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Taking the "Christ" out of "Ubi Caritas"?

Hi all,
I realize this is incredible choral blasphemy (and believe me, I'm not happy about it), but it seems like I have to take references to Christ out of Durufle's Ubi Caritas for a non-denominational service. Does anyone know of a relatively inoffensive word change that accomplishes this? Thanks!
Replies (26): Threaded | Chronological
on May 18, 2014 9:37pm
While the text is public domain, Duruflé's setting of it is under copyright. If you use Duruflé's music, you cannot change the text without permission. Select another work (which will solve the "blasphemy" issue you mention).
Applauded by an audience of 4
on May 19, 2014 3:14am
Since the song itself is about communion, removing the word is pointless. If it's non-denominational, I'm assuming it's a Christian service, in which case having you change it is just silly. If there are people from other religions (Jewish/Muslim, etc.) I'd choose another piece-one about God rather than about Jesus.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 19, 2014 3:35am
Is there another piece you could use instead?
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 19, 2014 3:40am
Hi Maia,
It seems to me that since you're still programming for a religious service, "God" could stand in for "Christ." In that case the line would be: "Congregavit nos in unum Dei amor." This should placate all of the monotheists--and even Hindus believe in the unity of the divine, albeit expressed in different manifestations.
I really wouldn't lose sleep over having to make the change. There is a long history of musical texts being adjusted to meet the needs of the occasion. And it seems to me that expressing the universality of spiritual love is a noble objective.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 19, 2014 3:41am
I am curious to know more about this challenge.  It seems to me that in an interfaith service of mutual respect each party would honor and celebrate the differences of their traditions and all would be invited to express their faith with words and acts that are significant.  This has been my experience in some amazing interfaith services between Wilshire Baptist and Temple Emmanuel in Dallas. But this sort of thing requires good relationships and trust.  .  
If this is not your situation I would consider selecting another anthem. 
Doug Haney
Applauded by an audience of 6
on May 19, 2014 3:41am
Speaking as a composer, the words which I choose to set to music have a direct and profound effect upon the music which results. Thus, I vehemently reject changes of this sort as they demonstrably thwart the composer's intent. Surely a better choice than taking "Christ" out of Ubi Caritas would be taking Ubi Caritas out of the program. There is an incredible wealth of choral repertoire to choose from--I'm guessing that there is more than one piece which was written with a text fully suitable for this occasion.
Daniel E. Gawthrop
Applauded by an audience of 13
on May 19, 2014 3:52am
If you can use Deus   then substitute Deo for Christi.   
on May 19, 2014 5:53am
Surely Dei, not Deo? it's the genitive case.
on May 19, 2014 4:26am
Truly, I would not do it. We should not make such concessions.  If they want vague music, there is plenty of it to be found. Denying our beliefs for the sake of "tolerance" is actually masking an intolerance for the existence of foundational principals of faith.   Christians shouldn't have to hide Christ in order to be non-offensive. There is a trend to make more room for non-Christian faiths and less room for Christianity and it worries me.  Why not let religions coexist rather than whittle them down until they all look the same? The increase of persecution against the Christian faith is worrisome; this was once a guaranteed right in this country.  If we can no longer pray in school, or say "Merry Christmas", and our Christmas trees and crosses in public places are being taken down, like they are, then it makes sense that there would also be less and less room for Christian music; we already have to rename concerts "Winter Concerts." 
I would incluse the piece as it is; charity and love are universal and so is good music. Good luck.
Heather Seaton
Applauded by an audience of 7
on May 19, 2014 9:45am
I agree that we should  "let religions coexist rather than whittle them down until they all look the same,"  but I disagree with your comments about public schools.  We most certainly can pray in school, we simply have to do it on our own and in our own way because we live in a society of many faiths.  For the same reason we now have "Winter Concerts" -- because many of our fellow citizens and their children don't celebrate Christmas.  In 13 years teaching at the elementary level in NY and AZ, that has not prevented this agnostic from programming sacred Christmas music, Spirituals (including "Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born"), and contemporary music with religious language, such as Music K-8's Free At Last which includes Dr. King's words "Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."  
