You, O Mary, our dear Lady

This is the LAST of the Marian hymns we will be looking at for the proposed hymnal – and Some Changes Have Been Made. Read below to find out why!

Discussion

This song to the Mother of God (Ty, Marije, naša Panna) has been around for more than a century.  Here is the version in the 1969 collection, Duchovni Pisni:

It is in a regular 4/4 time, with no particular syncopation or other trickiness.

And here is the version in the Marian Hymnal (1984):

The duple meter (1, 2, 1, 2) of the Papp version has become triple (1, 2,  3, 1, 2, 3), with two different patterns:

An accented SHORT note followed by an unaccented long note (called the Lombard rhythm, or Scotch snap):

and an accented LONG note followed by unaccented short notes:

The problem is that many cantor continued to sing at least part of the hymn with the older, simpler 4/4 pattern, only switching to triple meter when the English made anything else impossible:

You COM-fort US with YOUR mer-CY.

After a lot of experimentation and work with groups of cantors, I’ve decided NOT to use the more complicated rhythm in the Marian Hymnal, but to return instead to something more like the Papp setting.  Here is the English:

And here is the Slavonic:

Cantor who WANT to experiment with triple rhythm  can still do so, but cantors who try to sing it as written will have a much easier time.

One text change

There IS one bad accent in the English that always cropped up, though, when the simpler 4/4 rhythm was used:

O most holy divine Mother….

with an accent on the “DI” of “divine.”  What made it worse is that very often, those coming into our churches heard us call Mary our “divine Mother” and suspected their worst fears were true: we DID worship Mary as a goddess! (Hint: Mary is not divine.)

So in the proposed setting, I resolved both problems by changing the line to:

O most holy, God’s own mother

If you have a better selection, please send it in!

— EDIT, August 10:

Cantor Joseph Ferenchick of the Inter-Eparchial Music Commission suggested:

O most holy Theotokos,

which I must admit is clearer.  I intend to use that for now.

Thoughts or suggestions?

Please leave a comment!

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