24 Nov 2010

Not so exclusive psalmody

Like the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, the Free Church of Scotland has historically allowed only unaccompanied singing of Psalms in the liturgy. However, its synodical assembly has now decided, by a narrow majority, to permit extrabiblical hymns and instruments in worship for those congregations desiring it. Given that the assembly was divided on the issue, many are unhappy with the decision — with one minister considering leaving the "Wee Free" for another Reformed denomination — thereby incurring the scorn of at least one member of the press. The Free Church's statement can be found here.

Incidentally, I have just been lent a copy of the RPCNA's new Book of Psalms for Worship, which replaces the Book of Psalms for Singing. I have not yet had a chance to look at it carefully, but at first glance I see that it is strictly limited to the 150 canonical Psalms, excluding other biblical material, such as the Decalogue, the Song of Hannah and the three Lukan canticles.

17 Nov 2010

November update

  • Andrew Donaldson mentioned my introductory essay in the web version of The Presbyterian Record: You’ve Got to Listen to This.

  • I have added the Chabanel Psalms to the links page. The Corpus Christi Watershed, which is behind this project, has its own youtube site that is worth exploring.

  • Also on the links page is a link to the 1912 Psalter as used by the Free Reformed Churches of North America. The 1912 Psalter was the basis for the Christian Reformed Church's Psalter Hymnal, as well as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's Trinity Hymnal, whose 1961 edition I grew up with. The Free Reformed Churches may be the only denomination still singing from the complete 1912 Psalter.
  • 15 Nov 2010

    Singing the Psalms: Chabanel Psalter

    First there was Wikipedia, the global collaborative encyclopedia of virtually everything worth knowing — and, admittedly, a lot we'd be better off not knowing. Then there was open-source software — free, downloadable software that is also part of a collaborative effort. Now we have the Chabanel Psalms, which might be described as an open-source liturgical psalter.
    The St. Noel Chabanel Responsorial Psalm Project, found at www.chabanelpsalms.org, exists as a remedy for the problematic and sometimes malignant musical settings that so often destroy the prayerful atmosphere the Church requires for her public worship. It is part of the fruit of the nonprofit organization Corpus Christi Watershed, an apostolate and institute dedicated to helping renew the arts and creative media in the Church. . . .

    This website clearly lays out all three liturgical years, and for each Sunday and feast day provides numerous musical settings of the Responsorial Psalm in English. The different versions, sometimes as many as twelve per Psalm, were contributed by highly skilled Church musicians working in parishes all over the world. . . .

    Everything on this website (vocalist scores, organist scores, transposed scores, alternate versions, audio mp3 examples, etc.) is provided for instant download, completely free of charge.

    Although the Chabanel Psalms are composed with the liturgical standards of the Roman Catholic Church in mind, there is in principle no reason why the Reformed churches could not make good use of them. After all, we have our own share of "malignant" musical settings crying out for better-quality replacements. Furthermore, there is no canon requiring us to sing only metred psalms. Chanting the psalms would certainly suffice and might even have an advantage in that it requires no alteration of the texts. It's worth a try. Here are four examples below:

    Psalm 130:

    Psalm 122:

    Psalm 112:

    Psalm 16:

    9 Nov 2010

    Random act of worship

    Although the words to Handel's Hallelujah Chorus come from the Revelation and not from the Psalms, I just had to post this uplifting video, which has moved a number of people I know to tears. As we draw nearer to Advent, it is good to be reminded musically of the hope we have in Christ, who will come again to bring his kingdom to fruition.

    1 Nov 2010

    Exclusive psalmody, encore une fois

    One of my Redeemer protégés, Michael Zwiep, has written a post on his Nadere Reformatie blog, Essay: Psalmody Through the Ages, defending the exclusive use of Psalms in the liturgies of the Reformed churches. His own Free Reformed Churches of North America, practise what Zwiep preaches, although they sing largely from the 1912 Psalter rather than from the Genevan Psalter.

    Singing the Psalms at Redeemer

    On Tuesday evening, 5 April 2011, I will be presenting a lecture on Singing the Psalms at Redeemer University College. This is from the announcement on Redeemer's website:

    Dr. David Koyzis will explore the tradition of singing the psalms set to poetic metres as found especially in the 16th-century Genevan Psalter when this tradition was initiated by John Calvin. In particular he will discuss his own 25-year project of writing fresh poetic versions of the psalms and arranging their proper Genevan melodies. Be prepared not only to learn but to sing!

    Dr. David T. Koyzis is Professor of Political Science at Redeemer University College and is an amateur poet and musician. He is the author of Political Visions and Illusions (InterVarsity Press, 2003) and is currently writing a book on authority and the image of God.

    You are cordially invited to attend. Bring your voices along!