Cantonese Psalm-Chanting?

For those who don’t know, mainstream Cantonese music, whether in the operatic tradition or the Cantopop tradition, maps melodies to the tonal contours of spoken Cantonese. This means that any translation into Cantonese music using a pre-existing melody is, almost necessarily, actually a paraphrase. There are, however, some attempts like this to use the actual words of Scripture (translated, of course):

I appreciate the desire to sing a Psalm itself rather than a paraphrase. The melody, though, doesn’t match the tonal contours of that Psalm spoken, so it strikes my ear as rather strange. What’s more, in a few places the melody misleads my interpretation, suggesting words to my ear that aren’t what the text actually says.

This seems to make Cantonese a very good candidate for Psalm-chanting in an indigenous recitative vein. This may even have the side benefit of supporting the vitality of Cantonese opera – or Cantonese musical theatre in general, wherever else it may exist – which generally consists of (to oversimplify somewhat) arias and spoken text.


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