29 Feb 2012

Mozarabic chant:: Psalm 1

Am I alone in thinking this Mozarabic chant from Spain sounds remarkably Byzantine in flavour? It's sung in Latin, of course, but it could just as easily be Greek.

Later: A perusal of the album on amazon.com reveals that the singer is one Lykourgos Angelopoulos, who was trained in the Byzantine tradition. This explains the apparent similarity between Byzantine and Mozarabic chant as performed above.

27 Feb 2012

Dancing his praise

As a followup to my earlier review posts of the new Canadian Reformed metrical psalter, I want to call attention to an improvement in the translation of Psalm 150:4, which runs thus in one of the English-language versions of the Bible: "Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!" In the 1984 edition of the Book of Praise, the verse is rendered as follows:

Praise Him with the pipe and timbrel.
Praise Him with stringed instruments . . . .

Conspicuous by its absence is any reference to dancing, whose omission from the versified text appears to signal an uncharacteristically paraphrastic approach to the psalm. But this oversight has been rectified in the new edition:

Worship him in exultation
and with tambourine and dance.

Now that this correction has been made, perhaps we shall see more ventures like this taking off amongst Reformed churches:

21 Feb 2012

Please register for Singing the Psalms here.

Smith to praise bands: support congregation

Calvin College's prolific James K. A. Smith has published an open letter to praise bands that is worth reading and pondering. Writes Smith:

In particular, my concern is that we, the church, have unwittingly encouraged you to simply import musical practices into Christian worship that--while they might be appropriate elsewhere--are detrimental to congregational worship. More pointedly, using language I first employed in Desiring the Kingdom, I sometimes worry that we've unwittingly encouraged you to import certain forms of performance that are, in effect, "secular liturgies" and not just neutral "methods." Without us realizing it, the dominant practices of performance train us to relate to music (and musicians) in a certain way: as something for our pleasure, as entertainment, as a largely passive experience. The function and goal of music in these "secular liturgies" is quite different from the function and goal of music in Christian worship.

I might add that this tendency is present, not just in praise bands, but also in organs and traditional church choirs, whose anthems and liturgical responses often substitute for those of the congregation. Although I cannot entirely accept the Orthodox and Reformed Presbyterian proscription of instruments in worship, I do believe there is nothing more beautiful than unaccompanied congregational part singing.

Stolz: Psalm 16

13 Feb 2012

February updates

I have just posted my recently completed text and arrangement for Psalm 15. Coming near the beginning of the Psalter, this psalm bears some similarity to the first, extolling the virtues of the righteous person who avoids evil ways and follows the path of truth. Only such a person can be admitted to God's holy temple. Although this psalm does not refer to the law as such, the substance of its precepts is much in evidence here: the godly person refrains from wronging others, keeping unswervingly to the ways of God.

Of course, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that our own righteousness is insufficient to bring us into God's presence. The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ "entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption" (9:12). None of us "walks blamelessly, and does what is right" (Psalm 15:2), but Jesus does, and in him we trust for our salvation.

Here is my text below:

Who may abide, LORD, in your tent?
Who may ascend your holy mountain?
Those who are blameless in their walk,
faithfully doing what is right,
who from their hearts the truth have spoken,

who do not slander with their tongues,
and work no evil on their neighbours,
nor bring reproach upon a friend.
Their eyes despise the sinner's ways,
but those who fear the LORD they honour.

They keep the vows that they have made,
even to their own disadvantage.
They freely lend to those in need;
they never can be swayed by bribes.
All who do good shall not be shaken.

The tune has a metrical structure of 89 889 and is in the mixolydian mode. The text is unrhymed. With this text, I have now exceeded the halfway mark, with 76 Psalms: 50 percent plus one of the entire Psalter. (The 50-percent-plus-one threshold is a significant one for us political scientists!) As can be seen below, I have also posted my arrangement on my youtube channel. At some point I may post a slightly different arrangement I have come up with for guitar.

On another matter, I have considerably revised the videos page of the website. I am no longer making an effort to post any and every performance I can find of the Genevan Psalms. Instead I am now posting selected videos, along with links to the youtube channels of those who regularly post such performances. There is also a list of keywords that can be used to locate more performances.

1 Feb 2012

CanRef Church adopts ESV

In my two-part review of the Canadian Reformed Churches' new provisional psalter last year, I made this prediction:

The Bible translation used is the 1984 edition of the New International Version, which is a change from the Revised Standard Version used in the 1984 BOP. However, the NIV 1984 has now been updated and a new edition has just been published, the NIV 2011 (Click here to read my preliminary assessment of this new edition). Whether the CanRef Churches will adopt the update or switch to another translation remains to be seen. In any event, their Authorized Provisional Version was outdated at virtually the moment it was published. My guess is that the authorized final version will use yet another translation – possibly the English Standard Version, which is favoured in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Presbyterian Church in America.

Local pastor Wes Bredenhof has confirmed that his congregation, Providence Canadian Reformed Church, will indeed be adopting the ESV: Switching from NIV to ESV. Bredenhof:

At our last Council meeting we discussed this report and came to a decision. Since the old NIV is no longer available and the new NIV is not acceptable, we are compelled to adopt a different translation. Of the options available (NASB, NKJV, ESV), the ESV is the most attractive. We have therefore decided to adopt the ESV effective September 1, 2012.

Whether the rest of the denomination will follow suit remains to be seen.