9 Jan 2010

New year updates, 2010

I have made several updates to my website in recent weeks, as indicated below.

  • For Christmas my wife gave me a rather extraordinary CD, The Psalms of Ali Ufki, whose name readers will recognize. It is billed as "An interfaith concert of sacred music exploring the shared traditions of Judaism, Turkish Sufism, Greek Orthodoxy and Protestant Christianity." This performance by a collection of musicians was recorded under the auspices of Dünya, an organization undertaking to "foster awareness, educate, deepen the dialogue and celebrate the similarities between the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths." Recorded 2005 at Harvard University.

    The one Genevan tune on this disc is Psalm 13, performed in Protestant, Jewish, Greek Orthodox and Turkish Sufi versions. The tracks to listen to are 1, and 17 through 21. Number 19, the "Greek Orthodox Version," takes its text directly from the Septuagint, where it is numbered Psalm 12, managing, by means of melismatic manipulation, to fit this nonmetrical text to the Genevan tune, where it sounds strikingly like Byzantine chant. This is a remarkable achievement, yet it is testimony to the enduring strength and versatility of the Genevan tunes. Definitely worth hearing and savouring. I have posted this on the discography section on the links page.

    Incidentally when I told my father, who was born in the Greek Orthodox community in Cyprus, about Ali Ufki, he recognized the name immediately, knowing that he had translated the Bible into Turkish. Ali Ufki seems to be better known in the eastern Mediterranean than in the English-speaking world.

  • After having received this CD, I versified the text of Psalm 13 and just this past week composed an arrangement of the tune. Although the traditional rhyming scheme for this psalm is a-a-b-b-a, I have altered this to a-b-b-a-c, which better fits the alternation of masculine and feminine endings to each line: m-f-f-m-f. The music can be heard here, and the score can be downloaded here. For purposes of comparison, Michael Owens' performance of Goudimel's arrangement can be heard here.

  • I have at last completed a full versification of Psalm 119, the alphabetical psalm which is by far the longest. The tune I arranged back in 2001, while I began the unrhymed versification in 2007. I had still not done very much of the psalm as recently as September of this past year when I decided to go through it methodically and attempt a full versification before Christmas, a deadline I managed to beat by one day.

    I confess that I am not entirely satisfied with much of this, because the Genevan tune has six lines per stanza while each Hebrew letter has sixteen lines. I opted to try to fit two English stanzas into each letter, making for a total of 44 stanzas. This meant that I usually had to combine the thoughts of four lines into two lines per stanza, or eight lines into four lines per Hebrew letter. This doesn't work equally well throughout the psalm. I may try to reversify the psalm using a different scheme at some point.

    I have not yet had the time to put together printable musical scores for the entire psalm, but that will come, probably sometime during the summer months.

  • My text, Christ Who Is in the Form of God (Philippians 2:6-11), was recently republished in Hymns for Worship, by Faith Alive Christian Resources, the publication arm of the Christian Reformed Church. It is set to Sir Charles Hubert Parry's tune, JERUSALEM, to which, in my humble opinion, it is ill suited. The CRC should have followed the Mennonites in using Orlando Gibbons' SONG 34, which the late Canadian pianist Glenn Gould thought to be the finest piece of music ever written.

  • As of last October I am one of the bloggers at the new First Things blog, Evangel. First Things is, of course, the journal founded two decades ago by the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, whose death almost exactly a year ago silenced one of the more significant Christian voices in the North American public square. For the most part my posts there concern Christianity and the public square, but I am taking the opportunity when appropriate to post on the psalms and liturgical matters in general. This is my most recent contribution: Epiphanytide.

  • Finally, I should mention another gift from my thoughtful wife, who thoroughly supports my interest in the psalms. To my surprise, she presented me with a copy of the 1903 facsimile reproduction of the 1640 Bay Psalter, a scanned version of which can be found here. What a wonderful surprise! Thank you, sweetheart.
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