It is unfortunate that many music teachers believe "we'll get sued" or "you can't do it because of separation of church and state," but in the states I'm familiar with, there are specific educational regulations allowing religious music, art, literature, architecture and history as part of the curriculum.  There are only a couple of common-sense requirements: the use must be educational in nature, and part of a diverse and comprehensive curriculum.  There are also at least two legal organizations which take relevant religious freedom cases for free.  I don't remember the names of these groups, but you could find them online.  One of them won a US Supreme Court decision ten years ago against my daughter's school, allowing Christian students to have an after-school religious club at Milford (NY) Central School.
on May 19, 2014 4:54am
Find another piece.
Applauded by an audience of 9
on May 19, 2014 5:48am
There are several issues here.
Legally, you CANNOT change the setting's words without setting yourself up for a legal problem.  That alone should argue either for keeping it as is, or changing it.
Morally, if whatever other groups you're singing with are offended by the use of the word "Christ" in a text in a context which persumably celebrates faith in all its aspects, then you have a real problem:  should you be dealing with them in the first place if your own faith must be so compromised that the foundational reality of it needs to be excised?  What we generally MISunderstand about tolerance is that it should not become indifference - which is where this seems to be tending - or worse, moral mush.  You would no more consider, I suspect, were this a community chorus making these sorts of "compromises" - after awhile, all you end up sing is useless mush, textually.  What we MISunderstand about separation of church and state is that no more would we want a state-sponsored church than state-directed atheism.  Consequently, in this country (U.S.A.) it is a deliberately neutral ground, from the state's viewpoint, so that ALL religions can vigorously and openly express their beliefs.  Self-repression is no different from state suppression, except for the fact that its origins are from the very people who should celebrate their faith openly, unafraid - THAT'S what those who fought for the First Amendment (among others) in the first Federal Congress that voted for and enacted the Bill of Rights were aiming at.
I want to share a story which may have some bearing on this.  Years ago, at the Catholic parish where we worshipped, I directed the children's choir (47 kids).  We were invited to join with five other church childrens' choirs for a program to raise funding for the children orphaned by the war in Bosnia.  Great idea; great program.  Had it remained that the churches were sponsoring it and one was handling the distribution of the monies gathered, I would've had no problem, irrespective of whatever differences in organizational beliefs that might have been.  However, the organizer had obtained an outside organization AS THE SPONSOR of the program to help with the funding AND which would handle whatever funds accrued.  I was suspicious of this group, and did some research.  Long story short, they had as a part of their program "Women's reproductive rights," which is coded language for something unacceptable, in faith, to Catholics - abortion and artificial contraception.  Whatever my PERSONAL beliefs in the matter, I stood as the representative, officially, of that Catholic parish - I would have needed the permission of its pastor to participate, and he, properly, could and likely would have asked me about details.  And even if he hadn't, I still would have known about the program of the sponsoring organization.  If I had shared this information, which honestly I had to, we would have been denied permission, as an organization of a Catholic parish in union with Rome, to have participated.  I told the organizer, who was (and still is, thank heaven) a good friend.  She couldn't understand it; didn't see how it applied in this case.  Call it "guilt by association," if you will, but guilt it still was, and I had to see myself in a role separate from my personal role (which didn't differ, in fact), and act as a steward of the common faith which the children and their parents and the parish (who entrusted them to me) and I shared.  It was difficult, because the withdrawal of as large a group of this had a material effect on the final effort - but it had to be done, in order to be faithful and consistent with my own and our faith's beliefs.
So I think you must be in this case:  "non-denominational" cannot and must not mean "indifferent to individual faith's core beliefs."
Bottom line:  don't do it, please.
I'm curious, though:  did this "request" come from the organizer?  A particular group within the larger effort?  What's going on here?
Applauded by an audience of 9
on May 19, 2014 5:59am
The whole anthem is a reference to Christ, at least as far as the composer's concerned. 
If you have to do it and have no alternatives, you could sing "congregavit nos in unum Dei amor" which would still make grammatical sense, but the "Deum vivum" (living God) in the following line is also a reference to Christ, and I can't see a way round that other than hoping that people ignore it. But I think Duruflé would have been quite unhappy at "Christ" being substituted, and there is the copyright issue (though I can't see the publisher ever suing you over it).
If you want an anthem that you know the composer is happy to have used for interdenominational services and is in a similar tonal-but-modern style, have a look at "God to enfold me" which contains no references to Christ and which is fine for use with any other deist religion: Email me if you'd like to order a copy - chris(a) .
