Sweelinck’s Drinking Songs

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck could do wonders with drinking songs.

Sweelinck (name pronounced here) is best known today for his enormous influence on Baroque keyboard music. An Amsterdam resident from 1562 to 1621, Sweelinck was one of the earliest Dutch composers to achieve international renown, and he remains one of his country’s most important musical figures.

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, famous composer, organist, and drinking-song arranger

For most of his life, Sweelinck was the organist at the Oude Kerk (literally “old church”), which still stands in what is now Amsterdam’s Red-Light District.

Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk, where Sweelinck was the organist for most of his life

Sweelinck’s organ pieces occupy an important position in the instrument’s repertory. They include fantasias, toccatas, psalm settings, and arrangements of popular songs. One of these songs, “More Palatino,” was a famous drinking song for students.

“More Palatino” is in Latin, so its first word, more, is pronounced “moray” like an eel, not “Moor” like Othello. It means roughly, “in the style of.” The word Palatino often is translated as “palatial,” but it also could refer to the Palatinate region in Germany. The song text, and an English translation (courtesy of The Jack Horntip Collection) are below:

More palatino bibimus, ne gutta supersit,
Unde suam possit, musca levare sitim;
Sic bibimus, sic vivimus
In Academicis

We drink in palatial style. Let not a drop remain
By which a fly could quench his thirst.
Thus we drink, and thus we live
While we are students.

This song reminds us of our student days. At BachBeer, we still finish the last drop of every drink.

We appreciate the song’s celebration of young people living life to the fullest. Our favorite performances of Sweelinck’s piece have gusto to match the vitality of the song’s lyrics. One such performance comes from prize-winning organist Joseph Ripka. In a recent YouTube video, Ripka interprets Sweelinck’s variations with lively articulation and vibrant color worthy of the song’s subject.

Students often fill their party coolers with cheap beers such as Natural Ice, Coors Light, and Milwaukee’s Best (popularly known as the “Beast”). We suggest an upgrade. If you live in the Midwest, look for a beer called Trotwood Lager by Dayton Ohio’s Warped Wing Brewing Company. Trotwood is a crafty take on the traditional American light lager. The purity of its flavor and the beauty of its pint-can design set it above its light-beer peers.

For refined takes on the student drinking life, BachBeer suggests Sweelinck and Warped Wing. If you know other high-quality light lagers or classical settings of drinking songs, please leave them in the comments below.