Is a Tri-lingual Psalter for singing worth publishing?
  • Chris_McAvoyChris_McAvoy
    Posts: 354
    Dear Forum,

    I've been working on matching a traditional spanish and traditional english translation of the psalter and canticles to the ancient versification ment for singing in the gallican/vulgate latin psalter. I realized that there could be a value in having all three translations mixed together, side by side in a single book. What I would like to know from you is whether this book idea is worth publishing - as in - for money. How many people would actually pay $20 for a tri-lingual psalter ment for singing? Besides the psalms and canticles it would include various prayers and possible psalm collects at the end too, so in some sense it would also be a prayer book.

    Although monetary gain is not going to dissuade me from continuing my work, it would encourage me to finish it faster rather than put it on the back burner. The english/latin version will move forward no matter what but the spanish translation might go on the back burner. I think this idea is important, but I wonder if it would be seen usefulto the average Catholic lay person.

    Here is a side by side comparison:

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  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 794
    I would buy it.

    Which Spanish translation are you using?

    If it were available in electronic format so that one could copy and paste them into a document for cantors it would be even better.
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    If it were available in electronic format markdown or YAML so that one could copy and paste them into a document for cantors output it into a variety of formats, it would be even better.


    Fixed. Pull request submitted.
  • CGM
    Posts: 441
    I think these are beautiful. I have a few questions, though:

    1. How would you fit all three languages side-by-side on a two-page spread? Would it be, say, English and Latin on the left page, and then Spanish and an illustration of some sort on the right page? (It seems to me that it would be important to have Latin in the middle somehow, so that either an English or Spanish speaker could quickly scan from Latin to his preferred vernacular.)

    2. What's the rationale for using an older (some might say archaic) English translation, instead of a more contemporary one intended for singing (such as the older or newer Grail)?

    3. Will the Spanish be pointed, as the Latin and English are?

    4. Will there be a brief appendix of tunes or tones to be used for the chanting? and indications of which tone should go with which psalm?

    (5. And should the heading at the top of the Spanish page be in Spanish, instead of English?)

    I know this doesn't answer your original question, but your answers to these questions would help me determine my answer to yours. At the moment, I'd consider myself quite interested, but undecided.
  • Chris_McAvoyChris_McAvoy
    Posts: 354
    Thank you for the support. My guess is that with the right promotion, this could sell, but it might not happen without endorsement ..it would take a shrewd campaign. Through the power of prayer anything is possible.

    The translation for spanish:
    Biblia - Translation por Phelipe Scio de San Miguel - La Biblia o el Antiguo y Nuevo Testament (Catolica obispo) (from the late 18th century, same time as the challoner revision of the Douay Rheims. It is in public domain and closely matches the vulgate text, even the versification was preserved nicely in this bible, unlike the english edition of the Douay Rheims which paid no attention to it;s versification for singing purposes. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felipe_Sc%C3%ADo_de_San_Miguel

    For english: A Psalter for Prayer (An Adaptation of the Classic Miles Coverdale Translation) - by David Mitchell James. http://www.amazon.com/Psalter-Prayer-Adaptation-Translation-Instructional/dp/0884651886/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430976185&sr=8-1&keywords=psalter+for+prayer In order to keep the versification and meaning identical to the vulgate text, there were particular verses which had to be adapted or rewritten even further, but 98% of the text is James original text. So this would be with the permission of Mr. James. I have spoken with him and he is a kind fellow who wants his work to be used to serve the church. I am certain he would give permission for its use. The original edition of the coverdale while acceptable was not without it's omissions, this adaptation gave it an equality to the Douay translation which it previously lacked. This was the best compromise.

    #1. Although I have no definitive answer, my preference at this time is to have the english language on the first page, the latin language on the second page and the spanish language on the the third page and so on in that order. This would mean that the order of languages would be consistent but the they would not always be facing each other. As in - every other page would have either english or spanish open next to the latin. That is the only sensible solution I could think of.

    The idea of illustrations is very nice, I am inclined to consider that as a possibility. Since I happen to have the knowledge of where to find medieval psalter illustrations, it would make good sense to use them , they bring new insights into the meaning of the text.

    Having a fourth page with an illustration would be nice, but it could also be a bit of a distraction because many psalms take up two pages, meaning 2 X 3 = 6. In the long term having a more elaborate illuminated version would be ideal... but in the short term this is ment to fill a practical need, rather than artistic ideal. Actually I am inclined to think it could make even more sense as simply a bi-lingual psalter of only english and spanish - but that would make it less useful for the traditional latin mass, which would seem a bad decision.

