language anthem.
If we are singing in Latin, or in a language that pronounces Jesus with a
"Yay", then I use Yay-su.

My reasoning is that to use Yay-su in an otherwise English-language anthem
would be like saying Par-ree instead of Par-iss (Paris) in an
English-language sentence. The proper French pronunciation might be
Par-ree, but when we are speaking in English we would use the English word

verify my opinion, other than to say my instructors all shared the same
opinion) . . . my opinion is that never EVER pronounce that word as "Yay,
Sue!" in an English text. Sue's a great gal and all, but she has no place in
church music.
Probably no help, but it is one of my pet peeves, so I had to reply."

"Jesu--having been a Choirmaster at an Anglican Cathedral, I would say that

the English Choral tradition is to pronounce it "Gee-zoo" when the word is

used with other English words. Here in Canada we also sing "Geezoo Joy of

Man's Desiring." Yehzoo is used for Latin text pronunciation.

There at lots of other anglicized Latin pronunciations that are commonplace

in the Cathedral tradition. For example, venite, benedicite, decani, etc.

You find the same with many of the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge

(magdalene college, caius college.)">>>>



Timothy Carney, DMA
Music Director, O`ahu Choral Society, Hawai`i Vocal Arts Ensemble
Visiting Associate Professor of Music, Chaminade University of Honolulu
Artistic Director, Hawai`i International Choral Festival
April 14-20, 2002
ELIJAH by Felix Mendelssohn
Measha Brueggergosman, soprano
Linda Maguire, mezzo soprano
Les Ceballos, tenor
Leslie Tennent, baritone
O`ahu Choral Society and Festival Chorus
Honolulu Symphony Orchestra
Individual Singers and Choirs Welcome to participate
Visit our webpage at
email: maestrotim(a)

on July 10, 2005 10:00pm
What will the audience understand? In the case of a congregational hymn, what will people who don't get to hear an explanation of the pronunciation think? In the case of a choral piece, what effect is the composer aiming for -- distance or immediacy? And what is the context of the sound; e.g., the open, ethereal "yeh-zoo" or the brigher "jee-zoo"? Decide what to do based on what is communicated.
on February 1, 2007 10:00pm
please give me 2 examples of the choral reading because i need a piece of it on monday.because it is one of our projects in school. thank you.