Latin Diction (Ecclesiastical) 


Latin is one of the most frequently encountered languages in Western music and the most important second language for the English-speaking vocal musician.  When preparing a composer’s setting of a Latin text, many variables can be considered, most obviously the time of composition and region in which the composer lived.  Terms like “standard Latin,” “Church Latin,” and “Ecclesiastical Latin” are often used by conductors and coaches.  However, the definition of these terms, specifically what sounds the vowels and consonants produce often are not clear.  Many different books and guides exist that attempt to explain these sounds to singers.  Their discrepencies have led to a lack of uniformity in vowels and consonants in rehearsal and performance when only instructed to “use standard Latin.”

The guides and recordings here have been created using the best parts of a collection of existing sources, with the objective of creating aesthetically pleasing, intelligible, singable sounds that will enhance the music performed for both singer and audience member.  Because Ecclesiastical Latin is not the native language of any country, variables exist in teaching that may never be resolved.  Ecclesiastical Latin is based on an Italian model of vowels and consonants.  Because Italian is such a common language for singers, and because of its natural beauty, I have chosen maintain some of the rules of Italian lyric diction that, in some Ecclesiastical Latin diction resources, are eliminated.  The most obvious is the voiced /z/ when a single “s” appears between vowels.   The guide presented here for Ecclesiastical / Italian Latin is appropriate for any sung Latin text, although alternatives exist for works by composers outside of Italy, most frequently France, Germany, and England.  

Sean Taylor



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