    #2. The rationale for not using the Grail translation is that it contains heresies and errors of omission in it. When I first saw the Grail was being corrected I was excited. I toyed with the idea of using it, but quickly changed my mind. Although the 2010 revised grail is an improvement over the original version it ultimately remains a book which does not fit the criteria of orthodoxy - such as what the orthodox church would consider acceptable. The principal I go by is that all languages should be unchanging liturgical languages if they are going to be sung in prayer. Additionally they need to be an accurate translation of the original latin and greek texts, not a paraphrase. You need one - one good translation - or at least two that closely overlap, which are almost the same. It is a principal of unity I am going by, not to mention a higher standard of culture.

    The other principal is that the majority of genuinely timeless liturgical music in english or spanish uses archaic language. There is not a great deal of outstanding music made in contemporary language, therefore it is for the most part a waste of my time - and I dare say yours too. I do not believe in reinventing the wheel. I do not agree with many of the liturgical principals associated with second vatican council - the use contemporary language in particular.

    In fairness, I did look at some of the contemporary english translations of the psalter used in certain eastern catholic and eastern orthodox jurisdictions. Even the very best contemporary english psalter - the kathisma psalter - while better than the grail - continued to have a fuzzier understanding. That was the opinion of my family members they were my unbiased test subjects. I remember setting the psalms of the kathisma psalter for singing saturday vespers, it did work very very well, it was something I could find myself far more comfortable with than the grail psalter, but at the same time, since it was so close to the corrected coverdale, that in the long run, I went with it instead.

    I found the meaning of the archaic spanish and archaic english texts to be more clear for many people than the contemporary versions. In attempting to make them modernized english there is often a way in which they fix what is not broken. It is like rewriting Shakespeare - except that it is in fact easier to understand than Shakespeare.

    #3. Yes the spanish would be pointed too in about the same way as the other two languages. The goal of a psalter is that you memorize the psalms overtime, like any other prayer. Once you know the psalms, pointing them, singing them comes much more easily. My idea was to pointing for the four heavier syllables at the end of each verse, rather than something specific to particular tones. Although the pointing that Palmer and Douglas came up with for their anglo-catholic coverdale translation psalters was good, that pointing does not apply to fauxbourdons. That system of pointing also makes it overly complicated. Additionally the physical appearance of the psalter is less attractive with tiny little numbers at the end of each verse. (see. sarum-chant.ca if you want to know what they look like).

    #4. I would put a table of fauxbourdones tones in the back with modern notation chant tones and neume versions next to them as the combination of both together has been what I have found works best for me and my friends (we become bored if we use only one tone for an entire psalm, whereas when we mix two tones, a monodic and harmonic antiphonally - the fun never seems to end. When you mix them together you don't ever grow tired of the tones.

    #5. Yes the heading at the top of the page should not be in english. I was going to change it to latin, that's just a leftover mistake because I have not focused on the spanish version very seriously (I have about 15 psalms of it).
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    It will not be used for liturgical purposes unless it has the Grail Psalm translation.

    It will only be of interest to literary an devotional types if it uses the DR or the original Coverdale.

    I think the current plan is unfeasible for any but the tiniest niche.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    The English text is approved for use by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. That doesn't make it more likely to be used by many Catholics, but it's good to see that the translator/editor's work attained some recognition. Here's some discussion of the book on an Orthodox site.

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  • benedictgal
    Posts: 797
    I would buy it save for one thing; we already have the Grail Psalter (English). The Spanish, though, is sorely needed. I just wish that we had a better setting for Spanish Responsorial Psalms. The stuff from OCP is miserable and sounds like Latin night from Dancing with the Stars. It is hard to turn these compositions into something solemn.
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  • Chris_McAvoyChris_McAvoy
    Posts: 354
    Thank you for your comments. I will take these ideas into consideration. On another forum it was recommended that a bi-lingual psalter works better. I believe I will keep it in that direction. Probably I will keep the english and spanish side by side for the first half and put the latin alone at the very end of it, rather than all three in a row on every three pages is better. I too share the view that the spanish translation is especially valuable.

    It will not be used for liturgical purposes unless it has the Grail Psalm translation.
    It has already been used for liturgical purposes by lay people...(maybe it could be considered for "devotional vespers"). I think concerns over it being an official translation are unnecessary. Psalters do not play a very prominent role in the average Roman Catholic Church services and I do not believe this will be used with responsorial psalms. Although official approval is the ideal, the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy is not in a position to approve good psalter translation at this time in history. Since they will not do it, lay people must take the lead. If in the early history of the Church multiple latin psalter translations existed without conflict, surely multiple english translations can also exist without explicit conflict.

    Canon law allows religious orders to use whatever psalter they wish in the divine office if their bishop approves it for them on an individual basis. That could theoretically include this translation. Either it is a good orthodox translation or a bad heterodox translation. Time will tell.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    Have you settled on a system of notation for pointing? I find the notation used in the Latin sample unattractive. If you are still looking at options, check the notation in the book "Versus Psalmarum et Canticorum" ( on the CMAA site ).

