O Mary, Mother of our God

Now THIS hymn has a thorny issue:  the English translation has led to two very different ways of singing the first line in Slavonic.

The melody for this hymn, as given by Father Papp in his Duchovni Pisni (1969), is in a consistent 4/4 time, and correctly accents the Slavonic text:

Perhaps because the English translation begins with a weak syllable, “O”, Father Levkulic’s English setting made a significant change to the first phrase of the melody, writing it in a bar-less “chant style”, putting the accent on the second note of the first line, and changing the note over “God” from a quarter  note to a half note:

This reflects a common idion of our  English chant settings from the 1960’s: the high note in the melodic arc (here, the B flat on the second syllable of “Boža”) is changed from an unaccented to an accented note.

Notice that the second line keeps the original accent on the first syllable, and the, but (in chant style, at least), has an odd split before “Our Lord and God.”

This same notation was used for the Marian Hymnal’s Slavonic version, writing in chant style and changing the last quarter note in the first phrase to a half note. This often led to the Slavonic being sung in a mis-accented fashion (“o MAriJE maTI boŽA”):

Both the original and the “new” Slavonic version of the melody are heard across our churches, sometime causing very rough singing of the hymn.

This is made more complicated by the fact that the “English” version of the melody (in chant style, with an accent on the second syllable) has been used for a number of other paraliturgical hymns prepared for feast days by the MCI.

Now, if we could go back in time, the obvious solution would be to prepare an English translation that matches the Slavonic melody (that is, in 4/4 time, with an accent on the first syllable).  In fact, the SECOND line of the English version DOES do this.  But I think it would be very difficult at this point to restore the original Slavonic melody.

What we can do is provide church members with the English version (as it is), together with a correctly notated Slavonic version following the original melody, thus respecting both languages.

Here is the English version slated for the new hymnal:

The notation is in “chant style”, with a pause at each bar line, and indicates that each entire line is sung as a unit.

Here is the  Slavonic version for the new hymnal:

Here, the music is in regular 4/4 time (as indicated by a time signature in the first line); there are no pauses except where indicated with rests, and the original accentuation is followed.

This DOES mean that we will need to teach cantors to sing both the English and Slavonic, in order to ensure that both are sung correctly. But this is almost certainly easier than trying to rewrite the well-known English setting in order to use the same melody for both.

Thoughts or suggestions?

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