Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Music as a "Make-or-Break" Determining Factor

Today has dawned bright and sunny here in Chicago. I am feeling for my family and friends on the East Coast with all the wind and rain they have been experiencing. I hope that wherever you are, your day is a good one.

Welcome to this installation of "New Translation Tuesday." And thanks to all of you who have shared comments. If you haven't had the chance to read through the comments from last Thursday's post: "New Translation Thursday: Is the Soil Ready for Planting? Sadly No" please take the time to do so. You will find a good cross-section of opinions there.

Since the First Sunday of Advent of last year, my pastor has been beginning every Mass by chanting the sign of the cross and the greeting. At first, it was accompanied, usually in the same key as the opening song. Frankly, as the parish musician in the past several weeks, I have forgotten about accompanying the pastor on these two "pieces." I usually just stand up at the bench after the opening song. I notice a little hesitation, and I know the pastor is probably looking over at me to see if I am going to "feed him" the opening chord. It's kind of embarrassing that it just slips my mind. So, he simply begins the chant a cappella and, folks, it is just lovely unaccompanied. Our parish is now in a great pattern with this moment of the Mass. For those musicians out there, he sings the words "In the name of the Father" on the tonic, "and of the Son" on the supertonic, "and of the Ho-" on the mediant, "-ly" on the subdominant, "spi-" on the mediant and the supertonic in succession, and the "-rit" on the dominant. The congregation responds "Amen" on the dominant. Then "The Lord" is sung on the mediant, "be" on the subdominant, "with" on the mediant and the supertonic in succession, and "you" on the tonic. The congregation's responds with "And al-" on the mediant, "-so" on the the subdominant, "with" on the mediant and the supertonic in succession, and "you" on the dominant. This "echo" of the melodic structure is quite natural and flows quite nicely. Here's my catscratch of this dialogue:

Notice that I have also included the new translation "And with your spirit." The new text flows just as nicely. I wondered at Mass on Sunday about the implementation of the new translation. If our parish decides to continue this laudable practice of singing this dialogue, would it be wiser to ask the people to change the words to their already familiar chant line or should we go back to square one and sing another chant setting. What is wonderful about our current practice is the fact that "with you" is sung by both celebrant and congregation on the same set of notes. Changing to the new translation will obviously mean changing those words of the congregation to "spi-rit." I must admit that it flows just as well. My hope for our parish (as for all English-speaking parishes throughout the world) is that the new ICEL chants for the dialogues will become party of our "Catholic DNA." You can find a helpful introduction about these chants on ICEL's web site here. I hope my friends at ICEL do not mind if I show you the ICEL chant for the dialogue right here (I just took this snapshot on my monitor from the ICEL web site I just mentioned).

This chant line is, in a word, natural. I am looking forward to singing it. As I have said before, good chant and good musical settings of the Mass are going to be the "make-or-break" determining factors for the implementation.

What do you think?

I am headed to California tomorrow for the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. Not sure about my commitment to blogging every day; I hope I can keep in touch. Please say a little prayer for the WLP staff and me, for our safety as we travel.

Thanks for listening and putting up with my less-than-savvy technology today.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Adam said...

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.

Chironomo said...


That's exactly what is meant by "integral" when we talk about the music being "integral" to the text, and the text being "integral" to the music.

Not exactly the equivalent, but wouldn't you feel silly "saying" the "Happy Birthday"...and yet it is natural to the music.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comments. Last summer I attended a Ukrainain Catholic Divine Liturgy and they sing "And with your spirit" and it is so prayerful. Must admit I'm looking forward to more sacred chants and music - some of the music we sing would be better off at a campfire!