Assuming that the objective of many readers is transitioning to singing the propers at Mass, can we decide on one approach when it comes to the words we actually sing? Of course there will be a different solution for every parish and every situation. As many solutions as there are pastors, music directors, and congregations, really.
I sometimes wonder if antiquated English, like that found in the Communio Jeffrey posted on yesterday, presents more of an obstacle than meets the eye. If preserving a tradition is the goal, is using older language that is not native to the Gregorian melodies always the best choice?
1. The English in this case is understandable, whereas the Latin might not be.
2. The Gregorian melody is preserved (give or take tiny things)
3. The language is dignified and worthy of use in the liturgy
1. The English is understandable, but far removed from the English we use today. Most parishes are used to modern translations (not making a qualitative judgment about either here – yet). In using an old translation (there is a lot of “ye”, a LOT of “ye,” in the Plainchant Gradual version of the Petite), are we drawing more attention language use itself than we should be? Put another way: the music should illuminate the Word, but are we really getting to the core of things if the translation is so different from what we normally use that we take special note of the language’s pedigree?
2. If we want to preserve the Gregorian chant and are not doing the Latin, shouldn’t we be finding a way to make the Gregorian melodies as accessible as possible? In other words, as few obstacles as possible. Gregorian melodies in combination with antiquated English might be complicating things unnecessarily.
3. Is old English more dignified than modern English? We have associations with it in our culture – the King James, Shakespeare, etc. It signals permanence, quality, and dignity. No one will argue with this. But just because it is older does that make it better? Isn’t part of the beauty of language its flexibility and adaptability? Modern English can be beautiful, too. It’s all in how you put things together. Is one English better than another if neither is native to the musical tradition in question?