In an Italian communique about the most recent talks of the Council of Cardinals–currently the “gang of nine” closest advisers to the Holy Father–the Vatican spokesman suddenly broke into English to describe the talks as “free, frank, and friendly:” the 3Fs.
That’s something I’ve always liked about the atmosphere of the Church Music Association, that it is free, frank, and friendly. We can often add “funny” to the description, and sometimes we unfortunately have that artistic temperament thing that happens once in a while, but generally speaking the 3Fs describe our mutual dealings. This is not, in my experience, the norm for liturgists as a whole, who sometimes sadly communicate in ways that might be described as the 4Cs: Constrained, condemning, clannish, codespeaking, or even the 5Bs: Backbiting, boorish, baneful, baseless, and banal.
I suppose the joyful and free attitude among the CMAA comes mostly from drinking from deep wells full of rich beauty. It’s pretty hard to be grumpy and calculating in the midst of the sublime. Might as well just be happy.
For whatever reason, it is something to give thanks for.
Speaking of the 3Fs, I took a look yesterday at the current Magnificat over coffee with my after-morning-Mass friends, and was alternately pleased and disappointed by the two office hymn translations of mine in the issue. One is all about the 3Fs, and the 3Ss: Simple, sober, and smooth. Good one. The other is, like most English translations of Latin hymns, 3 other Ss: Stitled, stiff, and synthetic.
Here’s the free and friendly one, a translation of Dulci depromat carmine, a 15th c. hymn designated in our current Liber Hymnarius as the Office of Readings hymn for one virgin:
This virgin, resolute and strong,
She conquered weak and fleshly sins,
Through her, O Christ, watch where we go,
O Jesus, Virgin-born, to you
Here’s the more embarrassing translation, of the 10th century hymn for one confessor, Iesu, corona celsior.
While the original of this second hymn is probably theologically richer than that above, to my ears the translation falls a little flat. It’s a matter of tone, and especially of simplicity, that is missing, and as I read it, I keep thinking that it needs one more draft to have quite the smoothness, flexibility, and candor that makes a text ready to be sung.