Chris Hutchings
on May 19, 2014 6:05am
Find another piece. I would echo that since it's about Communion, it wouldn't make sense to remove Christ from the piece.
In addition, why meddle with such a beautiful work of art?
Applauded by an audience of 6
on May 19, 2014 6:24am
ALERT - NON-CHORAL DIGRESSION:  Ouch!  The problem raises some challenging theological issues, which have come crashing down around you.  My sincere sympathies.  How is it possible to gather with people from vastly different religious backgrounds in some way that expresses a sense of communion (gathering, congregavit)?  Does changing a word fix the problem or merely ignore it?  Is there such a thing as "non-denominational"?  Or is "inter-faith" the more realistic goal?  I don't know that I can express myself spritually without using words from my Lutheran Christian upbringing.  But I'm also uncomfortable imposing those words on others, especially in a corporate act such as an anthem.  Is it possible to sing words arising from Christian sources about "Christ's love gathering us into one" which will be meaningful to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or even spiritually-minded agnostics?  Would Christian choristers object to a Taoist gathering song?  I don't answers, but I think having the discussion may be more important than changing a word.  Just not here, please!
Of course, you've had those discussions, and we don't need a theological thread.  Moderators, please delete the above if you think it inappropriate.
In answer to the question asked, "Dei" would substitute for "Christi".  Having sung the "Ubi Caritas" just a few weeks ago, it doesn't sound right in my mouth, but it scans.  Whether to do it or not is a personal choice.  Again, my sympathies for anyone in that situation.
There is another argument for leaving the text along.  The text is very old, but it appears that the composition is still under copyright.  The exclusion for worship services applies to performance rights, but changing lyrics could be seen as creating a derivative work, which would be a violation.  Or so opines a non-lawyer.
(By way of full disclosure, I'm married to a Lutheran pastor and hold a Master of Divinity degree myself, but grew up with many Jewish friends and have always been concerned about the particularity of faith expression and how it relates to other traditions.)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 19, 2014 6:29pm
What exactly did you mean by "But I'm also uncomfortable imposing those words on others, especially in a corporate act such as an anthem."
Are you implying that a non-Catholic should not sing the music of Palestrina, a non-Lutheran should not sing the music of J.S. Bach, or a non-Jew should not sing the music of Bloch? If that's not what you meant, I apologize.
"Is it possible to sing words arising from Christian sources about "Christ's love gathering us into one" which will be meaningful to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or even spiritually-minded agnostics?"
Yes! Robert Shaw did this all the time! Not that I have direct experience, but I have read a lot about Shaw.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 20, 2014 6:52am
Good question and comments.  Unfortunately, "uncomfortable" means that I'm not certain exactly what I mean.  Others have expressed themselves well, so I'll post once more and then tacet.
In concert, I'm very happy singing any worthwhile piece of music from any faith (or secular) source.  I can consider the music a significant part of the choral tradition, expressing human experience from a particular perspective.  That should be fine at the college level, and high schoolers should (I think) be able to understand.  It might be inapppropriate to ask young students to make the distinction.  And, of course, if the entirety of a high school concert is composed of anthems in praise of Jesus, I begin to doubt the "choral tradition" defense.
A worship setting, it's more of a problem because the intent is not musical but explicitly religious.  Corporate prayers are meant, presumably, to be offered by the whole congregation.  And a choral anthem involves active participation by the choir, as well as passive participation by the congregation.  In an inter-faith setting, that's a problem, or perhaps an impossibility.  Hence, my discomfort.  One "solution" would be to strip out all specificity of expression.  Blech!!  An alternative, with my vote, is to permit participants to contribute from their particular religious background, with the understanding that different congregants will find different levels of connection.  We each pray (or sing) from our own place, and add whatever "amen" we can to the prayers (or songs) of others.
In that context, I think the "Ubi caritas" is a marvelous choice as written.  Others have identified it as a Communion (Eucharist, Lord's Supper?) song, but I don't see any overt reference to body of Christ, etc., that binds it to that setting.  The text is very much about divine love gathering everyone into community.  That's pretty much what an inter-faith worship aspires to.  It's true that the text names Christ's love as the source of the gathering, and may well assume that the gathering involves the Christian faith, but that's a problem Christians always face in an inter-faith context.  The original context was probably not about proselytizing but rather praying for those fractious parishioners to get along.
