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Latin: Who decides correct Latin Pronunciation?

Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 15:52:44 -0700
From: Robert Prowse
Subject: Re: Latin

Greg Scheer has raised more of a question than he knows:
>
> Thursday night I was teaching my choir how I wanted them to pronounce the
> "Gloria."
>
> I realize that A) the most important thing is for the whole choir to sing it
> the same way, B) nobody in the congregation speaks Latin, so in a sense it
> doesn't matter and C) the accompanist was out of line to stop rehearsal to
> correct me.
>
> My question is: with a language that is no longer spoken such as Latin or the
> 14th cent English texts that have been discussed here, whose authority do you
> accept in the matter of pronunciation?

Of course, Greg, you are perfectly right in sticking to the pronunciation
given in the Jeffers book. However, be aware that each country seems to
"bend" the pronunciation rules to suit the vernacular spoken there. You
have probable heard of "German" Latin. Modern scholarship seems to accept
"Kvee-ah" for "Quia" and "An-tsee-lay" for "Ancillae" when the composer of
the work was Germanic. Now all the recordings of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven
masses (and others) deviate from "church" Latin. The rules given by
Jeffers are the official ones of the Roman church, and are therefore very
Italianate. Here in America, it is not uncommon to hear "Yay-zoo" instead
of "Yay-ssoo," the more "pure" pronunciation. Everyone seems to disagree
on "excelsis" as well, some saying "egg-shellseez" others "ek-shell-sees"
others "ek-chell-sees" etc. ad infinitum.

IMNSHO we should go back to the church Latin proscribed by church scholars,
as put forth in Jeffers. This is not a popular opinion among scholars
today, but I argue that Mozart and Bach were not idiots. They studied in
Italy, or with Italian models. Particularly in Mozart's case and later,
Italian was all the rage, largely because of opera. I find it hard to
believe that Mozart went to Italy, studied under Padre Martini's severe
tutelage, and decided to pronounce his Latin like a German, to his extreme
shame. Maybe it is just us modern performers who, after years of poor
scholarship, have accepted vernacular bastardizations of Latin.

In any case, I feel you cannot go wrong by following Jeffers, but you will
always be subject to attacks from others who "know better."
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 16:03:24 -0700
From: persyndp@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU (David P. P. Persyn)
Subject: Re: Latin

At 12:38 PM 11/5/94 -0700, GregSchee@aol.com wrote:

>My question is: with a language that is no longer spoken such as Latin or the
>14th cent English texts that have been discussed here, whose authority do you
>accept in the matter of pronunciation?

This is a question that I have been dealing with in my own life as a choral
conductor. I sing in a choir specializing in early music, directed by a
musicologist who is an early music lover. He lets people get away with a
lot, and seems to think that if the Papal chapel had lots of nationalities
represented, they'd all pronounce Latin differently to some degree, and it
probably wouldn't even match particularly well, so why bother?
I do feel that it does matter. One of the answers to your question I have
received from learned choral conductors is to consider the intro. to the
Liber Usualis as an authority. I think this gives the whole world a
tendency to speak Latin with a French accent, but at least it provides a
standard. Then there is the question of Viennese (Haydn, M. Haydn, Mozart,
etc) Masses and Motets. Should one use "Germanic" Latin (qvi for qui,
angelorum with a hard G, etc.)?

I think you will develop your own ideas over time. I like to use a
liturgical, solemnes-style pronunciation, except that I like mihi to be
pronounced mi-i instead of mi-ki. I also believe in the German
pronunciation when appropriate. You can go to a Latin text, but there
you'll likely get a more "Classical" pronunciation.

No one really knows what is right, even for 200 years ago-we can only make
educated guesses. I have two degrees from Jesuit universities, and think my
guesses are a bit more educated than most, but I would say that I still
cannot be called an expert on Latin dialectics. My point: get them to do it
all the same, without anything too far-out, and there probably won't be much
wrong with your concert as far as Latin diction goes. Anyone else?
---------------------------------------------------------

Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 19:06:29 -0700
From: Kevin Robison
Subject: Re: Latin

(Assuming that you've read the initial post regarding the dispute over
Latin pronunciation)

You're right, you're accompanist was out of line. If he/she has in fact
sung with some of the better conductors in your city, then he/she should
1) have known better than to question you before the entire group and 2)
have heard your preferred pronunciation enough times to know that it is
(in some circles) valid and respected. While this is perhaps not the
real issue, the accompanist, nontheless was the one to question you.

