Spiritual songs > The Hymnal Project

Wondrous news

Current version

Here is the version in the Byzantine Catholic Hymnal (2007):

Boh predvicnyj

This setting of the beloved Christmas hymn, Divnaja novina, is taken from the Metropolitan Cantor Institute's Byzantine Catholic Hymnal for Nativity and Theophany (2007). The English translation is by Monsignor William Levkulic.


Almost all our spiritual songs are metered hymns – that is, they have a regular rhythmic pattern, usually indicated with a time signature and bar lines. When these hymns were translated to English, the resulting versions sometimes had beats added or modified. To avoid very obscure time signatures, the MCI chose for the 2007 Byzantine Catholic Hymnal to write them out like plain chant, as entire phrases.

Wondrous news is an example of why this was really not a good idea. The original hymn (see Divnaja novina) is quite regular. The English version added a couple of "cantor-isms":

Father Levkulic made a reasonable attempt to translate the second verse in Slavonic, whose second line is (approximately), "Loneliness (or possibly, ''pilgrimage') and poverty he needed to know." Father Levkulic attempted to clarify this by adding the words, "God had deigned it so." Unfortunately, this meant that the rhythm of the second verse (to SERVE the POOR) is a good bit different from the rhythm of the first verse (BORN of MAry) over the same notes.

In setting the Slavonic and English for the new hymnal, I have decided to try the following:

Here is the result:

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I think this makes it easier to sing and understand, without being too jarring. if someone DOES choose to sing the tenor harmony (over "Bethlehem"), it still works. And now there is less confusion over how each verse is to be sung.

Please leave your comments on this blog entry: Christmas Songs Old and New!