Having said all that, it appears, sadly, that Maia has faced these issues, fought the fight, and found herself stuck in an unhappy situation.  We don't know the context or the history.  She may well be beyond the "toss the piece" option.  It's an important and worthwhile discussion, but we may not be able to offer her more than the flaccid "Dei".
Any perspectives from some of our other-than-Christian members?
Peace all.
P.S.  In 2008, on a glee club trip to China, another participating choir had been refused permission to sing the Biebl "Ave Maria" because of its religious content.  OK, that's life.  But after they performed it at an informal music academy concert, one of the academy heads successfully lobbied to have them sing it in Shanghai because of the quality of the music and their performance.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 20, 2014 3:07am
I write as a Jew, brought up and schooled in an Orthodox environment (in the US), no longer religiously observant though still maintaining a connection to the synagogue by directing a High Holiday choir. Perhaps some comments from a somewhat different point of view to those that have been heard so far may be useful.
Context is everything. In a concert performance -- say, the B-minor Mass in a theater -- "Christ" is simply a word of dialogue like any other, no matter what it once meant for its composer. Musical performers are actors; they make their roles their own and project them as if fully absorbed in them. So at the moment I am conducting the Mass, I believe every word of it, even if the moment it ends I no longer do. The audience knows it's coming to hear the B-minor Mass and, no matter what individuals in it believe outside, is willing to hear the word "Christ."
In a religious service, the word "Christ" has a particular connotation (presumably the same one Bach had in mind, but which in a concert setting lacks the evangelistic value of that meaning).
If I'm invited to a "non-denominational service," if the word "Christ" is spoken from the pulpit or sung from the stage or by the assembly, I will feel that I'm a victim of deceptive advertising. I would hear the word "Christ" as either something that excludes me or -- worse -- attempts to co-opt me. To a Christian, "non-denominational" may imply a community of Baptists/Methodists/Presbyterians/Episcopalians -- maybe even Catholics. Someone who assumes that Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists -- maybe even Unitarians -- are part of that faith community simply lacks knowledge and understanding. To a Jew (and perhaps to a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, etc.), "non-denominational" implies something not overtly Christian at all. A "non-denominational service," therefore, must not privilege Christianity.
Certainly, if it's a "non-denominational service," a different piece should be chosen. Aside from copyright issues, changing a word in an existing work for purposes of political (or other) correctness is simply too reminiscent of textual changes made to works such as the Mozart Requiem in Germany between 1933 and 1945. (There's a recording of the Mozart made in Berlin in 1941, conducted by Bruno Kittel with modified text.)
Finally, to the person who complains of "persecution" of "the Christian faith" in the United States, I hope you never have to find out what persecution really is. Shame on you.
Best regards,
Jerome Hoberman
Music Director/Conductor, The Hong Kong Bach Choir & Orchestra
Applauded by an audience of 13
on May 20, 2014 7:27am
I can't applaud this enough times.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 20, 2014 10:59am
Standing ovation from this Unitarian.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 20, 2014 7:35am
Just to throw another aspect into the mix (and honestly, not knowing the details of the situation, I cannot unequivocally say what I think the "right" answer is)...
Side by side with the theological issues, and that of the composer choosing to set this text (although, to be fair, he may simply have been choosing to set the Holy Thursday Offertory antiphon text and would have done so if any number of individual words were different--not to belittle the importance of the textual unity in the slightest, but when one is a Roman Catholic composer setting a Roman Catholic ritual text, one sets that text as it is and doesn't quibble overmuch, there's no luxury of weighing individual words or leaving parts out.) (Unless one is Faure. But I digress.), not to mention the very valid copyright question--might there also be some real value in presenting one of the finest small jewels in the choral heritage before an assembly who may never have been exposed to it, that the music has a deep power to it which we might choose to set forth, even if the particular situation is one in which another small concession ("Dei" for "Christi") might be made? I don't know the answer to this question, but it at least gives me pause...
If it were me, I'd probably want to take this to the planners of the event, or someone in authority whom I trust, and have a conversation about this issue, engaging in some high-octane theological hair-splitting--a gem of a piece that overall expresses the gathering together of many of God's people from different perspectives but joining in God's love, with one line saying literally "the love of the Anointed gathers us in unity" --Note: it's Christi, not Jesus, which could save you, since "Christ" is technically a title, not a name--which could be nuanced in a way that presents it as acceptable to an interfaith gathering. 
