Stick Time: The Horror of Multiple Languages
Date: March 25, 2014
Last month, Coca-Cola’s® super bowl advertisement caused a momentary flap because it dared to communicate the lofty ideals expressed in “America the Beautiful” in multiple languages. Hands were wrung, complaints were tweeted, and pundits were quick to opine. But as is so often the case with such ephemera, the matter was quickly replaced by the next drama-of-the-moment.
For those of us in the choral profession, dealing with multiple languages is just another day at the office. At one time or another, the vast majority of us have taught works in Italian, French, German, Latin, and a whole host of other tongues. We move effortlessly between these languages, especially Italian, the language in which the descriptors of our craft are historically set.
At one time or another, most of us have been confronted by someone in the English-only crowd who will complain when our choirs perform works in foreign languages. Following a concert one evening, a parent was chastising a conducting friend about performing a work in Latin (the old, “if English was good enough for Jesus . . .” line). Finally, our friend asked this particularly aggressive person what they liked to order at the local Mexican restaurant. They answered enthusiastically about their favorite Hispanic dishes. Our friend cocked an eyebrow and this writer smirked while we both waited. The irate parent suddenly “got it,” and stormed off without another word.
With that, here is a performance of a choral work from an ACDA national conference. Warning: the work is not sung in English. Horrors!