This raises the question of decision-making in general, particularly with
early music. What can one do to make sure the composer's intentions are
realized in terms of pronunciation, tempo, sound ideal, articulation and
a dozen other stylistic considerations? The point is that we cannot ever
be sure. Perhaps the greatest case in point for choral conductors: The
TRUE Messiah.

I conducted parts II and III of this work earlier this year and
experienced a similar situation when I made the decision to use a
different text underlay in "Hallelujah" (different at least from the
Holy G. Schirmer). In my defense I cited in rehearsal the Smith
manuscript, a facsimile of which is contained in our university library,
which suggests that the Schirmer edition may be incorrect at this
particular point. When my accompanist questioned me privately after
rehearsal, I took her to the manuscript. End of dispute.

Was I right in making such a decision? I will not know because I cannot
talk with Handel about it. I was able to cite a source for my
conclusion, however--a source that is (arguably) more reliable than any
printed edition we have.

No one can be absolutely sure of anything that happened more than an hour
ago (unless there is eyewitness home video, and even then...), so we must
rely on what information we have. When that information conflicts, then
we are challenged to make an educated decision that can be supported by
definitive sources. And the bottom line is that we have to do what is
reasonable and practical for the performance at hand, having considered
our options.

Besides, who's running the "Secret Music Gestapo"?
-----------------------------------------------------------

Date: Sun, 6 Nov 1994 19:14:22 -0700
From: WahooFive@aol.com
Subject: Re: Latin pronunciation

>My question is: with a language that is no longer spoken such as Latin or the
>14th cent English texts that have been discussed here, whose authority do you
>accept in the matter of pronunciation?

Leaving aside the sources for the "standard" Roman usage, which I'm sure
others will mention, I think this begs another question:

Why, in English-speaking countries, are we so paranoid about "correct"
pronunciation of Latin? In German-speaking countries, they just pronounce
Latin more or less as if it were German, and similarly in France. But in
English-speaking countries, not only don't we pronounce Latin as if it were
English, but we try to reproduce "German Latin" and "French Latin" for works
from those countries. I doubt that German choirs change their Latin
pronunciation for a work by Byrd or Britten (German subscribers, tell me if
I'm wrong). Why the discrepancy?
---------------------------------------------

Date: Mon, 7 Nov 1994 11:45:55 -0700
From: SPARKSRA@plu.edu
Subject: Latin Pronounciation

The arguments for/against using an "historically or geographically
correct" pronouciation versus a "standardized" Latin are too many for me
to get into right now.

However, if you're interested in knowing much of the recent scholarship
in this matter, a book by Harold Copeman (preface by Andrew Parrott) may
help:
Singing in Latin, or Pronounciation explor'd
ISBN 0-9515798-0-0
Self-published, available from:
Harold Copeman
22 Tawney Street
Oxford OX4 INJ
England

He also publishes "The Pocket 'Singing in Latin'," a small booklet with
condensed information.

This is exhaustive (and exhausting!), but lots of information for those
who want it.

By the way, Ron Jeffers' book DOES include an "Austro-German"
pronounciation guide as well.
-------------------------------------------

Date: Wed, 9 Nov 1994 09:14:35 -0700
From: Peter Hoogenboom
Subject: Some thoughts on Latin

In an effort to reduce volume, I am replying to several messages in one
(185 lines worth; thank goodness for text editors!).

>From persyndp@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU Tue Nov 8 18:47:37 1994
>
>I do feel that it does matter. One of the answers to your question I have
>received from learned choral conductors is to consider the intro. to the
>Liber Usualis as an authority. I think this gives the whole world a
>tendency to speak Latin with a French accent, but at least it provides a
>standard.

Yet phonetically it is much closer to Italian than French.

>liturgical, solemnes-style pronunciation, except that I like mihi to be
>pronounced mi-i instead of mi-ki.

Yet the _Liber_ explicitly prescribes "mi-ki." Why do you choose to
ignore this?

>From rprowse@unaalpha.una.edu Tue Nov 8 18:47:41 1994
>
>Italy, or with Italian models. Particularly in Mozart's case and later,
>Italian was all the rage, largely because of opera. I find it hard to
>believe that Mozart went to Italy, studied under Padre Martini's severe
>tutelage, and decided to pronounce his Latin like a German, to his extreme
>shame.

Why would it have been shameful to have done, when in Vienna, as the
Viennese did? One of Mozart's wonderful talents was his stylistic
versatility. I agree that your assertion should be carefully
considered. I am not sure that it is correct.

