Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Assemblies with "Their Own Musical Tradition"

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Thursday."

I want to begin by referring to Adam's brief comment on my post on Tuesday of last week:

I'm a bit embarrassed to say- this hadn't occurred to me. That is- in my thinking of whether the text was "natural" or "easy," chant never entered my mind.
When I speak, "And with your Spirit," I feel like an idiot. When I chant it, it seems perfect.
Hopefully others will catch on to that trick and we'll start hearing chant as the new translations come into use.

Thank you, Adam, for this comment. It's your last line, Adam, that I think gets to the heart of the issues here. Perhaps the new translation will see us all realizing that the liturgy itself is intrinsically musical. Music is not an "add-on" that somehow makes the liturgy more pleasing to the ear. I am drawing upon my own pastoral experience, both as a musician and as a pew person. My pastor is a Benedictine monk from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. He has not tried to turn our parish into a little monastery, yet when he does employ chant, there is a difference. He chants the preface dialogue every week. It has become absolutely natural to us. Now remember, I am in a predominantly African-American parish. We sing lots of uplifting music from the African-American tradition. During the high seasons of the Church year, Father chants the preface and a great portion of the Eucharistic Prayer as well. As a person in the pews, I am paying much closer attention to the prayer when it is chanted. Our response to the chanted preface is often a powerful spiritual setting of the Sanctus. Does this sometimes feel a but disjointed? Yes, but it is an expression of the spirit and piety of those gathered.

We'll need to be paying close attention to paragraph 131 of Sing to the Lord: Music in Catholic Worship:

In the dioceses of the United States of America today, liturgical assemblies are
composed of people of many different nations. Such peoples often “have their own musical
tradition, and this plays a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason their music
should be held in proper esteem and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their
religious sense but also in adapting worship to their native genius. . . .”

Does this mean that sometimes there is a sense that the music of the liturgy has an uneven style? A visitor coming to my parish might feel this way, but when one becomes a part of the community, this "uneven-ness" starts to disappear quickly, especially in a congregation like ours, which sings so heartily and with great conviction. In these past few weeks of directing the choir as the interim director, I have often walked over to "my usual side" of the worship area and told my friends that I want to hear them loud and clear. I also often tell the choir that our voices on "that other side" are often louder than the "choir side." This has everyone chuckling, but what a great testament this is to the pastoral and musical leadership of the parish. 

When the new translation comes into force, lots of decisions will need to be made. Adam refers to using chant more regularly as "that trick." Call it what you will, but we need to do everything we can with our parishioners to help music be a catalyst for this time of change. Of course, music cannot do it alone. There are texts that will appear awkward to the proclaimer and to the listener for many years to come. Just take a look at Fr. O'Leary's "grading" of just one of the newly translated prayers over on the "PrayTell" blog, as well as the comments. You can find that here

I am not sure if the chanting of these texts will help them be more intelligible to proclaimer and hearer alike. Time and experience will tell. This surely is an exciting and daunting time for us all, don't you think?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Thanks so much for your attention to my comment!

If it isn't wearing out my welcome here, I'd like to direct your attention further to my expanded thoughts on the new translations and (especially) the new chants that have been written for them: