Tony Cummings reports on the translation bureau TranServe run by PAT HERRIDGE
Our earlier series The Biz painted in broad brushstrokes the business infrastructure that exists to support Britain's Christian music ministry. But beyond the clearly visible record companies, concert organisers and festival administrators there is another group of behind-the-scenes workers who are pioneering new initiatives to bring a viable and effective platform for the expansion of Christian music both in Britain and world-wide. The work of these hard-working individuals is largely unrecognised or unknown, even by many Christian musicians. In our new series we will be highlighting the function and ministries of Britain's Christian Music Pioneers. We kick off with a look at the translation bureau work of Pat Herridge, TranServe. Pat spoke to Tony Cummings.
There are approximately 6,528 languages spoken in the world today. Amongst Christians it is usually only missionaries and Bible-translators who grapple with this daunting fact. Though the nations of planet Earth are still under the shadow of the Tower of Babel, Britain can largely ignore the staggering diversity of languages and cultures because of the happy accident that we speak English - and thanks to America's world domination of arts, media and commerce, English is the most widely circulated language of all. Yet if we ignore the reality of many hundreds of languages we live in blissful ignorance and non-communication with the two thirds of the world's population who DON'T speak English.
Pat Herridge is a phenomenon, a onetime legal secretary with 'no particular gifting for languages and who can only speak English' yet the person who is determined on wrenching the World Church's attention towards a multilingual planet and how it effects Christian music. From her home in Hailsham, Sussex, Pat runs TranServe, a translation bureau which has already been responsible for organising over 600 translations of Christian songs into a staggering variety of languages: Spanish, Polish, Slovak, German, Romanian, Swedish, Chinese and many more. Says Pat, "My dream is that every country will receive from the other and be blessed by it, to see each nation respect the fact that we all have something to learn and give to each other, particularly in the form of worship songs." Pat explains that for many years she has noticed a special unity, which comes through people worshipping together in a way that no amount of talking will do.
The birth of the TranServe concept can be traced back to 1988 when Pat was working with Geoff Shearn who, under the CMA Trust banner, was planning a national worship conference. Pat remembers that someone suggested that the publicity leaflets should be headed up 'International' Worship Conference rather than 'National' Worship Conference. This happened and surprisingly, this simple device brought in a good number of conference attenders from overseas.
"It was at this conference that I could see in practise what I had felt for a long while, that it is wonderful for the different nations to worship together," says Pat. "This was underscored two years later when the CMA Trust also held a worship conference in De Bron, Holland. This was the first time that I had the opportunity of worshipping with Eastern Europeans in the West and to me it was an amazing experience! However, this also heightened my awareness in a practical way, that these people would be learning new songs in English and were being inspired to go back to their own nation, translate them, whether qualified or not, and then teach them. With little, if any, quality control and emphasis on encouraging only 'one authorised translation' within a nation, it continued to feed a confusing situation within the church overseas. For us in the UK it's easy to worship, once we have learned the song, we can really concentrate on worship, but if you always find variations in a song, eg, like the modern updated hymns, you can never be sure of what you need to sing! It must be a distraction to worship, which we probably find hard to understand."
At the beginning of 1991 suddenly things began to change for Pat. The CMA Trust was passing over the Church Copyright Licence, which it had pioneered in the UK, to the American financed company who had also started a similar licence in the States. The CMA Personal Membership, which was under the direction of Ian Traynar, was passed over and moved into the Christian Musicians and Artists Trust. This left Pat, a veteran of Christian music administration, wondering somewhat what her role was going to be in the future. Over the next few months this became clearer and through a process of discussions with Geoff Shearn, Business Manager of Graham Kendrick, things began to crystallise.
