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Mil Voces Para Celebrar

In 1996 the General Conference approved a second official hymnal of The United Methodist Church, Mil Voces Para Celebrar. (A third official hymnal, the bilingual Korean-English Come, Let Us Worship, was published in 2001.) Many will recognize the phrase "Mil Voces Para Celebrar" as the Spanish translation of Charles Wesley's "O, for a thousand tongues to sing," and that hymn takes its place as the first hymn in this all-Spanish hymnal ("How Great Thou Art" is number 2).

Mil Voces Para Celebrar (MVPC) is a complete hymnal and worshipbook, containing liturgy, services, resources, indexes, and hymns and songs of all kinds in Spanish. Some are Spanish translations of well-known English-language hymns, and all of the major familiar English favorites are included. There are also modern-day Spanish-language hymns in a variety of styles, as well as contemporary praise and worship choruses (coritos).

As an officially approved hymnal of the denomination, it is commended for use to the entire United Methodist Church, not just to those congregations that worship in Spanish. And I want to echo this recommendation, especially to English-speaking and other congregations. MVPC should be seen and used for much more than a resource that provides hymns and songs in Spanish. It is a treasure trove of musical styles from Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico, as well as a number of indigenous communities within the USA. You will find hymns that make unabashed use of Hispanic and Latino rhythms, meters, and dance forms, many with the rhythms written into the accompaniment voices. MVPC melodies and harmonies often reflect stylistic features of classical and secular music of these locations also. There is an element and degree of emotional expression that is commonly present in this music that is rarely seen in the congregational song sung by most non-Hispanic/Latino congregations (as is also the case with much music of the African-American church) — whether it be unbounded, joyful exuberance; intense and quiet reflection and meditation; or heartfelt love for God. The music often takes off on melodic or harmonic flights that add such marvelous effect when sung.

I would like to highlight a few specific selections from MVPC for you to consider using with choir, soloist, and congregation. Most are probably unfamiliar to traditional, majority-church United Methodists:

  • 13, Te alabaré, Señor
  • 18, Alzo mis manos
  • 129, Tenemos esperanza
  • 130, Padre nuestro (The Lord's Prayer)
  • 151, Camina, pueblo de Dios (also in The United Methodist Hymnal)
  • 161, Santo Espíritu, excelsa paloma (includes English)
  • 229, Amarte sólo a ti Señor
  • 290, Momento nuevo
  • 322, Te ofrecemos Padre nuestro (includes English; also in The Faith We Sing)
  • 348, Unidos

In all these songs, coritos, and hymns, look first for the underlying rhythmic pattern in the accompanying voices and let it take prominence. Listen for it also in the melody. Expect parallel thirds and sixths. Watch for syncopations. Be aware that Spanish lyrics make frequent use of syllable elision, much more so than English lyrics.

What about English translations? For most of these, there is no readily available translation. Preparing a translation of a copyrighted lyric is not covered by licensing, and it requires permission. It is always best if a translation or approximation is available for non-Spanish speakers. Find a Spanish translator and at least get an approximate equivalent of the Spanish in English so that your people know what is being sung. Many of the songs and hymns in MVPC may be found in other English hymnals, and many are in the public domain.

Mil Voces Para Celebrar is available from Cokesbury stores or catalog (telephone 800-672-1789).

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