    Since the Revised Grail psalms received approval from the Holy See for liturgical use in 2010, it is curious if you have the opinion that they contaIn heresies.

    This book, when complete, should be submitted for ecclesiastical approval of its publication (even apart from the question of permission for liturgical use). If I remember right, Scripture translations need approval from the bishops' conference.

  • Besides the problems with the Grail(s) which Chris enumerates is the sorry fact that it is almost agravatingly unsingable to the Gregorian tones, to Anglican chant, or to any tones other than the very very simple (and quickly tiresome) modern tones such as those found in the Mundelein Psalter and others. Somewhat better is the modern version in the 1979 BCP. But, of course, this and any others, is not usable liturgically in the Catholic Church.

    It is not clear to me what tones, Chris, you envision being used with your psalter.

    And, as for the objection above about an English translation that is 'older' and less 'archaic', I have an increasing inablity to fathom why this is a problem for people who love Latin, and worship with a Latin that hasn't changed in a thousand years. No one can say that he doesn't comprehend this hieratic, liturgical English. If we aren't upset by a Latin that isn't 'up to date', then why should we pretend, yes, pretend, that we don't understand an English that 'isn't up to date' but remains quite understandable and is exquisitely beautiful?
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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    The 1979 BCP version, incorporated into the Book of Divine Worship, was approved for liturgical use. I don't know whether that permission extends to all Roman rite Catholics in the US or is expressed with some limitation.
  • An interesting point. I would think not, but am not certain. By such reasoning one could argue for the liturgical use of Coverdale in the Roman rite: I don't think that this would get very far. Too, in the revised liturgical books which are currently in development, there will only be one rite and one psalter for all the world's ordinariates. The BDW, though, will remain in force for those parishes (such as Atonement in San Antonio) which remain of the Anglican Use, but have opted, thus far, not to be within the ordinariate.
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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    Well, let's see if there is a clear indication about the permission one way or the other.
  • Chris_McAvoyChris_McAvoy
    Posts: 354
    I envision using any tones one desires. Mostly the ones I use, fauxbourdon, gregorian "anglican". I have used simple meinrad tones for particular tones before though, such as Tone three. Meinrad tone three is far easier for beginners than the Gregorian tone in mode three. The psalter is ment to have a convenient one stop book that provides a basis for text for singing in three languages, the pointing question is one for someone other than I.

    The way the Latin text in the Latin Psalter looks is replicating the typesetting of the psalms in the "Antiphonale Romano-seraphicum Pro Horis Diurnis" (Desclee, 1928) (The Franciscan Order's Antiphonal). I felt that it was a good way to see the harder vs. soft syllables in the latin making pointing a little bit self explanatory. It's not ment to be attractive, only to help one sing it. This psalter's end goal is not to be a balance of useful and attractive both, not one more than the other.

    This book is mostly intended to recite, pray or sing the divine office with good texts actually. The mass was an afterthought, a secondary use whether rightly or wrongly. I'll take your word for it if you say it's inappropriate for the mass, I do not mind either way, even though that sounds a bit surprising to me. And as for the Ordinariate, one can't very well inculcate a protestant text into the Catholic Church without some type of scrutiny or correction, I take issue with that approach. I think the Coverdale translation is better than the grail, but I don't claim it's as good a Roman Catholic psalter should truly be. I believe a text such as this is what rightly belongs in the future replacement for the Book of Divine Worship.

    I am amazed at all the legalizing tendencies promoted on this forum. My impression is that no matter how many rules you expect to be followed in the post-1969 "new mass" it is not going to happen. The built in expectations associated with the liturgy influenced by the vatican II council encourages variety/creativity and/or rule breaking. I do not expect most parishes to follow strict rules regarding liturgical music, I gave up on that many years ago. Since it exists for me, I take the option of only attending anglican use and latin masses in order to escape that problem and pretend it does not exist. I'm happy people here are trying to help but...to me a legalistic approach is a bit futile, especially over a translation of psalms. A translation that is based on the two most accepted english language psalm translations, the coverdale and douay rheims ought to have some type of credibility simply by those two facts alone being known.

    My understanding is that there are endless loopholes to allow almost any text you want to be sung in the liturgy. Perhaps you are saying that those loopholes no longer exist and times have changed? I'm not concerned one way or the other. This book will be for whoever likes it. If I thought the Catholic bishops cared about a book like this I would be happy to send it to them, but I'm not very confident that their reviewing of it would be relevant. I'll consider that after the project is finished. Perhaps a bishop such as Athanasius Schneider would be the one to receive a book like this...it would not be an average bishop.

    I'm happy to take suggestions.



  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,841
    ...encourage me to finish it faster rather than put it on the back burner… This psalter's end goal is not to be a balance of useful and attractive both, not one more than the other.
    You're not exactly ;-) doing much to inspire us with confidence in the proofreading; I think haste is probably the last thing we'd want to encourage, legalism aside.
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