It's officially the Easter season in the liturgical year! During this feasting season, the Regina Caeli (Queen of Heaven) replaces the Angelus prayers at 6am, noon, and 6pm. Additionally, it is prayed after Night Prayer, or Compline, in the Liturgy of the Hours. The text dates back to at least the 1200s, where the earliest known appearance occurs in an antiphonary from this time. Below is the text in Latin, followed by an English translation:
Regina caeli laetare, Alleluia.
Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia.
[Iam] Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluia.
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia.
[Now] has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
The original Regina Caeli chant can be listened to here.
Since the medieval period, more than a handful of composers have composed their own settings of this beautiful, joyful text. In the late Renaissance, William Byrd set this text as a motet for three voices. Another setting from this time period that's worth noting is Gregor Aichinger's motet for four voices (which is going to be the offertory piece at my wedding next month!).
During the Classical era, Joseph Haydn's younger brother Michael created a lovely setting for choir and orchestra, and W.A. Mozart contributed no less than three settings of this text, including this setting for choir and orchestra featuring four soloists.
Likely during the 1860s, Johannes Brahms penned his own setting for SSAA choir featuring two female soloists. While this may be a lesser known setting of the Regina Caeli, it is nonetheless a worthy addition. The harmonies are pure and clear, bringing out the beautiful joy of the text.
The Regina Caeli continues to be in use to this day, prayed and sung by the faithful during the Easter season. If you're looking to go deeper into the Easter season, you might consider incorporating this into your daily prayers or listening to different musical settings between now and Pentecost! Check out our Spotify playlist of Regina Coeli settings here.