28 Dec 2020

Psalm 23: Cross Free Church

The congregation of Cross Free Church, Cross, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, sings Psalm 23 to the tune NEW BRITAIN, apparently a popular tune to which to sing psalms. This was from a special worship service recorded in August 1992.

23 Dec 2020

Psalm 22: Sternhold & Hopkins

Not a lot has been done with the Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter (1562) on YouTube, except by the Scottish Psalter CMD channel, whose recordings I am reluctant to recommend. However, someone has posted a very nice vocal rendition of Psalm 22:23-24, 31, set to the tune NEW BRITAIN, usually associated with John Newton's famous hymn, Amazing Grace. The arrangement is by John Purifoy, with Steve Boyce singing.

English Protestants sang from the S&H throughout the 17th century, and it became one of the principal liturgical resources of the Church of England, along with the Book of Common Prayer, Miles Coverdale's prose Psalter, the Books of Homilies, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1571). The S&H remained in use until Tate & Brady's "New Version" Psalter was produced. Metrical psalmody died out in England in the 19th century, perhaps due to the influence of the Oxford Movement, which brought back chanted psalmody. Today metrical psalmody is associated with Scotland, but at one time both of these ancient kingdoms sang the Psalms in metre.

Here is Psalm 22, posted earlier this year:

22 Dec 2020

Psalms 91 and 93 chanted

This chanted version of Psalm 91 is interesting for two reasons. First, although it is sung in Latin, it uses the Hebrew numbering of the psalm. In both the Septuagint and the Vulgate it is numbered Psalm 90. Second, the style of chant is much more similar to Greek Orthodox than to the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church familiar to us today. A certain Dom Johannes Benedict OSB writes here:

My Experience as a Monk for over 40 plus years, trained in Liturgical Chant, this is Chant is from the time Period in The Universal Church when the Liturgy of both the Latin or Western Church and those Churches in The Byzantine or Eastern regions was very similar in both the Structure of The Eucharistic Liturgy, Music and Liturgical Art and Vestments and Vessels. I refer you to the Melody of this Chant, plus the Early Liturgical Texts and Museum Pieces of Liturgical Art, plus the existence of St. Mark's, Venice and the Churches in Sicily.


 Listen to another chant with a similar flavour. This one is Psalm 93(92):

21 Dec 2020

Paul Krause on the Psalms

I just posted a link on my other blog to an article by Paul Krause, Hebraic Exceptionalism and Western Exceptionalism. After the fourth asterisk, he takes up the biblical Psalms, comparing them with Augustine's Confessions

The Psalms were—and remain—the great book of praise, introspection, and prophecy. The Book of Psalms was the most read and commented book of all Scripture in the early Church. Augustine devoted himself to countless hours meditating on the Psalms since meditation of the Psalms is “the meditation of [the] heart understanding,” as Psalm 48 says.

What makes the Psalms so moving and powerful is that it is a window into the agony and hope of a man, a mortal man like the rest of us, a man whose glory is well-known but whose failures and sins are also well-known. This is why Augustine’s Confessions remain, after one and a half millennia, an enduring testament of Western and Christian literature. Confessions is a window into a broken but ambitious sinner-turned-saint. Augustine’s Confessions, like David’s Psalms, penetrates the depth of the human psyche like no other ancient work of literature and gives a grand display of the self in its earliest formation . . . .

The Psalms are special because the Psalms narrate a spiritual journey, a spiritual flight, the ascent of David (in particular) to be with his God. They are far more influential on Augustine than Plotinus’s unemotional elaborations on the Soul’s desire to reunite with the One. The movement of the inward soul to the seat of Divinity planted in the heart of man is revealed in Scripture and not Greek philosophy. Following Scripture, not Plotinus, Augustine’s Confessions narrates a spiritual and physical pilgrimage.

Original psalm tunes: Anatomy of the Soul

A fairly new YouTube channel, Anatomy of the Soul, belonging to RPCNA pastor Brian Wright, has posted several metrical psalms, using the texts of the Book of Psalms for Worship sets to original music which he himself composed. Here is Psalm 119:105-112:

And here is Psalm 141:1-4:

And finally, here is an especially lovely and plaintive rendition of Psalm 73:13-22:

I appreciate the singer/composer Brian Wright setting the psalm texts to new music. Some may feel disoriented singing psalms to familiar tunes that we have come to associate with other texts. Music written especially for the texts is most appropriate and will help us to focus better on their message.

