The Revised Grail Psalter by Paul Inwood

Paul Inwood recently published an article on the Revised Grail Psalter in the February issue of Music and Liturgy. This article was originally written for a predominantly UK audience, but Pray Tell thought it might be of interest to our readers on both sides of the pond. Music and Liturgy and Paul Inwood graciously gave us permission to reproduce the article here.

Paul Inwood’s article provides an excellent overview of the changes made in the Revised Grail Psalter, and is full of wonderful charts. Given the extensive amount of formatting in the original article we will be linking to his article rather than reproducing it below. Click on The Revised Grail Psalter to read his article.

 

This article is reproduced with the permission of its author. It appears in the February 2015 issue of Music and Liturgy (Vol. 40, No. 3), a publication of the Society of St Gregory. For further details of the Society and its work please visit www.ssg.org.uk.

22 comments

  1. Excellent analysis, hopefully a usable version of the Revised Grail Psalter will be approved for all English-speaking Catholics. If it was possible to get a common version shared by the various episcopal conferences that would be even better.

    After that we will have to hope that a revised Lectionary will be approved for Ireland, England & Wales, Scotland, Australia. Either some version of the NRSV or perhaps some form of a revision of the Jerusalem Bible.

    Speaking of the Jerusalem Bible, does anyone know of the Dominican Order’s world-wide project of the renewal and updating of the Jerusalem Bible to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Order in 2016? This website has some details on the project, but it isn’t updated regularly: http://blog.bibletraditions.org/#intro

  2. Didn’t Grail III go further than Grail II in terms of “vertically” inclusive (God) language?

    I remember in 1993 thinking that there were some problems with the Christological appropriation of some psalms as a result of that “vertical” language. While we at the church I was serving at the time would have preferred to use Grail II (which we thought was a little more conservative) for books we were preparing for our daily sung celebrations of MP and EP, we chose Grail III because it had the imprimatur that Grail II didn’t have.

    1. @Kevin Vogt – comment #2:

      Grail III contains the following introductory paragraphs regarding God language:

      First, the form and wording of the existing Grail version was retained whenever possible. Also retained in their masculine form are those images that have assumed Christological importance.

      Second, the omission of masculine pronouns referring to God at times resulted in a change in the linguistic construction of the verse. Whenever this was done, care was taken to ensure adherence to both the original meaning and the poetic form.

      Third, at times the repetition of the word “God” in place of the masculine pronoun may appear at first to be awkward, but it does follow the poetic principles of Hebrew parallelism.

      Fourth, passive voice was used as a last resort.
      _____________

      I believe Grail II was presented to the USCCB for lectionary inclusion in the early-mid 1980’s. If I’m not mistaken, the bishop who was chair of the BCL at the time flubbed some questions from the floor concerning the messianic psalms. Had he turned to the translation experts standing near him, Grail II might have been approved for lectionary use. Perhaps others can confirm this account.

  3. Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue : Excellent analysis, hopefully a usable version of the Revised Grail Psalter will be approved for all English-speaking Catholics. If it was possible to get a common version shared by the various episcopal conferences that would be even better. After that we will have to hope that a revised Lectionary will be approved for Ireland, England & Wales, Scotland, Australia. Either some version of the NRSV or perhaps some form of a revision of the Jerusalem Bible. Speaking of the Jerusalem Bible, does anyone know of the Dominican Order’s world-wide project of the renewal and updating of the Jerusalem Bible to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Order in 2016? This website has some details on the project, but it isn’t updated regularly: http://blog.bibletraditions.org/#intro

    The only reservation I have with the project for a new edition of the New Jerusalem Bible is that it seems the editors have decided to drop the divine names (Yahweh and the other names of God in the Hebrew Bible) in this new translation. It is still too early to tell if this will be the final editorial decision for a printed edition – everything appears to be a draft form. I think this would be a loss. I realize the NJB and its predecessor sometimes get nagged for translation methodology (too stilted in some spots, too dynamic in others), but the use of the divine names adds a view to the text that can often be missing in translation (Greek, Latin, English, name your language).

