This quotation is from a post from Choral Net by Scott Dorsey. Choral Net is a wonderful resource for choirs and leaders alike. I have learned much from being able to share with directors from all over the world. My how times have changed. When I was teaching school, it was an effort to talk to the teacher in the next school never mind one in France. Oh I LOVE technology. But as much as times have sped up, we often use music written many years ago so this is an interesting idea.
"While watching a classic old black & white move recently, one was struck by the incredible changes that have taken place in the role gender plays in society. In his article, “Church Musicians and Inclusive Language: A Beginning” (Central Division Resound Vol.34, No.1), Andy Call discusses how the use of words reflects such changes:
Regardless of our personal feelings about the debate over gender-neutral or gender-inclusive vocabulary, that vocabulary is now a part of the fabric of our language.
We do have to listen to the words we use when speaking but as Scott has suggested perhaps we need to think about changing words in old text to suit a present day norm. I think that the debate is not just about gender but about any group of people.
1. Should we change the words? Changing words can change the rhythm and feel of a piece. Singing old songs means we will be representing that period in time. I think we need to be aware of that and discuss the none inclusiveness of the language not matter what ages our choir represents. I tend to even mention it when we perform if it is appropriate.
2. Should we sing that song? Perhaps, if the song has a very skewed use of language, it might be inappropriate to be sung. Is the music worth the use of language that is derogatory towards a certain group of people? I think not. If I wouldn't be comfortable saying the words, then I certainly won't sing them. Even if we change the words of a well know song, the old and perhaps insulting words may still be remembered. My vote is nix the song.
3. How do we decide? Common sense is our biggest ally. Put yourself in the other's shoes. Ask others and if they feel at all uncomfortable then let that common sense kick in. There has got to be something else out there more important than that single song.
What do you do?