>Maybe it is just us modern performers who, after years of poor
>scholarship, have accepted vernacular bastardizations of Latin.

Actually, it is my understanding (from the Copeman book) that the
prescriptions (and proscriptions) set forth in the _Liber_ explicitly
arose to combat the lack of consistency which existed before it was
published. Therefore, if one wishes to sing the music as the composer
conceived it, one must examine historical Latin pronunciations. There
are many reasons for choosing not to, I might add.

>From WahooFive@aol.com Tue Nov 8 18:47:46 1994
>Why, in English-speaking countries, are we so paranoid about "correct"
>pronunciation of Latin? In German-speaking countries, they just pronounce
[...]
>I'm wrong). Why the discrepancy?

In addition to trying to use the sounds that were in the composer's ear
when the music was written, in my opinion, the phonetic differences can be
quite significant to interpretation. One of the more striking examples is
the soft "dzh" of italianate "genitum" vs. the hard "g" of German-style
"genitum."
------------------------------------------

Date: Thu, 10 Nov 1994 12:41:22 -0700
From: dziuma@hades.gliwice.edu.pl (Justyna Dziuma)
Subject: Re: Latin

> My question is: with a language that is no longer spoken such as Latin or the
> 14th cent English texts that have been discussed here, whose authority do you
> accept in the matter of pronunciation?

I sing in Polish choir so our pronounciation is totally different that
yours. We sing Latin texts as if they were Polish, that is in the way we
like it. There are several schools in Poland according to pronounciation of
'letitia' - [leticia] or [letitia] and so on. Gennerally - somebody said it
here - there is Italian school, that prefers singing in Italian-like
sounding and Polish one which prefers choirs to sing in 'their own' way. At
last - singing is to be fun and no matter what is the pronountiation - the
matter for listeners is to understand the text, don't you agree?
-------------------------------------------

Date: Fri, 11 Nov 1994 11:02:55 -0700
From: persyndp@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU (David P. P. Persyn)
Subject: Re: Pronouncing Stuff...

At 04:46 PM 11/10/94 -0700, bseymour@encore.com wrote:
>
>It amazes me how much time folks waste worrying about the "correct" way
>to sing Latin. Speaking for myself only, and as an English (American
>dialect) speaking American I can only say, what does it matter?
>I'll bet 90-plus percent of the typical audience for a choral concert
>has no clue as to what the Latin text is anyway. As long as the conductor
>achieves a uniform pronunciation across the chorus, who cares if Joe
>Latin Scholar disagrees?

Burch, as Devil's Advocate, you have made a point here that I have heard
before. I also have heard the same logic applied to music in general, and
the end result is what I will call "lowest common denominator" choral music.
Most people cannot detect any but huge intonation errors. Would we then
give up an attempt at singing in tune because "Joe layman" doesn't know the
difference? While we are at it, why do we bother attempting difficult
music, because "Jane Q. Public" doesn't understand or appreciate it. Why
not simply give them "Sloppy Agape", make them happy, get our paycheck, and
head for home?

This is not meant to be a "flame". I simply became "Joe Latin scholar"
because I thought the "right" way had an intrinsic value -- even if I never
achieve it. The attempt, the scholarship, the research, and the results --
even if only I understand and appreciate them -- are worth the bother. I am
not going to write a thesis on aesthetics here, but I believe that most of
the subscribers to Choralist are artists who strive for perfection, knowing
that they will never achieve it. We (we being most choral conductors) could
be making a lot more money than we are now doing something else. We choose
to pursue choral music because of the rewards of finding out how Mozart
probably said the word Angelorum, and by incorporating that into a concert.
And, I believe the reason for the existence of the choralist is for those
who are choral conductors to discuss these esotericae. These discussions
are not an interruption of the list -- they are the list.

On the other hand, there have been a number of calls for text translations,
etc. that could have been found by a visit to even a bare music library. I
do NOT belive that we on the list are supposed to be substituting for basic
research. There is a difference between a discussion of the pronunciation
of Latin in 18th century Vienna and in a request for the translation of a
common liturgical text. How could a choral conductor even consider
attempting a work before finding out what the words mean? Again, back to
aesthetics: a big part of the reward of choral music is involved with WORDS.
Translations should not be just for putting in the program; they should be
a primary reason for taking one's time, and the time of a score or more of
one's choristers.

Again, I don't mean this as a "flame", any more than did Burch when he
called me and others "Joe Latin Scholar". I do, however, intend to continue
to study Lingua Latina, and perhaps make myself worthy of the title "Latin
Scholar". I am continuing to work as hard as I know how to work in order to
make myself worthy of the title "Choral Conductor." I hope to make a
salary, too! ;-})
-------------------------------------

Date: Fri, 11 Nov 1994 11:14:44 -0700
From: Burch Seymour
Subject: Re: Pronouncing Stuff...

>
> Burch, as Devil's Advocate, you have made a point here that I have heard
> before. I also have heard the same logic applied to music in general, and
> the end result is what I will call "lowest common denominator" choral music.
> Most people cannot detect any but huge intonation errors. Would we then
> give up an attempt at singing in tune because "Joe layman" doesn't know the
> difference? While we are at it, why do we bother attempting difficult

My original post was somewhat sarcastic in nature (no offense meant to
anyone) because I've been with a wide range of choral conductors. Some
of them get bogged down in mind-numbing minutia and miss the big
picture of what that does to their singers. In the interest of brevity
I'll skip the amusing anecdotes on this subject :-)

I *do not* advocate sloppy production be it pronunciation, pitch, rhythm,
or dynamics. However, one can prioritize the relative importance of
things, and the ease of conforming to correctness in performance.

A couple of people have mentioned the pitch and rhythm analogy. I don't
buy it. We have a standard for pitch, and once we set a tempo, a quarter
note becomes unambiguously defined. We know how to measure those things
and we know what right and wrong is. (well I *suppose* we could argue
that Bach used different temperaments for his music, and isn't there
some controversy about double dotting?? but that's needlessly clouding
the issue.)

Another way to look at this is that the musical aspects of a work,
pitch, rhythm, dynamics, are in the domain of the muscician and
defined by the musician. The text is in the domain of everyman. My original
point was, people have a bazillion different dialects. How can one say
that there is one correct way to sing Latin? It would be nice to have
a universal standard. Then, when I sing for a different director, I don't
have to try to remember which way to sing words :-)

Dialect differences in a living language do not change the meaning of
the words. Why should that be different with Latin? Singing an A-flat
instead of an A is clearly wrong. Singing me-he instead of me-key is
(IMHO) a dialect difference.

> This is not meant to be a "flame". I simply became "Joe Latin scholar"
> because I thought the "right" way had an intrinsic value -- even if I never
> achieve it.

This infers that there is "a right way". I don't think there can be for
the reasons I mentioned above. My system of priorities would say, pick
one "way" that seems reasonable and spend the rest of the time getting the
notes right.

> to pursue choral music because of the rewards of finding out how Mozart
> probably said the word Angelorum, and by incorporating that into a concert.

No flame intended, but what has the way Mozart said the word Angelorum,
got to do with anything? Maybe finding out how singers of Mozart's time
"sang" Angelorum would be useful in an authentic performance..... If
there was a standard for them, at the time...... I mean, what if we found
out Mozart was an ancestor of Mel Tillis, and spoke the same way :-)
That would be a right mess, wouldn't it...

> Again, I don't mean this as a "flame", any more than did Burch when he
> called me and others "Joe Latin Scholar". I do, however, intend to continue
> to study Lingua Latina, and perhaps make myself worthy of the title "Latin
> Scholar". I am continuing to work as hard as I know how to work in order to
> make myself worthy of the title "Choral Conductor." I hope to make a
> salary, too! ;-})

Thanks for recognizing a bit of fun, as opposed to a flame. Good luck and
best wishes on the attempt to gain the title "Joseph, Latin Scholar".
Just remember not to concetrate so hard on the Trees that you fail
to see the poison ivy that surrounds them.
---------------------------------------------

Date: Fri, 11 Nov 1994 12:49:45 -0700
From: zzaasvk@cs6400.mcc.ac.uk (V.H.Knight)
Subject: Re: Pronouncing Stuff...

Because a spoken language has variant pronounciations, it doesn't follow
that any pronounciation which appeals to the speaker is acceptable! In the
case of Latin, where there are no native speakers and a variety of
performing traditions, the best thing to do is to pick one pronounciation
and stick to it, but not add to the many that exist by doing your own thing
(unless that is you believe you are recreating a 'historical' pronounciation
of some sort).
--------------------------------------

Date: Fri, 11 Nov 1994 13:02:39 -0700
From: gladstone bruce e
Subject: Re: Pronouncing Stuff... The Latin debate con't

This is true, it is not the national debt we are discussing here,
however, it can make a difference. The University of Illinois Chorale, in
which I sing, has done several pieces with Latin texts by French
composers (including the Poulenc Lenten motets) recently. We used a
French Latin pronunciation which worked especially well and made a great
deal os sense in the Poulenc which often accents the final syllable (as in
French).Suddenly the texts did not sound as if they had been set awkwardly.
If nothing else, if gave the works a fresh sound and people heard them
differently than they had before.Sort of new wineskins for old wine. Getting
people to sit up and pay attention was worth the effort and what we all
would wish, no?
------------------------------------

Date: Fri, 11 Nov 1994 14:12:59 -0700
From: Walter Knowles
Subject: Re: Pronouncing Stuff...

On Fri, 11 Nov 1994, Burch Seymour wrote:

> Another way to look at this is that the musical aspects of a work,
> pitch, rhythm, dynamics, are in the domain of the muscician and
> defined by the musician. The text is in the domain of everyman. My original
> point was, people have a bazillion different dialects. How can one say
> that there is one correct way to sing Latin? It would be nice to have
> a universal standard. Then, when I sing for a different director, I don't
> have to try to remember which way to sing words :-)

Having been inculcated with the care that Prof John Lyerlie (sp) at
Medieval Studies at University of Toronto taught re historical
pronunciation, sure, there is no "standard" Latin pronunciation. For
goodness sake, there were differences in pronunciation depending on which
side of the Thames your monestary was on in the 14th c.

That being said, as a conductor I do take care in pronunciation and spend
time working with my (very ) inexperiecnced church choir on historical
pronunciation. Why? because it's interesting, because it gives my choir a
connection to the composer, but most importantly, because consonantal
sound is part of the composer's sound ideal. Am I foolish enough to
think that I _really_ have the connection right for a given motet? Of
course not! Does my choir sound different when it sings Durufle with a
softer "French" pronunciation than a baroque Italian with a "cripser"
pronunciation? Yes. And do the memebers of my choir care? Yes, because
they want to do the best they can do, and because I'd argue that for the
most part composers do care about voice placement--that is affected by
pronunciation. I think that it is easier to sing a piece with something
like what the composer heard.

>
> No flame intended, but what has the way Mozart said the word Angelorum,
> got to do with anything? Maybe finding out how singers of Mozart's time
> "sang" Angelorum would be useful in an authentic performance

Quite frankly, every performance that I play or conduct strives to be an
"authentic" performance. And that group of non-professional singers
strive to an authentic performance as well. Not a musikwissenschafliche
performance, but one informed by historical performance practice studies
(and historical performancee practice includes all works which have been
performed!).

Why do it if you don't try to do your best?
-------------------------------------------------

Date: Sat, 12 Nov 1994 10:28:01 -0700
From: persyndp@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU (David P. P. Persyn)
Subject: Re: Pronouncing Stuff...

At 11:09 AM 11/11/94 -0700, bseymour@encore.com wrote:
>
>Another way to look at this is that the musical aspects of a work,
>pitch, rhythm, dynamics, are in the domain of the muscician and
>defined by the musician. The text is in the domain of everyman. My original
>point was, people have a bazillion different dialects. How can one say
>that there is one correct way to sing Latin? It would be nice to have
>a universal standard. Then, when I sing for a different director, I don't
>have to try to remember which way to sing words :-)

You make a point here, and I can see your way of looking at this. But isn't
the text something that is just as solid in the mind of a composer as are
the notes and rhythms? Maybe the reason it is important to research the way
Mozart said "Angelorum" is to try to make the music sound the way he
intended . . . not, as you suggest, the way a choir of Mozart's time would
have pronounced it (that WOULD give us the way he heard it in performance,
but perhaps he was not satisfied with that performance). What I think is
important is what Mozart WANTED, not what he GOT; and this is just pure
opinion, and y'all may take it with the grain of whatever is customary.
Only one pronunciation, for all occaisions? Yes, this is easy on the choir;
but we aren't in this for easy! How about English? Do we all take on an
Oxford accent? Works for some music, but what about Negro Spirituals?
South African Freedom Songs? Newfoundland Sea chanties? We should attempt
to take on the "right" dialect!

>This infers that there is "a right way". I don't think there can be for
>the reasons I mentioned above. My system of priorities would say, pick
>one "way" that seems reasonable and spend the rest of the time getting the
>notes right.

Yes, there IS a right way! That way is found by way of research,
experience, reflection, and good taste. Is my right way the same as Mr.
Shaw's? No, because he is not me, and has not done the exact same research,
had the same experiences, does not reflect using the same philosophies, and
therefore comes up with a slightly different idea of "good taste". He has
spent decades getting where he is. His right way is perhaps more
universally accepted than mine, and rightfully so! However, who is to say
that 25 years from now, the world will or will not have great regard for the
good taste of Dave, or Burch, or any other of the choralisters?

I do not advocate wrong notes; rather, that right notes and accurate rhythms
are what you would hope for as a minimum. Perfect? You'll never get it,
nobody ever has. If accuracy of pitch and rhythm are the goal, well, gee!
I can program my little 'puter to play a requiem note for note, rhythm for
rhythm, with the tempo accurate to +or- one-100 millionth of a second! What
makes it art? Singers! Text! Pronunciation! Dynamics! Inflection! and
perhaps even a bit of inaccuracy, if you will allow me to stretch my point.
I am not continuing my studies because I couldn't get a job with a Master's
degree. I am continuing because I want to become more of a scholar and
artist. I want to be able to use various Latin pronunciations to make art!

Maybe my latest research will have me doing something that I will look back
on and laugh at my own stupidity . . . or perhaps, I will somehow uncover a
significant piece of performance practice knowlege. At this point in my
development, I focus on text a lot -- I leave most of the notes and rhythms
to my choir to learn in a practice room. Maybe I will change later (maybe a
few minutes after my boss reads this!) but for now, I like my choirs to
concentrate on articulation and dynamic and pronunciation, and other aspects
that make an artistic performance. I knew how to run a sectional and teach
notes when I came here to study. I needed to learn more about the minutiae,
and how to get a group of people with different teperaments, experiences,
backgrounds, etc. to make art together, and to do most of that with my
hands. I believe I am at the best place, with the best teachers, I could
hope to find. As a bonus, I get to ask the opinions of other great choral
conductors by way of this wonderful bulletin board. This is a way for us
all to get what a library cannot provide, and part of my point in my
previous post is that we need to avoid using this board for what a library
CAN provide.

So, yes, we DO have a different system of priorities. :-})

By the way, recently there has been a discussion here of the best way to
rehearse (piano, violin, pitch pipe, whatever). Someone pointed out to me
(in physical, not virtual, existence) that nobody has stated the obvious:
The best instrument for modeling choral music is the human voice!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: Thu, 15 Dec 94 13:38:09 GMT
Subject: Singing in Latin
To: med-and-ren-music@mailbase.ac.uk

>SINGING IN LATIN
>Harold Copeman
>Revised edition, paperback
>First published 1990, published by the author, now revised and reset

>A lively and full guide to the pronunciation of Latin in music - what we know
>and don't know about the striking variations between countries and centuries.
>HC suggests how singers and choirs can begin to experience and to convey these
>historic styles and sounds.
>ISBN 0 9515798 2 7

>Ordering information:
>Price: 15 pounds, US $27. Postage etc 3 pounds, US $6 per copy.
>Sterling cheque on UK bank or US $ check.
>Giro transfers from overseas (please add 2 pounds) to National Girobank, a/c
>H.A.Copeman, 403020301.
>Or enclose order form of library

>Address orders to Harold Copeman, 22 Tawney St, Oxford OX4 1NJ
>Tel. (0)865 243830

>Also still available:
>THE POCKET 'SINGING IN LATIN'

>a very short guide, also with phonetic texts, designed mainly for rehearsals,
>spiralbound, ISBN 0 9515798 1 9

>Order from the same address at 3.50 pounds or US$6
>postage etc 50p or $1 (10 or more post-free)

/////////////////////////////

Date: Thu, 05 Nov 1998 10:42:02 -0500
From: Michael Hartney
To: choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Latin pronunciation

Kevin Sutton wrote:

> The reason would be that nihil and mihi are not Latin words, but Greek. They
> are two of the three or four Greek words that crept into the Latin sacred
> texts. Kyrie is another example.

Sorry to contradict you, but "nihil" and "mihi" are not Greek words.
"Nihil" is the Latin word for "nothing"; it bears no resemblance to the
Greek word for "nothing", which is "ouden". "Mihi" is the form the first
person singular personal pronoun ("ego") takes when it is an indirect
object (meaning "to me"); it is similar to "tibi" ("to you") and "sibi"
("to oneself").

"Nihil" and "mihi" were pronounced with a "k" sound in the Middle Ages.
It may be because it was easier to pronouce them in this way. They were
also often spelled "nichil" and "michi", since "ch" in Latin is
pronounced "k". Nowadays, we have reverted to the Classical spelling of
"nihil" and "mihi", but in Church Latin, they are still pronounced with
a "k" sound.
//////////////////////

Date: Thu, 5 Nov 1998 22:34:56 +0000
From: MegaMole
To: choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Latin pronunciation

In article <3641C74A.1D54@magma.ca>, Michael Hartney
writes
>
>"Nihil" and "mihi" were pronounced with a "k" sound in the Middle Ages.
>It may be because it was easier to pronouce them in this way. They were
>also often spelled "nichil" and "michi", since "ch" in Latin is
>pronounced "k". Nowadays, we have reverted to the Classical spelling of
>"nihil" and "mihi", but in Church Latin, they are still pronounced with
>a "k" sound.

The rogue "c"s in "michi" and "nihil" may also be there for the same
reason that medieval scribes put an "h" in Ihesus (I can remember some
bs and ps appearing as well, but can't think of an example off the top
of my head - oh yes, the transmutation of the digraph "nt" to "mpt" or
"mbt" - cf. redentor -> redemptor.). The medieval pen stroke called a
"minim" was just, effectively, a vertical line, so three vertical lines
could have stood for ni, ui, in, iu, or m... all of which could have led
to substantial confusion, even disregarding the difference between
vocalic and consonantal u - what we now call u and v. And consider also
that a slightly longer vertical line would have signified an l...

Hence the appearance of extra letters - to tell the reader exactly what
word they were looking at. Otherwise ||||||| (that's an exaggeration)
for MIHI could have been any grammatically correct collection of Latin
letters. A strategically placed C (||||C|||) gave the reader at least
some clue.

Renaissance reform of Latin by such as Poliziano and Ronsard, ironing
out some of these rogue letters, went hand in hand with clearer writing
and font sizes. It is perhaps interesting to note that I remember no
such rogue Cs from the Latin of Charlemagne's time, which was written in
uncial - a script much more legible than the usual medieval Black
Letter.

None of this is to deny the points about pronunciation made by other
contributors to this thread; however, accounts also need to remember the
existence of Latin as a _written_ language, indeed the language written
most in the Medieval period.

(Back to singing).

And no conductor I've ever sung with (quite a few, for the record) has
ever insisted on singing mihi or nihil with a K. Indeed, remember that
nihil has a shortened form nil (or, as I'm used to hearing it, Tottenham
Hotspur Nil[1]) which would indicate a weak or non-existent h sound.

/////////////////////

Date: Thu, 5 Nov 1998 20:41:26 -0500
From: capeside@gis.net (Thom Dutton)
To: choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Latin pronunciation

I too have been following the discussion on the origin of the words mihi &
nihil. While in college, I was taught that these words were indeed Greek.
When Kevin Sutton posted his explanation of the pronounciation, I erased my
very similar responce. When Mr. Steel posted a request for documentation, I
looked up the following:

In the book "A Manual of Foreign Language Diction For Singers" by Richard
F. Sheil, Ph.D. there is a complete chapter on Roman Church Latin. On page
22, Dr. Sheil states, "The letter 'h' is always silent. It sometimes serves
to separate syllables, or occasionally it alters the sound of the adjacent
consonant. The following two words, BORROWED FROM THE GREEK LANGUAGE, are
usually made exceptions to the above rule. Here the letter 'h' is given the
sound of [k]: mihi & nihil."

////////////////////

Date: Fri, 06 Nov 1998 17:23:00 +1300
From: Tom Lumb
To: choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Latin pronunciation

MegaMole wrote:

Indeed, remember that
nihil has a shortened form nil

Yes, but I have been discussing this with my friend who is HoD Classics
at Victoria University here in Wellington and tells me that "nil" in
Latin is actually quite rare and mainly used in poetry. My totally
uninformed guess is that the addition of the "c" was to draw attention
to the preferred bisyllabic pronunciation, of the two words in question,
in sung poetry in the liturgy.

