Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Revised Grail Psalms: I Am Befuddled

Welcome to this installment of New Translation Thursday.

Yesterday, I ended the post with what some around here called a "bomb."



I feel compelled to comment on the new Revised Grail Psalms. As you may know, this version of the psalms has been given formal recognition by the Vatican for use as the responsorial psalm at Mass. But, until they appear in revised liturgical books, we are not obliged to use them. So, until the final revisions are made by the abbot at Conception Abbey, they are not yet available for use or to be set to music. I have been told that there are over three hundred corrections that were made by the Vatican.

That brings me to the issue I raised yesterday. GIA Publications is "the worldwide agent for the Revised Grail Psalms." I cannot understand why a private family (the owners of GIA Publications) can be granted a position as "worldwide agent" for the official prayers of the Church. Once the Lectionary for Mass is revised and the Grail Psalms are printed in that revised Lectionary, GIA Publications will receive payment when those psalms are published in worship resources, hymnals, missals, and other resources. How that payment is distributed has not been made public. For instance, does GIA retain an administrative fee, while directing other part or parts of the fee to the Abbey or to another party? This information would be helpful to those who are directly affected by this decision.

Right now, when a composer sets the NAB (current version) of the psalms, the USCCB (who owns the rights to the NAB) has chosen to waive the royalty fee. So, this has been wonderful for composers, who are able to be paid a higher percentage, since they do not have to share the royalty fee with the NAB rights holder. Once composers begin setting the new Grail Psalms, their royalty payments will be reduced, since GIA will take their own share of the royalty, as "the worldwide agent for the Revised Grail Psalms." This is bad news for composers, and very good news, of course, for GIA Publications. This simply does not make sense to me. In a letter received by publishers from GIA Publications, we were told this: "Please be assured that this text will be available to all legitimate publishers on an equal basis at rates consistent with those established for official liturgical texts."

When we print the NAB Psalms in our hymnals and missals, it is the bishops conference of the United States that receives the payment of rates "established for official liturgical texts." I am at a loss as to why the bishops have chosen to have the payment of those rates now go to a private family here in Illinois (the owners of GIA Publications).

I want to make it clear that I have been a consistent supporter of our friends at GIA Publications. They publish, and continue to publish, many excellent resources for the singing Church. My own liturgical life has been enriched by their music over the years, and for that I am grateful. I just don't understand how a private family and music publisher could be granted the status as "the worldwide agent for the Revised Grail Psalms"—which will eventually become the official version used in the Church's liturgical books. While I understand how a family business is granted worldwide rights to intellectual property—that is what all publishers strive for—what I don't understand is how the Church allows a private business to control and license what are official texts of the Church. For anyone to publish the official texts of the Church—for the first time in our corporate memory—publishers will need to go to someone who is not part of the Church. Remember that the Church has no control over private business. More importantly, the bishops, in their wisdom, granted a gift to composers of the NAB psalms and now the fact that GIA Publications is the "worldwide agent" for the Revised Grail Psalms, that gift has been taken away from composers. This is lamentable.

Sometimes I can be a little slow in my own understanding of these things. Am I missing something here? Please feel free to comment.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

13 comments:

byte228 said...

I definitely agree that this seems to be a "weird" setup at the least. My question though is a bit broader. I'm a bit behind, what is the reason for revising the texts of the Psalms? I have this gut reaction to both the new Psalm translation and the new Roman Missal translation... is what I'm singing or praying now "wrong"?

Will I have the right that the Latin Rite proponents have to attend a "Old Translation" Novus Ordo Mass similarly to the Tridentine Masses that are popping up?

Anonymous said...

I have written GIA numerous times, asking if any of the money will go to Conception Abbey. As you know, from the sale of Lectionaries ALONE, GIA will make millions.

GIA's answer has always remained the same: they will NOT reveal if Conception Abbey will get any of this money.

Alan Hommerding said...

As Jerry mentioned in his post yesterday, we at WLP work for a Catholic-family-owned company. I've been here not quite twenty years, and from time to time have wondered what would happen to WLP if a large music conglomerate bought us (like, for example, Warner Bros.).

Previously I only asked this in regard to my own ministry and employment here. But now I wonder the same thing with the future of these psalm texts being held by a private company. I know that neither WLP or GIA has any plans to be sold or acquired, but the sands of the business world shift quickly.

Like Jerry, I have the greatest admiration for the work GIA does, and their initial offering of the Grail psalms to the RC church in the US was a blessing for all of us. But that availability was not mandated, nor were those texts the only ones permitted for liturgy, as will be the case when the new Lectionary revision happens here.

I'm guessing that a large corporation buying these exclusive worldwide rights would see them as a revenue stream more than as a source of prayer. Who knows what would happen (or what might happen in the future, in any case) to the price we'd all pay? To me, this points out the larger structural/procedural flaw here.

Jeffrey Tucker said...

Thank you again for this wonderful post.

Anonymous said...

Who owns the copyright of the original Grail Psalms? (they also can be used in the current liturgy and GIA has versions in their catalogue, as in Worship 3 uses grail translation). Currently there are a number of translations that can be used in response psalm, NAB maybe the most popular but others are allowed. this will stop with the new missal and only the revised Grail will be acceptable. Maybe it is just a matter that since GIA is the owner of the original copyright, they retain it with updated editions? just a conjecture....

Charles said...

GIA is acting as agent for Conception Abbey, so presumably at least some of the royalty money is going to Conception Abbey (and perhaps the Grail in England?) in payment for their work on the text. Moreover, since GIA is an agent and not the owners, they presumably are limited by their contract with the owners and thus do not have unfettered control over use of the copyrighted material. Moreover, they cannot change the content to the extent the Church has only approved specific content for liturgical use. In the end, perhaps the Church should pay Conception Abbey for the rights, so that the rights would be in Church hands, and the Church could waive or reduce royalty fees if it wished. The same issue exists with the National Council of Christian Churches' having sole rights to the RSV and NRSV Bible if either of those versions are ever chosen for liturgical use in the Catholic Church (they have been in other countries besides the US). Basically copyright royalties would need to be paid to an organization outside the Church.

Jeffrey Tucker said...

A very important workaround here is to gain some kind of approval for 4 or 5 or more different sets of Psalms (my own favorite is Coverdale). I'm not even sure how that would happen. but the statement about options to Grail needs to be public and clear. I wish I knew what to do to make this happen but I'm really out of the loop.

Paul said...

This is just sour grapes on the part of WLP...you would be singing a different tune if WLP owned the rights.

John said...

In the U$A, corporations are people too and deserve to be paid for their work.

Nick Baty said...

According to GIA’s copyright information, it appears that the only people who will be paying to use Grail IV will be those who seek to make money from it. Seems like a fairly good deal!

Bob Batastini said...

Jerry and Alan,

I would think you'd understand that a literary agent is like an attorney. If the attorney does a good job, you retain them, if not, you replace them. The copyright owners (Conception Abbey and The Grail) have retained us to do the grunt work of licensing. There is no indelible bestowal of anything here. As is the standard in our industry, we receive payment in the form of a percentage of the royalties earned by the copyright owners. Period.

Anonymous said...

GIA has consistently refused to reveal any information about the payment arrangements. Our Psalms are being bought and sold by non-Catholic, for-profit companies, we are not allowed any details, and we are told to simply accept this. This is not a good policy.

Anonymous said...

Here's the latest news on the long awaited Revised Grail Psalter (apparently, more work is needed):

http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/grail-psalter-341-revisions/