24 Mar 2012

Diephouse & Scheer: Psalm 80

Today I was contacted by Greg Scheer, Minister of Worship at Church of the Servant, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Music Associate at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He informed me that he and David Diephouse, historian at Calvin, have co-authored a paraphrase of Psalm 80 to be sung to the proper Genevan melody. From his blog post:

A month ago, I decided that Psalm 80′s vine themes would fit perfectly with a sermon on “I am the Vine.” But I wasn’t sold on any of the versions I found. The closest thing to something that excited me was a stodgy metrical text paired with a great Genevan tune that I hadn’t heard before, O PASTEUR D’ISRAEL, ESCOUTE.

So I sent David Diephouse an email: I think there could be some kind of rich ties between God clearing a place to plant a vine (Israel), Jesus ingrafting us into himself the Vine, and perhaps even the fruit of the vine and the Tree of Life. Play with it and see what you come up with, whether it’s a literal metrical setting or a looser hymn that treats Psalm 80 through New Testament eyes.

He, like me, works best when a songwriting project is a diversion from a pile of “real” work, and he quickly sent me a first draft. He would insist that the bulk of the final draft is my words, but the fact is he established the basic structure and set up key phrases like “graft us into the Living Vine.” Add a bit of advice on Goudimel’s harmonization from our church’s local music historian, Cal Stapert, and you end up with a really solid metrical Psalm that revives an overlooked, but beautifully singable Genevan tune.

The text is a free paraphrase with a christological focus, similar in many respects to Isaac Watts' psalm paraphrases from the 18th century. Here is a pdf file of the piece: O faithful Shepherd of your people; and here is an mp3 file of the congregation singing it. The harmonization is that of Claude Goudimel.

I myself set this psalm to verse last year and wrote about it here: Updates: Psalms 70 and 80. My own text is somewhat more literal than Diephouse's, as can be seen here for purposes of comparison.

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