Monday, February 22, 2010

Latin, anyone?

For fun, I like to sing in the community Choral Union.  We meet every Tuesday night, with a break from about May through September.  We usually perform two concerts, one in the spring, and one for Christmas.  Most of our 60 or so members are of the gray haired variety, or at the very least, have gray roots, but we do have a few young'uns that also sing with us.

I do not usually do anything by myself, mostly because I am a coward.  However, after listening to the first concert, I was very impressed and decided that this is something I would like to participate in.  At my very first practice, I walked timidly in, found an empty seat in the alto section (lower women's voices), and sat down. I was browsing through my music folder, and was surprised to find a song in a foreign language. I wasn't really sure what language, since I only speak English, and sometimes have trouble with that.

The director starts the rehearsal with that particular song. It turns out the language is Latin. I'm very nervous, trying to hide my ignorance of the language. The chorus starts singing, and I am in awe of how beautifully and perfectly everyone is singing this song. How does everyone know this song? It's the first rehearsal. I am definitely waaaaaaaay out of my league, and seriously consider rethinking my reasons for being in this choral union.  After they (I wasn't really singing) finished singing, he congratulated them on a job well done and continued saying the previous rehearsals had paid off. Whew!! So, they weren't just doing a perfect job of sight-reading. Maybe there's hope for me after all!

Fast-forward to present. Before I fast-forward, I should say that we have sung several more songs in Latin, and one in French, but they have been nice, slow songs. Quite beautiful, in fact. And, though they have been difficult, we performed them quite nicely. Now, fast-forward.  We have a new Latin song to learn. "Te Deum" by F.J.Haydn.  This song is quite a bit different. First of all, it's 31 pages long. Second of all, there are no, zip, zero, nada, no slow parts. The tempo for this song goes at a pretty good clip. "Sanc-tum- quo que Pa ra cle tum Spi ri tum"  This might be saying something about "The Spirit", but I have no idea what.

I'm not sure that I will be able to know this song by our concert in May. Most places of the song go so fast, all I get out is...uhh uhh uhh ve Fi li um uhhh uhhh. 

My question is, wouldn't it make more sense to sing it in English? We have an English translation. Most people coming to the concert speak English more than Latin. I would certainly enjoy it much more if I understood what I was singing.

This is our director's last concert. He has some health issues and has been told he has to slow down a little. He's the choral director of the College of Wooster, and he's giving up the choral union. So, apparently, he really wants us to sing this song, so I am going to try to learn the words.  My only other option is to try and figure out how to fake it!


  1. Keep singing! What a sweet service for this man who has given so much. You can do it.

  2. Go for it. Don't give up.

    I think it's nice to sing in the original language of a song because things don't ever translate quite the same.

    And Latin is really quite beautiful.

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