19 Dec 2020

Sternhold & Hopkins' Metrical Psalter

The same year that the Genevan Psalter was completed and published, 1562, saw the publication as well of the English-language Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter. Its origins also reach to Geneva, where English protestants were living in exile during the reign of Queen Mary (1553-1558), whose ruthless persecution of protestants is recounted in Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Two years earlier the Geneva Bible had been published, and subsequent editions included, not only the book of Psalms proper, but also Miles Coverdale's prose Psalms from the Book of Common Prayer and the Sternhod & Hopkins metrical psalter. The Remnant's Voice channel on YouTube has recently posted nearly eight hours of a computer-generated male voice reading through the entire Sternhold & Hopkins, including such non-psalm canticles as the Te Deum and the Benedicite Omnia Opera.

I do not necessarily recommend listening to the entire recording, but it may serve as a handy reference for those interested in the S&H. However, this might work better: The Whole Book of Psalms Collected into English Metre By Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, and Others. Some of the texts differ from the recorded version, suggesting revisions between 1562 and 1599. The S&H remained in use throughout the 17th century in England until replaced by Tate & Brady's "New Version" Psalter in 1696.

18 Dec 2020

Psalm 27: two versions (plus one)

Here are two versions of Psalm 27, the first from the Book of Psalms for Worship:

 And the second from the Genevan Psalter:

And while we're at it, let's hear a Dutch congregation singing the same psalm, with Hendrik Hasper's lyrics. Recorded in GKV De Rank in Zuidhorn with Egbert Minnema at the organ.

17 Dec 2020

Gaelic Psalm-singing: Psalm 107

This is a rather different form of Gaelic Psalm-singing from what we often hear in congregations from the Scottish Hebrides: Psalm 107:21-30 (Gaelic) sung by Kristine Kennedy to the tune Loch Broom. The voice and the tune are lovely, although I'm not convinced that the tune precisely fits the mood of Psalm 107.

I personally find the proper Genevan melody for this psalm a better fit. But see what you think:

15 Dec 2020

14 Dec 2020

Psalm 23 (The Bays of Harris): The 1650

This congregational singing of Psalm 23 has some of the flavour of the lining out we heard earlier of Gaelic Psalm singing, but the rhythm is more even and the singing is more lively. This is not a practised choir but a sturdy congregation whose voices blend beautifully in praise of God.

12 Dec 2020

Psalms 8 and 46

Two more offerings from the RPCNA Psalter: First, Lord, Our Lord (Psalm 8b).


And second, God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength (Psalm 46a).

9 Dec 2020

He Will Save the Needy (Psalm 72e)

This is a great metrical rendition of Psalm 72:12-20 set to the tune of the lively South African hymn, Siyahamba. Who says Reformed Presbyterians are stuck with the old Scottish tunes? Might we call this genre "Covenanter Swing"?

8 Dec 2020

4 Dec 2020

God as Judge: Do we still pray the imprecatory Psalms?

Last week I posed these questions on this blog after posting a video of Psalm 3, which speaks of God smashing the teeth of the wicked: "What do you think? Do you have difficulty singing psalms with such language? How ought Christians to sing them and in what spirit?" Thank you to those who took the time to respond in the comments section.

Many Christians believe that there is such a gulf between the Old and New Testaments that the latter has entirely superseded the former with its preaching of forgiveness and love. Here are some historical examples that I mention in my Introduction to the Genevan Psalter:

At least since the Enlightenment many Christians have claimed to find the psalms something of an embarrassment. Even so indefatigable an apologist for the Christian faith as C. S. Lewis refers to some expressions therein as uncharitable and even “devilish.” The great Isaac Watts once wrote: “Some of them are almost opposite to the Spirit of the Gospel: Many of them foreign to the State of the New Testament, and widely different from the present circumstances of Christians.” In Dostoyevsky’s celebrated novel, The Brothers Karamazov, there is a scene in which the protagonist Alyosha’s recently deceased mentor, Father Zosima, is being memorialized prior to burial. Because Father Zosima was a “priest and monk of the strictest rule, the Gospel, not the Psalter, had to be read over his body by monks in holy orders” [thus implying the Psalter's inferiority to the Gospels].

