In chorus: Todo el mundo en general

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 - The story about a religious hit song

‘Todo el mundo en general’ was once a very popular religious song with lyrics by the Andalusian poet Miguel Cid. The popularity it gained in its time was enormous, in fact today we wouldn’t hesitate to classify it as a “hit”.
But like many other popular songs throughout history, 'Todo el mundo' had its palmy days, and then it disappeared into the darkness of oblivion.

The fact that we today still have knowledge of the song, is due to the Spanish baroque composer Francisco Correa de Arauxo (1), who later wrote a piece for organ with variations, based on the popular melody. We decided to trace 'Todo el mundo' back to it’s original form as a song, and, at the same time, preserve Arauxo’s variations.
You can listen to the result here, while reading the fascinating story about el Canto Llano de la Inmaculada: Todo el mundo en general.

The use of popular song and music as a mean to support reforms, and to advocate for religious doctrines, was not exclusive to the Protestant Church. In beginning of the 17th century the Franciscan order in Spain worked determinedly on convincing the Holy See to raise the doctrine of “The Immaculate Conception”, La Inmaculada Concepción, to the level of Catholic dogma. Those efforts included both theological discussions, political lobbyism and social and popular mobilization, and in that latter context a simple religious song by the Sevilian composer and priest Bernardo del Toro (1570-1643), composed at Christmas time 1614, came to play a mayor role.
It is told that the composer gave a small party in relation with the traditional Christmas nativity scene, and that the visitors, including the friend and poet Miguel Cid, arrived at the party with ’songs and verses’. In this festive gathering the song dedicated to the “Immaculate Virgin” arose:

Todo el mundo en general 
a voces - Reyna escogida 
diga que soys concebida 
sin pecado original.

Let everyone lift up their voice
in chorus - chosen Queen -
that You are conceived
without original sin.

Everyone in chorus

On January 23rd, in the year 1615, the song Todo el mundo was published as printed sheets and distributed all over the town of Seville. Already on 2nd February the same year the song was sung by the choir of the Cathedral and during the following months the melody and lyrics were taught to children as well as to adults, in schools and churches everywhere in Seville. On July 29th a large crowd marched through the streets of Seville, demanding the Holy See to recognize the teachings of “The Immaculate Conception” as a papal dogma. This public manifestation is perpetuated in a painting by the Spanish painter Juan de las Roelas (Valladolid, Museo Nacional de Escultura). In the painting one can observe that the children in the gathering crowd carry the printed sheets of the song in their hands.
In Seville the "Todo el mundo - fever" culminated around Christmas time 1616, by that time the song was sung in all the churches of the town. On December 8th a grand religious feast was held in the Cathedral with several dance and music performances. At the end of the ceremony all the participants fell on their knees, facing the image of the Holy Virgin, and sang as in one united voice the famous chorus that everybody in Seville now knew by heart: “Todo el mundo a general” (2)

Variations on Todo el mundo

In 1625 the Spanish baroque-composer Francisco Correa de Arauxo published a treatise on organ playing, in which one of the last pieces, Tres glosas sobre el canto llano de la Inmaculada, is a set of variations on the famous tune by Bernardo del Toro and Miguel Cid. The piece is remarkable in many ways. First Arauxo presents the original song in the shape of a chorus followed by a verse, with the principal voice placed in the tenor. Then the chorus is presented again, this time with the principal voice held by the soprano. Subsequently the variations rise in speed and level of difficulty. The variations run twice over the verse part while the third and last time, the quickest, is based on the chorus.

Spanish baroque pulse

The rhythm of the song is based on constant and regular alternations between duple and triple metre, that is between 6/8 and 3/4. This rhythmical principle of constant metre change had already been practiced for a long time in European popular music (Ex. the German psalm 'Min største hjertens glæde' recorded by Via Artis Konsort), but in Spain at the beginning of the 17th century this particular rhythmical <em>mold</em> was often used with a pronounced and even dance-like character, as it can be heard in the popular Spanish genre La Jácara.

Todo el mundo, revisited

Arauxo’s melody is very similar to the original composed by Bernardo del Toro (3), thus we decided that we would not offend against any of the composers’ posthumous reputation by re-arranging the piece as a song, using the original text, while at the same time keeping Arauxo’s variations.
Arauxo’s variations run over the exact length of both choruses and verses, but in the 2nd variation a line is missing. In the original song (as in the 1st variation) the last line of the verse is repeated where the lyrics read “sin pecado original’, but in the 2nd variation this repetition is absent. Unfortunately it’s not possible to know whether the missing line is due to a mistake in the publishing process, or if Arauxo consciously omitted the repetition of the last line, but for the sake of wholeness we decided to add the missing line - with the lack of respect for original compositions that practitioners of early music must show from time to time, just as the musicians of the baroque era themselves so fully practised. The variations on the second last line in this 2nd variation consequently do not originate from Arauxo’s hand.
You can listen to the result of the reconstruction here:

  • First the chorus is sung, and right after that, the verse called copla.
  • Then the chorus is played by the bass viol, followed by the 1st variation on the verse, played by the portative organ.
  • Then follows the 2nd variation on the verse, played by the bas viol, and finally the song ends with the 3rd variation on the chorus, played by the portative organ with added vocal on the last part.

Listen to the piece and note how Arauxo’s variations elegantly play with the constant change between duple and triple metre.
1) Spanish organist and composer, possibly of Portuguese descent. Organist at the Church of S. Salvador in Seville from 1599 until 1636, then at Jaén Cathedral until 1640, finally at Segovia Cathedral until his death. His Libro de tientos y discursos de música practica, y theorica de organo, intitulado Facultad organica (Alcald, 1626) contains 62 tientos and seven other pieces, all for organ, introduced by a theoretical treatise and arranged in order of increasing difficulty, in a colorful baroque style, with bold dissonances and wayward figurations.
(2) In Spain The Feast of the Immaculate Conception still is celebrated on the 8th of December
3) Bernardo del Toro’s song is a so-called canto llano, i.e. a song in a modal church tonality, Arauxo adds to the song an early baroque harmonization. The rhythmical alternation between two- and tripartite metre originates from the original tune by Bernardo del Toro.


Alfonso de Vicente: Música, propaganda y reforma religiosa en los siglos XVI y XVII: cánticos para la “gente del vulgo” (1520-1620), Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Amaniel (Madrid), Studia Aurea 1 (2007)
Also following internet sources: