Will we finally have approved translations of the sung propers?
  • Lately I have made it my personal mission to try to understand why the U.S. Bishops have not provided us with English translations of the sung propers of the Mass (i.e. English translations of the texts of the Graduale Romanum). And, as a result, I have tried to figure out which translations we should be using in the absence of an "approved translation" of these texts. Although article 110 of Liturgiam Authenticam states that its principals apply to the transations of all liturgical books, including the Graduale Romanum, it doesn't mean that the U.S. Bishops will choose to translate it. In fact, I know of some who wouldn't desire that the GR be officially translated. But I hold the conviction that we need to have some middle ground between "proper latin chant" and "another suitable song". I believe that this chasm is too big and that chanted propers in English would do a great deal of good for our current liturgical culture. Resources obviouly already exist that offer such settings--but I'll get to that in a moment.

    The confusion about which texts are actually "proper" has been intensified by the U.S. GIRM translation/adaptation that was released as liturgical law in 2003. I have recently heard that the U.S. Bishops have decided to correct the GIRM's instruction on sung proper antiphons to accord to the prescriptions of the official Vatican document, to universal law--I've been told that the GIRM will drop its previous instruction that "option 1" of the processional chants are to be taken from either the Roman Missal or the Roman Gradual, clarifying that the sung proper text is to be taken from the Roman Gradual, while if there is no singing the text is to be taken from the Roman Missal. This, of course, is how the Vatican IGRM reads. This comes to me as very good news as it will clarify which texts are actually "proper."

    The next question, though, becomes "what translation of the sung propers should we use?" Resources like the American Gradual and the Anglican Use Gradual exist and are used by many for chanting the propers in English. These are wonderful resources, for sure, but they use differing translations of the Latin texts of the Graduale, and are by no means standardized or approved translations.

    Of course--we don't have approved translations of the propers, as I stated before. Or do we?

    Just recently I found a clue that seems to suggest that we might be getting approved translations of the propers after all. I was perusing a document entitled "Observations on the English-language Translation of the Roman Missal"--A letter sent from the CDW to the U.S. Bishops in 2002. Paragraph IV-M states:

    "In order to assist the faithful to commit various parts of the sacred text to memory and to appropriate the text more deeply without the jarring inevitably created by the dissonance of diverse translations of the same passage, those texts taken directly from Sacred Scripture, such as the antiphons, should reflect the wording of the same approved version used in the Lectionary for which the Conference has received the recognitio of the Holy See. Only those textual adjustments should be made which are necessitated by the manner in which the editio typica has employed the official Latin text (e.g., sometimes adding a vocative such as "Domine" or condensing two verses). For the sake of such unity as regards the biblical text, it is appropriate and preferable that this element of diversity be maintained among the versions of the Roman Missal eventually to be published by the various Conferences."


    After reading this I revisited Liturgiam Authenticam and discovered that article 36 mirrors this statement:

    "In order that the faithful may be able to commit to memory at least the more important texts of the Sacred Scriptures and be formed by them even in their private prayer, it is of the greatest importance that the translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for liturgical use be characterized by a certain uniformity and stability, such that in every territory there should exist only one approved translation, which will be employed in all parts of the various liturgical books. This stability is especially to be desired in the translation of the Sacred Books of more frequent use, such as the Psalter, which is the fundamental prayer book of the Christian people. The Conferences of Bishops are strongly encouraged to provide for the commissioning and publication in their territories of an integral translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for the private study and reading of the faithful, which corresponds in every part to the text that is used in the Sacred Liturgy."


    (The added emphasis in these documents is mine)

    This tells me that the Vatican has given us approved translations of the proper antiphons of the mass, even if the U.S. Bishops won't. We simply take them from the approved scripture translations which will be used for the mass, for the office, and for the devotional life of the faithful. This seems so simple, almost too obvious, but nonetheless it is something that never occurred to me before I read it in these documents. It makes me think of Palestrina and his contemporaries who simply opened the Vulgate when they wished to set a liturgical text--They didn't have a web of translations to sort through, among other challenges that we've faced in modern times. Will we soon have the same luxury?

    One remaining issue, though, would be the handling of the non-scriptural texts. The offertory of the requiem mass comes to mind, and I'm sure that there are others.

    But it seems clear in the above documents that all scripture used in the vernacular in the liturgy is to be uniform and from the "approved" source. That source may be the Revised Grail Psalter (with recognitio) for the Psalms. And I'm not sure what translation is proposed for the rest of scripture--Does anyone else know?

    Am I reading these passages correctly? Does this mean that we will finally have approved translations of the sung proper texts of the Mass?
  • Reading the above, I don't note any real consciousness of the issue that we have two sets of propers.

    The other issue you don't address: should we desire official translations of the sung propers? I would strongly suggest that the answer is no.
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    I've often wondered why the Graduale propers haven't been translated, and I've thought that they ought to be. I don't think this way anymore.

    In my opinion it would be desirable to have the Missale propers revised to match the Graduale, or eliminate the idea of "recited" antiphons altogether. But this isn't a translation issue.

    In researching this issue to satisfy my own curiosity, it seems to me that the intention of the reformers was that the Missale antiphons, in addition to being recited at read Masses, would serve as inspiration for vernacular compositions. If someone is composing music for the proper of the Mass, it seems that the intention of the liturgical reform is that one should use the texts of the Missale. Fr. Samuel Weber has been doing just this. This is a commonplace practice in other languages, for instance Italian.
  • dvalerio
    Posts: 341
    «If someone is composing music for the proper of the Mass, it seems that the intention of the liturgical reform is that one should use the texts of the Missale. (...) This is a commonplace practice in other languages, for instance Italian.»

    And also, by the way, Portuguese. We even have a two-volume edition of all entrace and communion antiphons edited by the Portuguese Bishops' Conference. Several of these antiphons have more than one setting; there are simple unison settings and settings for choirs with five or six parts; and every year some more settings of these antiphons are published in Portuguese Sacred Music journals. While there is plenty of bad music to be found among them, it must be said that there are also many fine examples of good vernacular Sacred Music for the Liturgy.

    I hope that time will help to filter out the trite and keep what is good...
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    dvalerio

    I very much hope you will find time to tell us more about what sacred music is like in Portugal these days.

    "Official translations of the sung propers" sounds like it might, at least in the USA, put us in the same fix as the new psalter.

    If indeed it is a fix, which I suspect it will be.
  • A couple quick notes here:

    1) Translations of just about every proper chant can be found online, somewhere.

    2) The Gregorian Missal (from Solesmes) contains unofficial translations of the Gregorian proper texts. If memory serves, these are sometimes pretty loose translations, but they are at least there, in a somewhat-official liturgical book.
  • Reading the above, I don't note any real consciousness of the issue that we have two sets of propers.


    I assume that you're referring to the sets in 1. the Graduale Romanum and 2. the Missale Romanum. This is addressed here:

    I've been told that the GIRM will drop its previous instruction that "option 1" of the processional chants are to be taken from either the Roman Missal or the Roman Gradual, clarifying that the sung proper text is to be taken from the Roman Gradual, while if there is no singing the text is to be taken from the Roman Missal.


    This information has come from an "inside" source very recently and I'm not sure that this has been made public knowledge. What I'm saying is that article 48 of the GIRM will be changed from "In the dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting;" to something like "...(1) ..."the antiphon and psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting..." And then it is clarified that the Roman Missal antiphons are be spoken only when these aren't able to be sung. This is faithful to the Latin document and it corrects the error that was exposed by the Sacred Music, Winter 2006 article "Graduale Romanum or Missale Romanum:..." This is the real news. The bishops look like they've decided to clarify which antiphons are proper for singing and which are proper for speaking.

    The other issue you don't address: should we desire official translations of the sung propers? I would strongly suggest that the answer is no.


    I do address this as well:

    In fact, I know of some who wouldn't desire that the GR be officially translated. But I hold the conviction that we need to have some middle ground between "proper latin chant" and "another suitable song". I believe that this chasm is too big and that chanted propers in English would do a great deal of good for our current liturgical culture.


    To reiterate my conviction: It seems that one of the foundational reasons why Gregorian chant is "proper to the Roman liturgy" is because it sets the texts of the Roman liturgy in a most perfect way. The setting of this text as found in the Graduale Romanum is our first choice for singing this text for multiple reasons, reasons that are understood in this forum. The problem remains, though, that 95% of parishes in America are alienated by liberal use of latin in the liturgy, and these parishes should not be deprived of the opportunity to have all of the texts of the liturgy, even if they are in the vernacular.