3 Dec 2020

Psalm 104 in Hebrew

This is not a metrical psalm, but it is in Hebrew and is sung in a most compelling way. The musicians are the Yamma Ensemble from Israel singing, not the entirety of Psalm 104, but the first five verses: Psalm 104 sung in ancient Hebrew (ברכי נפשי את ה' - תהלים ק"ד).


2 Dec 2020

Psałterz Dawidów: Chorea Kozacka, Jarosław 2016

Here are more Psalms from the Psałterz Dawidów, posted last month. These are from a live performance in 2016 in Jarosław, Poland, of the Chorea Kozacka, a choral ensemble from just over the border in Ukraine. Typical of the Ukrainian and Russian style, the male voices predominate, lending a certain depth of feeling to the Psalms. I believe we are also hearing the hurdy gurdy and the crumhorn, period instruments from the mediaeval era. We begin with Psalm 3:

1 Dec 2020

Psałterz Dawidów: Psalm 47

This is an absolutely delightful performance of Psalm 47 from the Polish Psałterz Dawidów: Mikołaj Gomółka - Kleszczmy rękoma, Scholares Minores pro Musica Antiqua. The costumes, the period instruments, the children, and the art gallery setting all make this a feast for eyes and ears alike.

Psałterz Dawidów: Psalm 25

In this first week of Advent here is another metrical version of Psalm 25, posted less than a month ago. This is from the Polish Psałterz Dawidów, of Jan Kochanowski and Mikołaj Gomółka: Psalm 25 - Mikołaj Gomólka/Jan Kochanowski - Choreia Kozacka, Jarosław 2016.

Psalm 150: Kodály

Here's a quick-paced performance of Zoltán Kodály's arrangement of Genevan Psalm 150. It was posted five years ago, yet at time of posting it had only 18 views. I think we can easily more than double that number.

30 Nov 2020

Lord, How My Foes Are Multiplied: Psalm 3

Another psalm from the RPCNA's Book of Psalms for Worship: Lord, How My Foes are Multiplied. This is Psalm 3 and is one of those texts that speaks freely of "smashing their [the wicked's] teeth with mighty blows," a phrase notably absent from most contemporary worship songs. In light of such language, I wonder whether another tune might be more fitting for this text. Perhaps something in the phrygian or dorian modes.

What do you think? Do you have difficulty singing psalms with such language? How ought Christians to sing them and in what spirit?

29 Nov 2020

Mazmur Jenewa: Psalm 25

On the first sunday in Advent, the western church for nearly two millennia has sung Psalm 25: "Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long." The theme of waiting pervades the entire Advent season, as we look to our salvation in the coming of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, into the world. Here the psalm is sung in Indonesian: Mazmur 25 Mazmur Jenewa / Psalm 25 Genevan Psalter, at the GPIB Paulus (St. Paul's Protestant Church) in Jakarta, with Nico Gamalliel at the organ.


28 Nov 2020

O Lord, our Lord: Psalm 8

Here is another sung psalm from the RPCNA's Book of Psalms for Worship: O Lord, Our Lord (Psalm 8c), set to the familiar tune STROUDWATER.

Incidentally, in future I will be including links to the video in addition to embedding the video itself in my post. This is because some people access my blog with their phones, which appear unable to handle embedded videos.

27 Nov 2020

Thanksgiving Psalm: Psalm 67

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in the United States. As such it is appropriate to post a choral performance of Psalm 67, the text and tune for which appear to come from the metrical psalter of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA), or Covenanters. The Psalm was originally written with the season of harvest in mind. The melody, THAXTED, is, of course, from the Jupiter movement of Gustav Holst's orchestral suite, The Planets.

