Date published: March 1, 2010
Hymnal Thánh Ca Dân Chúa A Hymnal for Vietnamese Catholics, OCP, 1198. Hardcover. $12.00.
Although I grew up singing Vietnamese church music in my local youth choir, I have also become very fond of the American repertoire as a result of my involvement with campus ministry since my time in college. Thus, as a second-generation Vietnamese, and as someone who was reared in the United States since infancy, I am extremely proud that Thánh Ca Dân Chúa is available for both the Vietnamese and English-speaking (and singing) Catholic communities. OCP has provided a much-needed quality resource for bilingual and bicultural worship.
As the cultural gap between second-generation Vietnamese (children of refugees and those born in the United States during the 1970s and '80s) and their immigrant parents continues to widen, there is a particular need for cultural sensitivity in today's liturgies. Most Vietnamese Catholic communities have their own hymnals which are assembled locally, but bilingual resources are still lacking. The increase in bilingual liturgies among Vietnamese Catholic communities in the United States requires music that is liturgically appropriate, authentic, and of demanding quality.
Now, after years of research, development, and consultation, OCP has provided a resource like no other. Thánh Ca Dân Chúa provides the Vietnamese community with 350 songs from their repertoire (including psalms), and 100 English and bilingual (English/Vietnamese) titles. This hymnal is an extensive addition to what OCP began nearly ten years ago with two small booklets of bilingual songs Chung Ḷi Tán Tung and Chon Ngài). The selection includes various newer compositions as well as traditional songs that are timelessly cherished among the Vietnamese Catholic community. Some of my personal favorites found in the hymnal include: "Bao La Tinh Chúa" (Giang Ân); "Linh Hon Tôi 2"(Kim Long); "Tinh Yêu Cua Chúa" (Ngoc Linh); and "Ca Khúc Tram Huong" (Dao Kim).
As an amateur guitar player, I greatly appreciate how OCP has provided chords for all the songs in this hymnal. Besides playing contemporary Christian praise and worship compositions and Catholic liturgical music with English texts, I often enjoy playing Vietnamese church music on guitar. However, most Vietnamese composers do not provide accompaniment chords on the sheet music. Therefore, like other amateur musicians, I am limited to accompanying a small selection of hymns. Now, with Thánh Ca Dân Chúa, even the most inexperienced instrumentalist will have chords to follow.
The hymnal has an imprimatur from the Diocese of Xuân Lôc, Viêt Nam. Liturgists can be certain that it uses the correct and approved liturgical texts. Furthermore, while most hymnal resources in the United States still have the dated translation of the Vietnamese Order of Mass, this hymnal contains the revised translation of the Vietnamese Order of Mass, which was promulgated by the Vietnamese conference of bishops in 2006. This is also the first hardbound book in the OCP family of hymnals to remove "YHWH" from the English repertoire, in accord with the statement issued by the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship in August 2008. In accord with the Congregation's statement, consultation in Saigon replaced "Gia-vê" in twelve Vietnamese hymns.
Unique among Vietnamese resources, this book includes copyright permissions. It has been common practice for composers and text writers in Vietnam to use pen names, due to tensions between the Communist government and the Church during the 1970s and 1980s, but compilers of no other resource have explored the actual names of these composers. Thanks to extensive research and signed letters of agreement, the hymnal records these names and the dates of composition for the first time. This alone makes the hymnal an invaluable document for any ethnomusicologist wishing to survey the content and development of Vietnamese hymnody.
It brings me great joy that a flavor of the prayerful music which nourishes the spirit of my faith community is available to those who are not Vietnamese. An array of the most accomplished Catholic composers is represented: Nguyen Duy, Mi Tram, Xuân Thao, Thành Tâm, Phanxicô, and many more. They could be considered the Vietnamese equivalent of names familiar to English-speaking Catholics in the United States: Bernadette Farrell, Michael Joncas, Dan Schutte, and John Foley - whose well-known titles are also included in thishymnal. Not only are their compositions in the original language, but a variety of their English songs have been translated into Vietnamese and can be valuable selections for multilingual celebrations. Singers, choir directors, and assembly members alike may find numerous songs quite uplifting in both languages. For example, "My God and My All," "The Cry of the Poor," "Fly Like a Bird," "Ubi Caritas," and "Here I Am, Lord."
Liturgists and music directors will be pleased that the table of contents, indexes, and titles are all in Vietnamese and English. Particularly helpful for those preparing bilingual or multilingual liturgies is the language index. This lists all the English songs, bilingual songs, and even a few trilingual (Spanish) titles.
Two pieces missing from this book may be added in a future edition. The English Order of Mass is not included, but with changes to the English Mass forthcoming, this was probably to keep the book from becoming dated in a few years. Furthermore, most Vietnamese American congregants at bilingual Masses prefer to have the Order of Mass in Vietnamese and to integrate the readings and songs with English. So perhaps this is not a major problem.
A second missing piece is this: The bilingual songs are all English hymns with Vietnamese texts, so Vietnamese (and non-Vietnamese) Americans who enjoy singing Vietnamese melodies with English translations might be left wanting. Of course, this hymnal is primarily intended for the Vietnamese American community, and because of the challenging tonal nature of the Vietnamese language, the melodic beauty of certain songs could become lost in translation. These are probably the reasons why no Vietnamese hymns have English translations in this book. (Liturgists and musicians can refer to Chung Ḷi Tán Tung and Chon Ngài, already published by OCP, which give English translations of selected songs.)
Overall, Thánh Ca Dân Chúa is an extraordinary liturgical and musical resource. Where else can you find a hymnal that includes music by Bob Hurd, Ricky Manalo, Steve Angrisano, Christopher Walker, and Trevor Thomson alongside compositions by Ân Dúc, Do Vy Ha, Van Chi, and Hoài Dúc, all in the same book? The Vietnamese American community is extremely grateful to OCP for all the years of research that went into the production of this hymnal.
Hai Hô, OFM CAP