Comme Le Prevoit 35-37: Speaking and Singing

Let’s take into account the vocal delivery needed for liturgical texts, especially acclamations:

35. All texts which are intended to be said aloud follow the laws proper to their delivery and, in the case of written texts, their literary genre. This applies especially to the acclamations where the act of acclaiming by voice is an essential element. It will be insufficient to translate only the exact meaning of an idea unless the text can also be expressed by sound and rhythm.

Some notes on psalmody:

36. a. The form of singing which is proper to every liturgical action and to each of its parts should be retained (antiphon alternated with the psalm, responsory, etc. See Instruction Musicam sacram, 5 March 1967, nos. 6 and 9).

If a psalm is well known by the people, why bother with antiphons, responsorial formats, and such? Just let the people sing it:

b. Regarding the psalms, in addition to the division into versicles as given in Latin, a division into stanzas may be particularly desirable if a text is used which is well known by the people or common to other Churches.

Taking the psalms and putting them into liturgy changes them somewhat. Minor adaptations have a history in the Roman musical tradition. Therefore it can be done today, too:

c. The responses (versicles, responsories) and antiphons, even though they come from Scripture, become part of the liturgy and enter into a new literary form. In translating them it is possible to give them a verbal form which, while preserving their full meaning, is more suitable for singing and harmonizes them with the liturgical season or a special feast. Examples of such adaptations which include minor adaptations of the original text are numerous in ancient antiphonaries.

d. When the content of an antiphon or psalm creates a special difficulty, the episcopal conferences may authorize the choice of another text which meets the same needs of the liturgical celebration and the particular season or feast.

e. If these same texts are likewise intended for recitation without singing, the translation should be suitable for that purpose.

And some thoughts about liturgical hymns:

37. Liturgical hymns lose their proper function unless they are rendered in an appropriate verse rhythm, suitable for singing by the people. A literal translation of such texts is therefore generally out of the question. It follows that hymns very often need a new rendering made according to the musical and choral laws of the popular poetry in each language.

Yet by mentioning “literal translation,” we stay grounded to the fact that faithfulness to the text is still important. Any comments on any of this, especially from musicians?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Comme Le Prevoit, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Comme Le Prevoit 35-37: Speaking and Singing

  1. Randolph Nichols says:

    “If a psalm is well known by the people, why bother with antiphons, responsorial formats, and such? Just let the people sing it:”

    I’ve often thought this as well. The simplified Anglican chants are good models for that very purpose.

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