Mary, look upon us

In general, our plain chant and our spiritual songs run in separate but parallel tracks, but there is some cross-over – particularly in the way some paraliturgical hymns are also used as base melodies for the Cherubic Hymn at the Divine Liturgy.  Mary, look upon us (Prizri, O Marije) is one of those “dual-use” hymns.

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From our hearts we sinners

This is an example of a “hyperbolic” hymn: one that somewhat exaggerates our dependence on the Mother of God (“if you do not hear us, we will be alone here… evil will consume us”); surely we always have Christ also! But of course, the glory and importance of the Mother of God rests precisely in that she brought Christ into the world, and brings us to him. Continue reading “From our hearts we sinners”

Christians, join in our procession

Hymns to the Mother of God are indelibly connected with pilgrimage to her many shrines – that is one reason some of them have so many verses!  But in the hymn Christians, join in our procession (Christijane pribihajte), we have a spiritual song which provides an entire theology of pilgrimage.

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Songs for the Mother of God, Part 1

The next batch of work for the Hymnal Project will feature spiritual songs in honor of Mary, Theotokos and Ever-Virgin.  Many of these songs are well-known, and some of them have particularly thorny issues involving the text, the music, or both.

In this installment, we will look at the hymns on the project page whose titles (first lines) begin with the letters A-M.

Click on each link for the discussion page, and leave any comments below!

The Hymnal Project – May 2019 update

The first half of the initial work to create a new hymnal for our church is pretty much complete:

This month, we will look at hymns to the Mother of God, then conclude with some work on hymns for feast days throughout the year. The results at that point will be collected, and presented to the Inter-Eparchial Music Commission for review.

But there are a few items left over from this first batch of music that could still use some work – and I’m looking for volunteers!

From the Christmas music:

  • In the town of Bethlehem (Viflejemi novina) deserves a new English translation, as well as a close look at the rhythm of the final phrase in English. The Slavonic original ends each verse with praise of Mary; the English translation we have changes this (sometimes contrary to sense) to “O Savior”, and at the same time changes the rhythm of the Slavonic. Meanwhile, there are quite a few additional verses in Slavonic that might be “mined” to make a longer hymn in English.
  • Jesus came from heaven (our translation of Spas nas narodilsja) has real theological problems, and at the same time departs markedly from the Slavonic original in many ways (the original Slavonic does not have the theological problems that the English does).

For both of these, it would help if someone fluent in Rusyn and Church Slavonic could craft a good, LITERAL translation of the full hymn as given in the Slavonic sources, and either that person or someone(s) else could set to work on properly Englishing it for singing.

We have two Rusyn versions of Silent Night in circulation: Ticha noc is a literal translation of the German original, but Jasna zorja is more widely sung.  Which one should be include?  Or both, or neither?

Several hymns for Great and Holy Week have many more verses in the original than we have in English, and often then tell the whole story of the Passion, where our English settings (translating only the first couple of verses) omit much of it.

Christe Carju spravedlivyj has another issue as well: a very popular Lenten hymn, it has several different musical versions in circulation, and we should at least collect them and decide which one(s) to use, and how that affects the English version as well.

Two hymns for Pascha have the same problem (our current English setting only tells the START of the story of the Resurrection, while the Slavonic has more verses):

and these hymns to the Holy Trinity have additional verses, some with solid theological content:

We need someone – or several someones – willing to work with collected verses (which I can provide) and prepare literal English translations, which could then be used to write fuller English versions (and we perhaps could use volunteers there as well).

More verses not only complete the story, but they enhance singing in other ways: once you have a text in front of you and are singing to a melody, singing MORE verses to the same melody is simply less work, requires less coordination by the cantor, and reduces the need to sing 3-4 one- and two- verse hymns over and over in  particular season.  Two longer Paschal hymns might be alternated throughout the Paschal season as singing “before the Liturgy.”

Any takers? Please post below!