I’m excited to announce a new project that I’ll be sharing on Times and Seasons over the next few months – my Mexico Mission Hymnody project.
A few years ago, a future new edition for the Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was announced. While working on what would become my first post on Times and Seasons, I talked a lot with friends about what the next hymnal might look like. Virtually all of my friends who had served in Spanish-speaking missions mentioned loving a song that didn’t have any English equivalent – “Placentero nos es trabajar”. I mentioned it in passing as something that might be added in an update to the hymn book in my 2018 post on the subject. I followed up in early 2019 with a post specifically about Spanish-language hymns that might find their way into the next hymn book. While researching for the latter post, I came across an article by John-Charles Duffy and Hugo Olaiz that detailed the history of the Spanish-language hymnals in the Church.
One thing that stood out to me in the Duffy and Olaiz article was that there were 23 hymns written originally in Spanish and published in the hymnbooks that were prepared for use by the Church in Mexico, either in the original 1907 edition or the subsequent 1912 edition. As described in the article:
Hymn texts were produced by American missionaries, Anglo saints living in the church’s Mexican colonies, and native Mexican saints. … [These texts] included original Spanish hymns authored by Latter-day Saints. … The original Spanish hymns are especially interesting because they represent the blossoming of a distinctive Spanish LDS hymnody. The 1907 hymnal contained twelve original Spanish hymn texts; eleven more appeared in the 1912 hymnal. About half these original texts were authored by native Spanish-speaking saints and were written to accompany existing hymn tunes.
The idea that these 23 texts represented a blossoming of a distinctive Spanish Latter-day Saint hymnody struck me and the idea of doing a project to honor that hymnody began to form.
With that idea in mind, I began to tinker with creating English translations and writing original music for the hymns. (Not that there are any problems with the original music, mind you, I just used it as an excuse to write and also thought it would be fun to have more options, since they all share music with existing hymns.) As I worked on hymns to submit to the Church for the new hymnal, I included a couple of these settings that I had created by that time for their consideration. I have no idea whether any of them stand a chance on that front (probably not, given the sheer odds), but I was happy with what I submitted. Since then, I’ve continued to work at translating the texts into English and creating new settings for the hymns, particularly during this last year. I’m ready to share them, and will be doing so over the course of this series.
A few disclaimers on my work. I admit that my Spanish is pretty rudimentary, so I did rely on translation tools to help me along the way. As such, I am open to any suggestions that will lead to greater accuracy in the translations. Also, I recognize that the hymns in the official mission hymnbooks are not the only Latter-day Saint hymns written in Spanish (there was, for example, a 1911 collection by Samantha T. Brimhall-Foley that was published in Utah that I have considered including in this project, but ultimately did not have time to use), but I have limited myself to the texts included in the official hymnals of the Church and its missions for now.
There are also some significant challenges with translating hymns in a way that allows them to be sung to the same tune as the original. For example, the number of syllables per line need to correspond, there are specific patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables to follow, as well as rhyming patterns at the ends of line. I didn’t always follow the same rhyming patterns (I generally just stuck with and ABCB pattern even if the original was ABAB to simplify things). Because of this, the translations aren’t always as exact as a prose translation would be.
Moving on from the disclaimers, alongside the hymns themselves, a second aspect of the project developed over the course of this last year. To learn what I could about the context in which these hymns were written and used, I began studying the history of Mexico and the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico. I was fascinated by the stories I learned. So, along with sharing the hymns, each post will feature a snapshot of the history of the Church in Mexico. I tried to align the history and the hymn as much as possible, though there are still a lot of occasions where they are only tangentially related at best.
With all that in mind, there will be 23 posts after this one in the series, each one starting with a quote from a Latter-day Saint either from Mexico or with ancestry from Mexico followed by a presentation of the text of the hymn with any variations over the years and a translation. Each post will then include a presentation of the hymn with its music – first with the music it was originally intended to be sung with, followed by any other music it has appeared with in the hymn books, and then my own original tune with the hymn. Finally, each post will conclude with a discussion of a topic from the history of the Church in Mexico. The first in the series will be published on Monday. I hope you enjoy.
|Post Number||Hymn||Hymn author|
|1||La Proclamación||José V. Estrada G.|
|2||Padre Nuestro en el Cielo||Manrique González|
|3||Humildad||W. Ernest Young|
|4||Santos, Dad Loor a Dios||Edmund Richardson|
|5||¿Por qué somos?||Edmund Richardson|
|6||Dios Bendícenos||Edmund Richardson|
|7||Hermanos, Venid||José V. Estrada G.|
|8||Venid, Hermanos||José V. Estrada G.|
|10||La Obra Ya Empieza||Edmund Richardson|
|11||¡Oh gente afligida!||Edmund Richardson|
|12||La Voz de Jesucristo||Edmund Richardson|
|13||Venid Hermanos En La Fe||Edmund Richardson|
|14||Despedida||Andrés C. González|
|15||Tened en Dios Confianza||José V. Estrada G.|
|16||La Ofrenda||José V. Estrada G.|
|17||El Tiempo Ha Llegado||Ramón Garcías|
|18||Mensaje de paz||Joel Morales|
|19||Te glorificamos, oh Dios||Marion B. Naegle|
|20||Promesa Cumplida||Joel Morales|
|22||Dios te loamos||Edmund Richardson|
|Digno es de todo loor
Nice project – it represents a significant effort, and will be a welcome addition to the accumulated musical/historical/religious body of LDS knowledge. Thank you.
Chad, I’m looking forward to this series. Especially for translating hymns, accuracy is overrated.
I’m not sure if this relates to what you’re doing, but the Spanish version of Called to Serve (Llamados a Servir) has 4 verses where the English has only 2. I have always wondered if the extra two verses were written in Spanish for the Spanish hymnal or if they were translations of something else.
Called to Serve does seem to have more verses when published elsewhere. I’m having trouble finding a lot of instances where it has been published, but this post shows a version with three verses, as an example: https://ldshymnology.wordpress.com/tag/elsie-duncan-yale/