12 Dec 2012


During this Advent season I have posted a second version of Mary's song, the Magnificat, in addition to my metrical version of this ancient Lukan canticle. This is not a new version, as I composed the music for it twenty years ago. My inspiration came from the chanted psalmody of Fr. Joseph Gelineau as used in the Roman Catholic Church for the past several decades. Accordingly, I have used a modified form of The Grail text. Here is a description of Gelineau psalmody from my Reformed Worship article, Straight from Scripture:

One of the more interesting ways of singing the psalms was developed by Joseph Gelineau of France. Of all the methods of singing the psalms, Gelineau's chant best preserves the Hebrew poetic style, retaining both the parallelism and the metrical structure of the original. Ancient Hebrew meter is somewhat like early English meter (e.g., nursery rhymes) in that it focuses on the number of stresses within a line rather than on the number of syllables. Gelineau psalmody is often sung to the Grail translation, which was produced specifically for this purpose. The following passage (again from Psalm 54) is "pointed" to indicate the regular rhythmic stresses in each line:

          O God, save me by your name;
          by your power, uphold my cause.
          O God, hear my prayer;
          listen to the words of my mouth.

Gelineau psalmody also takes into account the different number of lines within each stanza, something that is not possible with other methods of psalm-chanting.

Gelineau psalms are usually sung responsively. The soloist or choir begins by singing the refrain; then the congregation repeats it. The psalm then proceeds responsively with a soloist or choir chanting the verses and the congregation responding with the refrain. Many Roman Catholics, who have recently begun congregational singing, have found this "responsorial" style of psalm-singing very helpful. A refrain (or antiphon, an older term) is much easier to learn than the whole psalm.

Among Protestants who are used to exclusive metrical psalmody, the responsorial style has the advantage of making a clear distinction between psalms and hymns. Rather than simply reading the psalm directly from the Bible or singing a paraphrased version of it metrically, the congregation can sing the actual words from Scripture.
Here is a Gelineau version of Psalm 25 sung on the First Sunday of Advent at St. Peter's Church in Columbia, South Carolina:

No comments: