Saturday, May 21, 2016

Keep It Real!

Over the past couple of decades, the two biggest publishers of music for Roman Catholic parishes, OCP and GIA, have come out with the worst hymnals for English-speaking Catholics in the United States, hands down.

In the case of OCP, it's a matter of repertoire.  The best they can seem to muster is a hymn/song repertoire that is maybe 30-35% traditional, solid hymnody in just about any worship aid they publish, whether it be Journeysongs, Breaking Bread, or Glory and Praise (which started all their hanky panky).

In the case of GIA, it's not only a matter of repertoire, but the blatant bastardization of hymn texts for the sake of political correctness.  Our hymns this weekend are good solid traditional hymns (as they are any weekend at our parish).  But man, GIA doesn't know when to quit when it comes to killing a text.  I know I've ranted on this topic many times before, but I can't stress this enough.

Let's look at Holy, Holy, Holy (Worship III, #485)
On the most part here, the "thee/thou/thy" pronouns stayed intact.  But the ending of verse 2 was bastardized from "Which, wert, and art, and evermore shalt be" to the dumbed-down "God everlasting to eternity."  The second line of verse 3 was bastardized from "Though the eye of sinful man..." to "Though the eye made blind by sin...".  What a mouthful!

Example #2: Come Now, Almighty King (Worship III, #487)
The title itself was bastardized from Come, Thou Almighty King.  All the "thee/thou/thy" pronouns dumbed down, just like most of the hymnal's repertoire.
Verse 2 was dumbed down from "Come, thou Incarnate Word, Gird on thy mighty sword, Our prayer attend.  Come and thy people bless, and give thy Word success, stablish thy righteousness, Savior and Friend." to "Come thou Incarnate Son, Your life in us begun, Our prayer attend.  Come and your people bless, and give your Word success, strengthen your righteousness, Savior and Friend."
Verse 3 took a similar shellacking, from "Come, Holy Comforter, Thy sacred witness bear In this glad hour. Your grace to us impart, Now rule in every heart, Never from us depart, Spirit of Power." to "Come, Holy Comforter, Your sacred witness bear In this glad hour. Thou, who almighty art, Now rule in every heart, And ne'er from us depart, Spirit of Power."  Apparently, the publisher doesn't believe that the average English-speaking adult will know that "ne'er" is a poetic form of the word "never".

11 years before the publication of Worship III was Worship IIWorship II was the last of GIA's hymnals to include the authentic texts of hymns, without the dumbed-down or politically correct bastardizations.  In fact, the preface of Worship II cries foul on the "so-called 'translation' of English to English," that is, "thee/thou/thy" becomes "you/your", calling a "regrettable practice that upsets the literary integrity of a texts, often results in an example of poor grammar, and still fails to yield a 'modern' text."  It also reminds us that "hymn texts are poetry and not conversational English, and that the average adult is certainly capable of comprehending earlier texts". (Quotes in this paragraph from the Preface of Worship II, 1975)

Unfortunately, Worship III's preface noted the exact opposite: "The language of the hymn texts reflects a contemporary concern that language be just, as well as poetic.  We have altered texts that use exclusive terms to refer to both men and women, and we have modernized some pronouns, verb forms, and other archaisms whenever we felt the result yielded a better text for contemporary use." (from the Preface of Worship III, 1986)  One of the worst alterations is Joyful, Joyful, We Adore YouThe Church's One Foundation was replaced with O Christ, the Great Foundation, and A Mighty Fortress Is Our God became God Is Our Fortress and Our Rock (I know, because Luther's name is on the hymn, it raises a red flag for some, but I'd still take that over anything written by Marty Haugen, who left the Lutherans and joined the UCC a few years ago; I wonder what faith he's practicing now).

The preface continues: "In rare cases, e.g., 'Faith of Our Fathers', alteration seemed inadvisable, or in a few other cases, not permitted by the copyright holder."  However, they managed to get someone in later hymnals (starting with 1997's RitualSong) to write a politically correct ditty called A Living Faith, a politically correct bastardized text using the tune "St. Catherine" (the tune most commonly used with Faith of Our Fathers in North America), which actually includes verse 1 of Faith of Our Fathers, but goes into mothers, brothers, sisters, etc.  In fact, it got so bad that the late Jay Ricketts (who I had the pleasure of co-moderating a Yahoo group with) concocted this nifty parody (the poetic meter got quite irregular, but I know I'm most likely preaching to the choir, so you get the gist of this):

1. Faith of our uncles, aunties too,
    each Christmas and Easter they come find a pew
    She lost her rosary under the bed
    He's got his bible out in the shed (leveling the legs on his workbench)
    Faith of our relatives, lukewarm faith
    We might just improve this song to death

2. Faith of our cousins and cousinettes
    They haven't seen a Sunday mass yet
    Weddings and funerals, a baptism or two
    But Sundays they golf, or stay home and get stewed
    Faith of our relatives, lightweight faith
    We might just improve this song to death

3. Faith of our in-laws, why, only last June
    They headed for Sunday mass, at noon
    Their first mass in years, but then on a hunch
    Drove past the church so they wouldn't miss brunch
    Faith of our relatives, marginal faith
    We just improved this song to death

Hey, if you're going to write a bad text like A Living Faith, and replace Faith of Our Fathers with it, you'd just as soon use a parody like Jay's (at least Jay didn't use it at Mass).

If only the mainstream publishers would keep it real!

Quod scripsi, scripsi!

1 comment:

Nick Alexander said...

Here's how it works:

If you use a public domain text, people can copy it freely. For the publishing house, this means no money.

If you update the public domain text, and then copyright it, people must purchase the rights to use the text. And the Latin word for this practice is called: ka-Ching-us.

However, as long as folks rediscover the original public domain text, they have as much rights to alter the "Thy" => "You" as the publishing house editor. And thankfully, we live in a day where has made this a fun treasure hunt.