Tuesday, November 24, 2009
New Translation: Will the Arguments Hold?
Another "New Translation Tuesday" has rolled around. The weather is still raw and miserable here in the Midwest. This is the kind of weather that soaks deeply into your bones. But, it is Thanksgiving week, so the upcoming holiday helps buoy our spirits.
For those of you who have yet to visit the US Bishops' special web page on the new translation, you can find it here.
I've had a nagging question floating around in my brain over the past few weeks. This has to do with current musical settings of the Mass being sung in parishes across the country. I think, for instance, of David Haas' Mass of Light. The refrain for the Gloria is this: "Glory to God in the highest, Sing! Glory to God! Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth." For over twenty years (the copyright date for this Mass is 1988), Catholics who sing this setting have not been singing the words of the Gloria as found in the Church's liturgical books. In my own parish, there are some settings composed by a well-meaning musician that change the words of the Gloria and the Sanctus, so that they are more gender-inclusive. Texts like these have become a part of the fabric of the Catholic worship life in parishes. And they are not slavishly faithful to the texts in the current liturgical books. I guess my question here is this: If Catholics have been singing "variations" on the official texts for years, why will they feel obliged to sing new musical settings of the official texts that slavishly follow the newly translated texts word for word?
Now granted, publishers have been submitting settings to the bishops for review for years, and apparently, there has been some allowance for slight "variations" (a la Haas' Mass of Light). Obviously this will change with the new translation. But the fact remains that there are "composers" out there in parishes setting the texts of the Mass to their own music. I am reminded of this when I visit my parents' parish in Massachusetts. The parish music director wrote a musical setting of the Mass parts which, when I first heard them, sounded completely un-singable and were completely unmusical. Yet the parishioners sing them very well, like they are singing "Happy Birthday" at a family celebration. I wanted so much to go up to the music director and sit down and play and sing Steve Janco's Mass of Redemption, just so that person could hear a great musical setting.
How will Catholics in the pews react to the new translation? When told that these new texts are more faithful to the Latin original, will they care? Since many have not sung the official texts for years, why would they see the logic in the argument about fidelity to the Latin? We shall see. Please feel free to comment. You can do so by clicking on the comments button below and following the prompts from there.
Hope your Tuesday is going well.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.