Just a thought. 
Ultimately, as you can read in this thread, this is a question with many perspectives to examine, and not enough real consensus to point to a "this is it" kind of solution. But it's such a glorious piece...
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 20, 2014 9:29am
This is my opinion.  
Don't.   If you remove Christ, you violate the context of the entire song.  The song is ABOUT Christ's love. If this piece of music inspired you, use the entire thing -- as is -- unapologetically. 
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.

Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.
The could be be discussed for YEARS.  There are other songs . . . use one of them.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 20, 2014 10:17am
Is it possible that the organizers of your service, Maia, as well as the Choral Professionals responding here, have lost sight of the actual meaning of the song?  Durufle chose only the refrain and first stanza {Wikipediea reminds us.}   Here is some of the  text:

"Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites."

*"As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease"
If we see it as a whole, not picking it apart, I think the intent is clearly about unity, mutual respect, and peace.  I hear no intent to persecute, co-opt, or otherwise manipulate.  Durufle' and the original  textwirter may have had awareness of current manipulation, persecution, etc. at their individual times, but I doubt they could have predicted what happens today.  I would agree that there is way too much intolerance in our world now, in many directions, for many unfortunate "reasons".   However, {I'm speaking globally here} it seems that the more we shame each other for what we perceive as unkind exclusion (even though that may not be the intent) , the more unwelcome lines we draw.  The more we decry actions and words as prejudice or persecution, the less likely we are to sit down and clarify exactly what it is that needs to be respected; so that we can foster understanding, returning toward loving-kindness.
The gentle ebb and flow of Durufle's setting, and the pleading toward love and unity are not difficult to understand; they are immediately experienced ( even by the textually uneducated and muscially untrained).
If a word-change proves the best remedy, perhaps this helps: (re: Durufle) "He only published a handful of works and often continued to edit and change pieces after publication." - Wkikpedia.
Sometimes we are so busy following the minutiae of rules, or using one word to generate fear of "their" reaction, or vent our anger-history, (and I certainly admit being there too many times!) that we step out of the river of music - missing the beautiful opportunity to be guided by the cool, gentle flow, to something more wonderful than we originally conceive.
 (For those Latin scholars who can help here: [yes, this is minutiae, but it might make a difference as to what folks are comfortable with]  Does "Christus Deus" literaly translate "Christ our God" - as in, we own/worship God,   - or "Christ of God" as in, Christ came from God, or  has a significant relationship with God?   As to our concept of  it, I think answers would vary, even from professed, educated and dedicated Christians.
So listeners can really decide for themselves.
The liturgical, quirky-but-honest, rascal in me says, "Put a rest there.  The choir will welcome a breath in the long phrases.  The listeners can substitute whatever word they chose, and maybe the choir's unexpected break in the phrase will help them [organizers/theologians/listeners/head musicians]  realize that they needn't be so particular next time.  ;)
As choral directors, is it not a large part of our calling/responsibility to :  " - Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:  As we are gathered into one body..."
I close with the Latin phrase that is on basically all of our {American} trading mediums. "E pluribus, unum" .  ("Out or/from many, one.)
Best Wishes to all!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 20, 2014 10:59am
Sing a psalm! Many settings are comparable to the Durufle in beauty. Bruckner Os Justi, Stanford Beati Quorum Via, Viadana Exultate Justi, Brahms O Heiland Reiss... plenty to choose from.
on May 20, 2014 7:30pm
As the text in question is Latin, should there be concern about the congregation's comprehension (or more likely, NONcomprehension) of this "dead" language?
on May 21, 2014 3:30pm
It's a choral classic! Why not just do it!  Taking the Christ out seems to me pointless.  I can't imagine anyone offended by the mere singular latin mention of "Christi" not being equally offended by doing such a piece at all!  This "service" must be considerably beyond "non-denominational."  It's a beautiful piece and touches the heart.  If you can, I would urge you to just do it as-is or change "Christi" to "Deus" without worrying about legal issues.  The text originated before the 10th century, for Pete's sake!  Surely Durufflé wouldn't mind, Christi or Deus...we're talking about the same person anyway. :)
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