Saturday, April 28, 2018

Abran la Ventana

Q: Why do Unitarian Universalists sing so poorly in church?
A: Because they are always reading ahead to see if they agree with the words.

My UU congregation in Bridgewater has made an effort to move -- if only a little -- away from this well-earned stereotype by adopting one new hymn each month. Singing it each Sunday of the month allows us to learn a new tune, and examine new lyrics for ourselves.

The Spanish version of the title and chorus
 make clear that the intention is
 to open the window together.
Still, we must start by being open as individuals.
On the first Sunday of April, I noticed that "Open the Window" is printed in our hymnal with an alternate chorus in Spanish and I was surprised that we left it on the page without trying it. I was pleased that we were able to do so later in the month. I noticed a few parishioners were somewhat apprehensive, presumably because they knew they might not pronounce the words fluently. The results, however, were beautiful.

As I did a little bit of research about the song, I learned that singing it in multiple languages -- including American Sign Language -- is an important part of what the polyglot songwriter Elise Witt intended when she created it. It is about openness and crossing borders, and was created specifically for use internationally.

I invite readers to learn more about this hymn from Rev. Kimberley Debus and to watch the Cary Academy singers put it to its intended purpose in this set of clips from a worldwide tour.



As I assured my fellow listeners, speaking -- or singing -- in other languages is not about perfection and should not be focused on what nuance of pronunciation we might miss. It is about building bridges and trust while learning from one another.

As I have argued in my academic role, even small forays across linguistic lines build a better world.

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