    I have to say, Jeffrey, that I strongly suggest that we should desire official translations of the sung propers, and my analysis above demonstrates that the Vatican, through Liturgiam Authenticam, also desires official translations of the sung propers if they are to be sung in the vernacular. To me, this is a very powerful statement:

    In order that the faithful may be able to commit to memory at least the more important texts of the Sacred Scriptures and be formed by them even in their private prayer, it is of the greatest importance that the translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for liturgical use be characterized by a certain uniformity and stability, such that in every territory there should exist only one approved translation, which will be employed in all parts of the various liturgical books. (LI 36)


    For those of us who do want (and need) to sing the proper texts in the vernacular, should we not abide by this instruction? How beautiful would it be for the next 50... 100... or more... years to have one consistent vernacular scriptural translation that accompanies our one Vulgate? Maybe then we would be able to actually learn the texts of the liturgy, the texts of scripture, and be "formed by them in our private prayer." I don't think that this would diminish the value of the latin Gregorian chant propers, I think that it would elevate them to an even higher place of honor. Most of the U.S. church doesn't even know that there are proper chants (I didn't a few years ago)--If we can sing and experience them in the vernacular at first I believe that it will open the door all the wider for the Vatican ideal which is the music of the Graduale Romanum.
  • "The Gregorian Missal (from Solesmes) contains unofficial translations of the Gregorian proper texts. If memory serves, these are sometimes pretty loose translations, but they are at least there, in a somewhat-official liturgical book."

    The introduction of the Gregorian Missal states that its translations "only function is to facilitate comprehension of the sung Latin text, and it is in no way intended for use in the Liturgy."
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,952
    "...(1) the antiphon and psalm from the Roman Missal as set to music there or in another musical setting..."

    Sorry, I don't understand what this would mean. Is the new Roman Missal to specify psalm verses in addition to the recited-antiphon text? And is there to be music for the introit there?
  • Sorry, that should read "Roman Gradual", not "Roman Missal"-- I will correct it above..
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    As far as the desirability of one liturgical scriptural translation goes, I understand that Liturgiam Authenticam says this and I can see strong arguments for it being desirable. On the other hand Peter Jeffrey has written a bunch of essays that were compiled into a book recently (it's on Google Books) in which he argues that this would be a bad idea. Even in Latin, we don't have this consistency. There are texts from the Vulgate, texts from the neo-Vulgate, and older Latin texts that don't even match the Vulgate. If an inspired translation were to become the standard, maybe this would be a good thing, but all translations fall short, some moreso than others...
  • Jeffrey,

    Can you explain your rational for this proposition:

    Should we desire official translations of the sung propers? I would strongly suggest that the answer is no.


    Your strong suggestion seems to contradict this instruction that is given in Liturgiam Authenticam:

    In order that the faithful may be able to commit to memory at least the more important texts of the Sacred Scriptures and be formed by them even in their private prayer, it is of the greatest importance that the translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for liturgical use be characterized by a certain uniformity and stability, such that in every territory there should exist only one approved translation, which will be employed in all parts of the various liturgical books. (LI 36)
  • Adam wrote:
    The introduction of the Gregorian Missal states that its translations "only function is to facilitate comprehension of the sung Latin text, and it is in no way intended for use in the Liturgy."

    This, I believe, is “CYA”, sort of like how By Flowing Waters has a disclaimer that it is not intended as an official English translation of the Graduale Simplex, even though it is, for all intents and purposes, de facto fulfilling precisely that function.

    There is no reason not to use the translations in the Gregorian Missal when they are accurate and good for singing. For that matter, there is no reason not to use the translations in the Sacramentary when the antiphons are the same.

    For that matter, there may be justification for taking the texts of the Missal, even when they diverge from those of the Gradual, and setting them to music, in Latin or in a vernacular.
  • An argument against an "official" translation of the Propers might be one of inclusiveness: the ability to use existing settings that correspond to the Proper texts, including vernacular anthems from other traditions (Anglican, for instance). Or using hymnody, for that matter, especially when the poetic text paraphrases the Latin. I love chanting the Gregorian Propers as prescribed, but their restoration as integral liturgical elements of modern worship should not be limited to the official chant settings, nor to settings of some (never-to-be-settled) official English translation. That said, some sort of ecclesial guidance would be helpful in providing a baseline from which to start, especially if it could sort out this Graduale versus Missale dilemma. In the meantime, I'd go with the texts of the Graduale, and use the same Grail we'll be using for the Responsorial Psalms (unless you can't stand it).
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,007
    I think every thread I've bumped the past few months has been dead for a few days, but...

    Whilst singing Mass this morning, I ran into the "Vox Dei" in the Alleluia verse because of a bad translation. Latin reads: Esto fidelis usque ad mortem, dicit Dominus, et dabo tibi coronam vitae. English (in DRM): Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

    Anyone know if this sort of thing will be corrected in the new Propers? I'm interested to know. I sang it and thought, "Whoa!" Sure enough, the Latin was fine, but the English...
  • You should have sung "says the Lord" at the end to a plagal cadence. :)