The interesting point to me, though, is the idea that a "c" might have
been inserted to modify the pronuciation of the "h". This is completely
at odds with the situation in Italian where it is the "h" that is
inserted to modify the pronunciation of the "c" (when followed by "i" or
"e"). My friend tells me he is aware of no classical precedent for
saying anything other than mi-hi or ni-hil

////////////////

Date: Fri, 06 Nov 1998 01:10:25 -0500
From: Michael Hartney
To: choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Latin pronunciation

MegaMole wrote:
>
> And no conductor I've ever sung with (quite a few, for the record) has
> ever insisted on singing mihi or nihil with a K.

Most conductors I've sung with do insist on singing "mihi" or "nihil"
with a K, except when they succumb to the trendy and tiresome practice
of adopting German pronunciation when singing Latin works written by
German (or Austrian) composers. Why anyone (other than a German speaker)
thinks that "et ascendit in coelum" sounds better when pronounced "et
as-tsendit in ts
on June 19, 2008 10:00pm
I know that Pius X in the early 1900s mandated a universal pronunciation of Latin which can be found in the Liber & also in Ron Jeffers book. Someone here said that this gives a French sound to the pronunciation - actually not - it is more between Spanish and Italian pronunciations. The French pronounce u as [y] (in IPA) and close their e vowels. Ecclesiastical Latin uses open e's.

Also, in the Austro-German pronunciation of Latin - also found in Ron Jeffers book - the "ei" of eleison is a diphthong and NOT 2 syllables. We find evidence of this in Mozart, Haydn, and Schubert Masses - they compose the vocal lines w/ slurs or the diphthong on one note. This is the Austro-German pronunciation of Latin and the evidence is found in the music itself! (Although the Kyrie is a Greek text, it is encompassed by the same rules of pronunciation & this was the way it was sung by the Viennese and Germans).
I still have German choir members who ask me to pronounce Ecclesiastical Latin for them when we do early music b/c they are still used to their own pronunciation.
on June 20, 2008 10:00pm
There are so many opinions on this one I thought I'd throw it out there. How to pronounce "Cherubim" in Charpentier's Te Deum? I have heard it both as a hard "k" and soft "sh".
on January 5, 2009 10:00pm
From time to time I have sung or co-conducted with colleagures who have suggest either a Salzburgian or Vienese pronunciation of, say, excelsis as ' ex-cell-sis.' There was one other liberated pronunciation that escapes me now. Some English if not Austrian groups recording in Vienna or nearby often use those softer sounds.

Yes, Mozart was duly steeped in the operatic and Italianate traditions as well as those Italian and Roman. Or is this a Salzburg tradition used to annoy Colloredo?

My question is a simple one. Anyone know what I'm talking about?
on November 4, 2011 12:11pm
This is a subject I've been very interested in both as a choral singer and a conductor, especially since it seems to have become common practice for conductors to invent pronunciations that suit their own sensibilities. Latin seems to be the most frequent milieu for such occurrences, but I've seen it with almost every language I've performed in.
 
I am, by far, no expert, but do pride myself on doing everything I can to ensure that my diction and pronunciation pay respect to a language's native speakers as much as I possibly can.
 
One of the beautiful things about music that can become lost in these discussions is the fact that music, especially choral music, is primarily a storytelling medium. Instrumental music, lacking text, still stirs our emotions and imagination in the same way stories do. One of the reasons it's so powerful. As such, I've always believed that the performers should be as sensitive to and respectful of the language in which the story or message is being delivered as possible. Often times, a story can lose significant meaning if not performed in its original language. Just look at subtitled movies.
 
The notion that we should simply apply to a foreign language those dialects or ideosyncracies of speech we find comfortable in our own language, has always just felt lazy and disrespectful to me. I know quite a few people who pronouce especially "ex-specially" and then dismiss their own ignorance with "That's just how people say it where I'm from" - Well that doesn't make it any less wrong.
 
I overheard a tourist in Il Duomo in Firenze once say "This place is okay, but can't hold a candle to the Artesian Wells we have back in New Jersey!" I couldn't help feeling sad for her that she was missing the point of the experience. We wouldn't, I hope, go to Japan and completely mis-pronounce their language while trying to communicate with the Japanese and think "It's okay - they'll understand that this is just how we pronounce their language."
 
So why wouldn't we feel the same about performing in another language?
 
It should be important to achieve as accurate and clear a pronunciation as possible for the sake of respect for the language and its people, for the sake of stylistic interpretation and musicality, and for the sake of our own experience as well as that of the audience.
 
At this point, I can't help but believe the many and varied alternative pronunciations of Latin, from the (for lack of a better term) "Italianate" pronunciation, to be inaccurate hubris.