    1. @Joseph Villecco – comment #3:
      Regarding the name of God, in the original liturgical books that use the Jerusalem Bible translation (such as the current Lectionary for Mass in Ireland), “Yahweh” has been replaced by “The Lord.” Given the CDW’s 2008 Letter on the Name of God, that is very unlikely to be replaced in any future edition regardless of which Bible translation the lectionary is based on. For the text of the CDW’s letter see here: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/frequently-asked-questions/upload/name-of-god.pdf

      On a different note, the newest edition of the Jerusalem Bible published by the Catholic Truth Society in London, uses the original Grail Psalms and drops the name Yahweh, precisely so that people can find the same translation as they hear at Mass when they open their Bible. Whatever the merits of the continued use of the original Grail or the original JB for 21st century worship, or of changing the name of God in the text to something more palatable, the fact that a reader’s edition of the Bible has the same text as what is used at Mass is something positive. So in this sense English Catholics (and the others that use the JB lectionary) are at an advantage when compared to the situation in the US or Canada, where the NAB or the NRSV have been modified from the version that is to be found in the latest edition of the Bible of the respective translations: http://www.ctsbooks.org/new-catholic-bible-standard-edition-1

  4. Thank you for this fascinating article. One of the frustrations that readers of my blog express to me often is the fact that we don’t have a Bible, which Catholics can pray and study with, that matches the Lectionary. The current NABRE is a fine translation, but only the adapted NT matches the current Lectionary. I know that the USCCB and CBA are working on a re-revised NT, which they hope to get approved for liturgical use as well, but that could take a decade or more. Perhaps this, along with the issue of the Psalter, is best suited to the national bishop’s conferences.

  5. Thanks to Paul for the article, as it does indeed provide an interesting overview of the Grail revision(s). Two questions occurred to me while reading:

    1) How useful is your quantitative analysis when it is tallying your subjective judgments of the translation? Getting at least the initial sense of how much has been altered is a good start, but when you start counting the number of revisions that represent ‘improvement’ versus ‘unnecessary’ or ‘unfortunate’ alteration (my terms, but hopefully honest to your assessment), it seems to me that unless I know I agree with you wholeheartedly on what constitutes a ‘good’ or even ‘better’ rendering of the psalm (and I suspect we might often part ways), the numbers just provide a slicker way to say “here’s what I like, here’s what I don’t.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that (that’s what a reviewer does, albeit hopefully with well-informed opinion), but I would have benefited more from greater explanation of the verses you chose to chart (I didn’t always see the supposed infelicity or think the change for better or worse particularly significant) so as to get a better handle on the rationale behind the numbers of the critique.

    2) Just how significant is compatibility with Gelineau tones in assessing the merits of a translation? Granted, if Gelineau is quite widely used it represents a failure to not take into account whether one’s translation revisions will seriously disrupt the practice of hundreds of parishes, but I am curious to know whether you were not pushing for something even stronger, closer to (while perhaps unlikely actually arriving at) “since Gelineau is the best method of psalm singing, a translation can only succeed if it lends itself well to Gelineau rendering.” Would you mind elaborating on this critique further for the sake of my curiosity?

    1. @Aaron Sanders – comment #7:

      Aaron,

      I think, as already mentioned in #13, that the rhythmic feel is an important factor, so random variations in the stress pattern would not be an improvement. Changes that disturb the flow, or choices of words that jump out at the reader, singer or pray-er, are not a good thing, in my view. Other factors would include the insertion of additional lines, even occasionally shifting a line to a following stanza. Conversely, sometimes the new version improves the flow of the older version, and I gave a couple of examples.

      I am not at all wedded to the use of Gelineau tones with Grail psalmody, though I know a lot of people in the US who still use them. What I am more concerned with is the overall rhythmic feel of the text. Clearly that will impact the use of Gelineau tones by those who like them, but even when using another system of tones the way the text feels under the voice is a significant factor. That is where I think RGP fails. It seems that the U.S. and England and Wales Bishops’ Conferences agree.

