Saturday, September 12, 2009


I get into those depressive funks when I think of what our church used to be.... It seems to me that in this modern era our church, the Byzantine Catholic Church (aka the Metropolia of Pittsburgh), had lost its way regarding its past. In short it has worked hard to lose it's past in favor of a culturally neutral (and recently, gender neutral) future. It is bad enough that the Old Church Slavonic is all but banished from liturgical worship, but we also have to contend with an awful gender neutral translation to do it with!!! The over aim of the liturgical and music commission started out with good intentions then took a wrong turn somewhere and wound up with the translation nightmare we are stuck with for the present time. The "new" (actually hundreds of years old) music settings are a welcome return to our heritage, but the gender neutral language is a painful reminder that our bishops are out of step with the current times in regard to returning to orthodoxy in the Eastern Catholic Churches in general.


Charles said...

Let's hope the hierarchs correct the translation errors in the RDL.

With respect to the music, they should have proposed their musical settings rather than imposed them. The changes are a mixed bag. Some of them (authentic or not) are just horrible. We sing them the old way. These include the A setting of the Hymn of the Incarnation, the Christmas tropar, and Shine in Splendor. For the Beatitudes, I sing the new words to what is called Russian Tone 1.

There are clearly some improvements but all change is costly. And this change has been very disruptive to parishes that are having any difficulty maintaining an ongoing group of cantors.

In my opinion the traditional communion hymns are now traditional and we continue to sing them.

I think most of Vernoski's criticisms of the new music are spot on. There never was any standardization of chant in the old country. Improvements should be proposed not imposed.

Steve P said...

For the most part the music is much the same as what we sang in my parish when I was young (essentially Fr. Andrew Sokol's "Blue book") The translations have been tweaked just enough to throw people off, but the music is still quite singable. I manage to lead our congregation in the singing without undue difficulty using the new books.
We still sing the "traditional" communion hymns as well as the Psalms.
Vernoski has many good points to his criticisms of the music and yet also has a chip on his shoulder regarding how anyone else sets the music, I had differences of opinion regarding his settings on the handout sheets and often would sing them as we were used to singing the troparia in our parish rather than exactly as he set them.

As to there never being any standardisation, that is true. However, there was an attempt at standardisation made 103 years ago, in 1906, in Uzhgorod. The well known Bokshay "Prostopinije" was the result of that effort, followed by Ratsin (1925), and Sokol(1944), Papp(1969)in the USA.

A Fellow Cantor said...

The best things that can be done with those green books is to have them used to heat the church in the furnace. You are fully aware of all the problems, and so I need not fire off a long list of complaints. They have regrettably caused people to leave parishes (where numbers are regrettably already small.).

The unfortunate and hard truth is that our church is dying in this country. Where the Greek Catholic Church is flourishing in Ukraine now, ours is withering. The boats are no longer coming from Europe. I often like to think about someday moving to Ukraine and settling back in my family's homeland, and enjoying a full and large church community, and in church where they do the language meant for our churches, Slavonic, and chant our music the way it was passed down. That is the way it should be here, too!

All we can do is continue to keep our traditions alive -- but those traditions, which a Cantor Jumba likes to call the "living chant," is ruined by the mistakes and mutilation of our ORIGINAL chant by J. Michael Thompson and the Liturgical Commission.

It pains me, as a young Byzantine Greek Catholic, to see how the church is fading, and to see how the tradition of our chant, the way it WAS, is not being passed down. Also, the loss of choral music is particularly distressing, because some of our choral music is very beautiful. The only way I have been able to become as familiar with it is through recordings and collected scores (and yes, a few Liturgies where there was a very, very small choir). *Sigh*

It is a comfort, however, to know that others share these feelings. We can only hope that it is changed. These "Green Books" have the seeds planted in them of their own revision. Let's hope for that.

Steve P said...

Prof. Thompson has taken considerable heat for "mutilating" the "original" chant.

Much of the issue with the "mutilation" has to do with a horrible translation that doesn't sing well no matter how it is set or who does the settings; a translation which Thompson was given by the IELC and mandated to set the music to.

The music used for the settings on the other hand is actually quite faithful to the given, published, irmologia of (Papp-1969, Ratsin-1925, Boshay-1906, Sokol-1944).