Hispanic Heritage Month Music Resources
September 15-October 15 is designated as Hispanic Heritage Month in The United Methodist Church, giving local congregations the opportunity to celebrate the importance and contributions of the Hispanic culture in worship. United Methodist publications are rich in musical resources that may be included throughout the year, but especially during this month.
Congregations that do not speak Spanish are understandably reluctant or intimidated when asked to sing a hymn in Spanish. It is far more important that we lead them in the experience of singing the Spanish than in teaching them to pronounce the Spanish correctly. A simple word of instruction from the song leader to not worry about all the diacritical markings and the accents, but rather to pronounce the Spanish as if they were singing English will help people enter into the singing. A brief comment about how Spanish often elides or combines an ending vowel sound with a beginning vowel sound of the next word on the same note, with both vowels connected by a short curved line, would be helpful. Then point out an example from the hymn text and demonstrate it. Another possibility for singing is to encourage people to sing the Spanish or the English as they choose, or to switch back and forth between the two languages, resulting in a truly bilingual experience.
Many Spanish hymns move right along at a quick tempo appropriate to a joyful text, making it more difficult for non-Spanish singers to sing the words. Begin at a slower tempo that can be increased with familiarity and as the people grow more comfortable singing the Spanish. The song leader might offer a word of praise and encouragement after the first stanza of a hymn, perhaps following it with a brief recitation of the first part of Spanish text of the next stanza. The people will respond favorably to such encouragement and instruction.
Many of the Spanish hymns in our hymnals are bilingual, containing full English translations. You may wish to sing a stanza in Spanish followed by the same stanza in English. Some hymns contain a refrain to be sung after the different stanzas. You might have the congregation sing only the refrain while a soloist or the choir sings the stanzas; then eventually ask the people to sing the stanzas.
Several United Methodist publications provide history, commentary, and practical suggestions for incorporating this music in worship:
The Hymns of The United Methodist Hymnal: Introduction to the Hymns, Canticles, and Acts of Worship, Diana Sanchez, ed., Abingdon Press, 1989.
The Worship Resources of The United Methodist Hymnal: Introduction to the General Services, Psalter, and Other Acts of Worship, Hoyt L. Hickman, ed., Abingdon Press, 1989.