      What we have here is a struggle between a slavish fidelity to the original wording of the Hebrew text, à la Liturgiam Authenticam, versus a text which not only feels like poetry but is pray-able. I do not think the right balance has been struck. It may be that a translation process which largely follows the extremist stipulations of LA will always be doomed to failure, as was conclusively demonstrated with RM3. Certainly, I do not think that anyone wants ICEL to retranslate the Liturgy of the Hours following those principles, and I predict an enormous waste of time and effort for little or no gain.

  6. On page 2, Sister Dianne Bergant is described as an “Augustinian scripture scholar.” I don’t think that’s quite accurate. She is a member of the Congregation of Sisters of St Agnes (CSA).

  7. I have a great fondness for the Coverdale Psalter, having sung Choral Evensong from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer every week as a child. But if one is looking for a modern version of the psalter which is suitable for singing, one could do a lot worse than the Liturgical Psalter (http://bible.oremus.org/lp/). It is, I think, the version used by the monks at Quarr Abbey for the vernacular offices and manages to combine comprehensibility with beauty and elegance. I think it would make a better basis for a revised English office than the Grail Psalter in its various versions.

    Equally important for any revision of the Office would be a better choice of hymns. The decision not to have translations of the hymns in the Liturgia Horarum was, in my opinion, a mistake which should be rectified.

    1. @Fr Richard Duncan CO – comment #9:

      I have a great fondness for the Coverdale Psalter, having sung Choral Evensong from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer every week as a child. But if one is looking for a modern version of the psalter which is suitable for singing, one could do a lot worse than the Liturgical Psalter (http://bible.oremus.org/lp/). It is, I think, the version used by the monks at Quarr Abbey for the vernacular offices and manages to combine comprehensibility with beauty and elegance. I think it would make a better basis for a revised English office than the Grail Psalter in its various versions.

      Richard, I think your fondness for Coverdale is what makes you feel this way. The Frost-Macintosh psalter was designed to be used with Anglican Chant. Given that this style of chanting is alien to Roman Catholic worship, it seems unlikely that this psalter would prove satisfactory, though it certainly has its good points.

      Equally important for any revision of the Office would be a better choice of hymns. The decision not to have translations of the hymns in the Liturgia Horarum was, in my opinion, a mistake which should be rectified.

      I always assumed that the eventual publication of the Liber Hymnarius was the reason that hymns were not included. They were simply not ready in time. The versions in the Liber are, of course, not free from controversy either!

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #15:
        Paul, I am sure you are right about the reasons why I like the Liturgical Psalter, although I am not sure that I agree that it, or indeed Anglican Chant, would not be suitable for use in the Catholic liturgy. It has proved quite effective at Quarr, and I had Psalm 84 (83) to the Parry setting at both my diaconate and priestly ordinations. Anyway, let us agree to differ here!

        I see a separate thread has been open on the question of the hymns.

      2. @Fr Richard Duncan CO – comment #16:
        Fr. Duncan,

        I agree with you that Anglican chant can certainly be made suitable, and is not alien to the Roman liturgy, in that it developed out of chant and falsobordone as a highly effective way of setting English psalmody. The Anglicans have had a much longer history of developing English-language liturgical music, and I don’t see a problem at all with borrowing something successful.

        The Coverdale translation would, however, be alien to the Roman liturgy, because there is no tradition of hieratic English language in the Catholic church.

        What does have to be adapted to the Roman liturgy is the composition of congregational antiphons that work with choral Anglican chant psalmody, but that is entirely possible.

      3. @Doug O’Neill – comment #17:
        I’ve been to several Catholic parishes in the UK, Canada, and in CT where Orlando Gibbons’ Anglican chant was employed for Mass and Vespers. If it’s alien to Catholic worship ,someone needs to inform the music director and the pastor of these parishes.

  8. Can someone please explain how to tell whether a psalm is compatible with Gelineau tones? The article mentions that “Conception Abbey had never used the Gelineau tones to sing the text of Grail I, so they had no concept of what Grail I feels like rhythmically.” It’s clear from the Grail IV draft that an effort was made to identify accents/stresses in each line. Is it a matter of counting stresses in each line (do you want the same number of accents in each line for one psalm?) as well as minimizing the number of “subsidiary syllables between each main accent” (keeping the number less than 4)?

