Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Latin?

I know it seems a long way off, but it’s a huge undertaking and rehearsals have been underway for over a month already. Next November, when the Prairie Players stage The Sound of Music, I will portray one of the nuns.

Don’t laugh. I’d make a terrific nun.

If I were Catholic. And sweet and kind. And celibate. And knew Latin.

It’s my first musical and I have no spoken lines. I don’t even have a name, so I’ve chosen “Sister Twisted” for myself. I’m not the greatest singer, but that only makes this feel like a greater privilege. With the talented Nita Wiebe belting the alto line into my ear, I can usually stay on key. Or close to it, although “close, but no cigar” is the rule in choral singing. If they ask me to start lip syncing, I will take it as a pretty strong indication that I’m no longer an asset to the abbey.

I auditioned because it seemed like a lark. It should have occurred to me that these particular larks do most of their singing in Latin. I can’t say learning Latin ever appeared on my bucket list, even if joining the cast of The Sound of Music did. The language is relatively simple in that, unlike our ridiculously complicated English, it has no silent letters. And vowels are always pronounced the same way. Even so, memorizing a list of random syllables, pronouncing them correctly (“tall” vowels, not “flat,” as our music director James Reynolds keeps harping about), matching them to the correct note, keeping the right tempo, and later adding the choreography seems like an insurmountable challenge to this amateur. No fudging allowed!

So I’ve typed out the illusive syllables phonetically and hung them beside my bathroom mirror to work on while I do my hair and makeup each morning. (How very un-nun-like!)

Thus, “Rex admirabilis Et triumphator nobilis” becomes “Rex awed mee rah bee lees, Et tree oom fah tor no bee lees.” If Hubby didn’t know what I was up to, he’d haul me off for psychiatric evaluation or exorcism.

Now the last thing I need is to learn I’ve been unwittingly chanting some voodoo curse, calling down terror on my neighbourhood as I apply my Maybelline. So it became imperative to research the meaning of what I’m singing, and I made an interesting discovery. Did you know the nuns’ opening piece of The Sound of Music is taken from Psalm 110? When you look at the words and understand the political backdrop of the story’s setting, I’m convinced Rodgers and Hammerstein in all their genius had even the nuns making a subtle but strong rebellious statement. As their beloved Austria feels the looming shadow of the Third Reich, their chant proclaims:

“The Lord says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’  The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies!’ Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. The Lord is at your right hand…”

 So, with the ever-nearing echo of Nazi boots on cobbled streets, the cloistered sisters cling fast to the God who is their solid rock.

A life lesson for us all, in any language and under any threat.

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to be a nun too -- when I was 8. My hopes were dashed by the whole 'not being Catholic' part. There are Mennonite nuns, but they are required to be fluent in Plautdeitch, and live with their parents until two out of the three of them die.

    But seriously, congrats on crossing off another entry from your bucket list. And thank you for doing your research and sharing that tidbit of sobering truth. Millions of spiritually deaf North Americans desperately need to hear and believe our warning that the Nazi boots are coming again, this time disguised by a cloak of peace, love, tolerance, and political correctness.