Pat had known Graham Kendrick since 1976 through working with his record company, and it was clear that Graham also had a real vision for this whole issue of quality in translations. It was at this point that Pat started to develop the concept of TranServe. "I felt one of the key areas to develop was to find those already doing this work, and to encourage them to work together as a 'team' in order to 'hone' back each other's work. As I was to discover, very few people seemed to be working together, if any, and there were people altering each other's translations without consultation and really not encouraging one another. I saw my role as twofold. Firstly, in order to get good quality work I needed translation teams so I had to analyse the giftings necessary for this work, encourage and develop the right people, and build relationships. Secondly, I saw my role in helping establish the use of only the 'one good quality translation' throughout a particular country by those publishing or administrating the songs. That is really how it started."
Initially, Pat was working on Graham's vast catalogue of worship songs, firstly in the main Western European languages, German, Swedish, Dutch, Italian and Spanish, but as the situation in Eastern Europe changed, opportunities came to build up teams in countries such as Poland, Estonia, Russia and the Czech Republic. Pat expresses how it was so much the Lord's timing to be able to develop this work in those countries as well! Also she has contacts in places like Japan, Brazil (Portuguese) and an excellent team of Chinese translators! "These are a little more difficult because they are further afield, but I believe with modern communications it should get easier!"
I asked Pat a thorny question. Do TranServe's growing teams of translators get paid for their work? "Graham Kendrick has been a great supporter of this work over the past few years and now things are developing with other songwriters/publishers, who have begun to see the importance of the translating ministry in a new way. The theory is that the translators get paid from the revenue which comes in from the use of their translation in that language which may be used anywhere in the world. However, there is a complex network of collecting agencies, both secular and Christian around the world which is not too hot and which itself needs to be re-vamped to be more efficient. Fortunately there are glimmers of hope here! Most translators do this work out of a heart's desire to see good seeds sown in their nations. I see my role not only as developing and encouraging the translation teams but also as a bridge to encouraging the owners of these songs to recognise the great wealth of work which is done by these folk and to invest more of their time, money and effort into this area."
What, I asked, were the qualities and background needed to make a good member of a translation team, beyond the obvious need to be fluent in two languages. "I put down several criteria to people being involved in the group, such as worship leaders, musicians, poets, songwriters and theologians. The latter is particularly important with songs like Graham Kendrick's because of the depth of meaning in the original English. I have found one or two funny re-translations back into English where it has been obvious the original meaning has not been picked up! However, I have also translated some Maranatha! Music songs which are far more simple but still have to be understood properly in the original English...or American."
As well as Pat's expansion to translate an ever-broadening variety of British and American worship songs, she is also looking to build up reciprocal teams - for example, Swedish into English, German into English. Then there are possibilities of every combination within the European languages, German into Romanian, Dutch into German. Also there is the whole area of contemporary Christian songs which also have a great need for good quality translations.
"I think the great dilemma with anything you're pioneering is that you need the revenue in order to pioneer! Certainly right from the beginning of this work, I have always realised that there are a great many songs which are springing up from all other nations which could enrich our worship. I have never wanted a situation where it is always English into the foreign language. Why shouldn't this be cross-pollinating? As I've travelled around, and particularly the first time I went to Romania, I was so aware of the fact that we here in the UK have got such a lot to learn from Christians in other nations. Why not therefore take their great songs and put them in English! I'm not into the history of imperialism very much, but I can see how it's damaged relationships where there is an unhealthy superiority. I want to encourage reciprocity! I think we've got to learn that we are a 'partnership' with God's people!"
This then is the extraordinary work and vision of Pat Herridge. Aided by the latest in computer technology she has single-handedly built up lines of communications with literally hundreds of musicians and worship leaders from around the globe. In any day her chattering fax could be bringing in the Slovak translation of some Kendrick March For Jesus or an enquiry about Swedish worship songs being translated into English. There are few encouragements and fewer financial rewards. Yet this extraordinary worker for Christ battles on. Pat's final comment was a telling one, "I know what an important role music has played in my spiritual life. It has helped me to express things that I could personally not have expressed without contemporary worship music. My work is to help more and more people, whatever their country of birth, whatever their culture, whatever their language, to find the same blessing in music as I've found."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.