    1. @Derrick Tate – comment #10:

      In the original set of Gelineau tones, variant versions of a small number of tones provided for a variation of the number of stresses in a line. Most of the tones, however, did not have this. The problem with Grail IV/RGP is when the number of stresses varies randomly, making it impossible to use a Gelineau tone.

      As I said in the article, the number of subsidiary syllables between stresses is noticeably higher than in earlier versions, and this makes the text feel different. In earlier versions large numbers of subsidiary syllables ahead of the first main accent were comparatively rare. In RGP they occur much more frequently.

  9. I have always reverted to Grail I for the Gelineau Psalm 23, regardless of what version has been in the hymnal at hand. Similarly, the older version of Psalm 34 is so well etched into my memory (and because of frequent repetition, those of the singers with whom I work), that I haven’t yet been able to make a transition on that one.

    Way back in 1999, Msgr. James Moroney was addressing the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians on Lectionary revision issues, and surprised just about everyone with the news that, since Vatican II, it was not required to use an approved text if that text was sung rather than recited. Apparently this had been a norm established at the time of the introduction of the vernacular so that music could be appropriated from Anglican and other English liturgical traditions. I assume this norm applied only to proper texts of the Lectionary (and Gradual?), but not the Sacramentary. At the time, I didn’t bother to note the source of all of this, but I have heard of it several times since, and have myself (perhaps carelessly) mentioned it to others.

    Can anyone shed light on this issue? Is this norm still in force? If so, what are its implications now?

  10. Hieratic English? that is stuff and nonsense.

    The language of the prayer book was intended to be understanded of the people. Indeed I remember the FCJs telling us that the use of thou, thee and concomitant forms was still common in York and other parts of England.

    Actually the thou form is equivalent to the TU form in French. That form was favored by the Protestants because it was so intimate while the VOUS form was favored by the Catholics because it was so formal. Perhaps the Catholics do have a tradition of hieratic language after all.

  11. It may, or may not, be true to say that there is no tradition of hieratic English in the Catholic Church. But that’s because there was no tradition of English in the Catholic Church … until the Revolution Of The Nineteen Sixties:)

    I remember the Vicar saying to me in our last interview before I swam across the Tiber: “Richard – you won’t like the liturgy!” He was right. I didn’t, until I discovered what we now call the Extraordinary Form. It was the … ahem .. “hieratic” language which this exemplified, which proved to me that the Scarlet Whore of Rome was not, after all, as bad as the Protestant Controversialists had painted her to be!

  12. Paul, many thanks for this scholarship. A couple of miscellaneous questions/comments (inasmuch as this topic has now rolled off the blog’s landing page, I don’t know if my question will be answered 🙁 :

    Why is a different translation used for the antiphons to the Grail psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours? Psalm 8 appeared in Morning Prayer this morning. The antiphon given (ICEL translation?) is, “How wonderful is your name, O Lord, in all creation”. But then the first and last verses of the psalm itself are, “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth”. Why not use the same translation for the same verse?

    I agree that there is a clarity and rhythmic vigor to the Grail I translations, and that clarity and vigor comes through whether the texts are chanted, recited aloud or read silently. The impression that it makes on me is one of immediacy and accessibility, as though the wondrous deeds from 3,000 years ago are still alive today (as, in a sense, indeed they are). Your comparison tables really bring out this contrast between the older and newer translation.

    Yet they also illustrate that part of the price that was paid for that clarity and vigor presumably was to gloss over subtle shades of meaning, which the newer translation, in fidelity to LA, has worked harder to retain. There is a good deal to be said for that. I wish that this could be a “both/and” situation, in which the richness of meaning can be married to the happiness of expression.

  13. May I ask which numbered version of the Grail Psalms is used in the Offices at St. John’s Abbey, and in Dr. Johnson’s BENEDICTINE DAILY PRAYER?

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