26 Nov 2020

Psalmul 42: Singing the Psalms in Romanian

The congregation of the Biserica Evanghelică Reformată București (Reformed Evangelical Church of Bucharest) sings the familiar Psalm 42:

Salmo 65

The congregation of the Igreja Presbiteriana de Arcaju, Brazil, sings Psalm 65:

25 Nov 2020

Chants et Musiques de la Réforme

A member of the Lovers of Metrical Psalmody Facebook group has alerted us to this album posted online, beginning with variations on the Genevan melody for Psalm 9. The entire playlist can be accessed here: Chants et Musiques de la Réforme (along with commercial messages).

24 Nov 2020

Jubilee Octet: Psalms 47, 61, 62, 67, 130, 134, 138

Last year I posted four Genevan Psalms sung by the Jubilee Octet, namely, Psalms 2, 6, 22, and 42. Here then are Psalms 47, 61, 62, 67, 130, 134, and 138. The Jubilee Octet is located at the Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. They sing the texts from The New Genevan Psalter. Unlike much of the singing in the Dutch churches, the Octet's performance of these psalms maintains a brisk and lively pace, with the obvious exception of Psalm 130. Very nice indeed!

23 Nov 2020

More Psalms from Chile

Here are more psalms from the Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana in Santiago:

22 Nov 2020

Salmo 23, salterio de ginebra

Singing Psalm 23 in Spanish at La Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana, Santiago, Chile.

18 Nov 2020

Pidoux's history

I have added in the right sidebar a link to a page carrying a History of the Genevan Psalter - Dr. Pierre Pidoux. Here is an excerpt: 

On entering a cathedral, a tourist is often struck by the inherent harmony of the whole structure; a harmony which results from a well-defined design and successful proportions. He would not, at first, be aware that the edifice was the work of several generations of architects and stone-masons. His attention for details, evidence of a development of taste or techniques of successive generations, would only come later.

That is the case as well with the French Psalter which in its completed form was published in 1562. At first glance it seems that it is of uniform construction; one psalm looks much the same as another. One could easily think that the words and music were put together at one and the same time. The unity is even so strong that, if the initials of the author were not given, it would be impossible to tell who was responsible for what versification. The same can be said for the melodies: they all look the same, their origin, however, is veiled in anonymity.

It is indeed a unity: the Psalter of Geneva contains only versifications that remain faithful to the Biblical prose text. We do not find in them commentaries, paraphrases nor meditations inspired by a certain passage. Neither do we find attempts to actualize them, as can be found in German hymns of the same period.

One assumes that the text on this webpage is taken from the two-volume work by Pierre Pidoux (1905-2001), Le psautier huguenot du XVIe siècle, i: Les mélodies; ii: Documents et bibliographie (Basle, 1962).

17 Nov 2020

Paduan Suara GRII Bandung - Mazmur 42 (Claude Goudimel)

Here is another performance of Psalm 42 by Gereja Reformed Injili Indonesia (GRII) Bandung. Bandung is the second largest metropolitan area in Indonesia and lies 140 km southeast of Jakarta. Typical of 2020, this is a remote, socially-distanced performance.

Here is a translation of the description accompanying the video:

Psalm 42 describes the Israelites' longing for God and God's house like a deer longing for water. Without water, the deer will go thirsty and eventually die. Such are we human beings without God's presence: dry and even dead.
The song's lyrics are based on Psalm 42, while the melody is taken from the Genevan Psalter, which first appeared in 1539. The polyphonic arrangement of the third stanza was composed by French composer Claude Goudimel (1514-1572). Both the melody and the arrangement have an anticipatory feel depicted by the notes rising and falling again.

Hopefully, through this song, we will appreciate how wonderful it will be when we are once again able to gather at God's house to worship communally. May God strengthen us all.

This praise offering was delivered by the GRII Bandung Youth Choir.

8 Nov 2020

Salterio Ginevrino

A member of the Lovers of Metrical Psalmody Facebook group alerted us to the following website and YouTube channel, maintained by Italian guitarist Simone Caneparo, who has recorded the 150 Genevan Psalms for guitar. Here is the website: salmodia.org. And here is his YouTube channel: The Genevan Psalter For Guitar. These sound like they're played on electrified acoustic rather than classical guitar, with melody overdubbed with chords.

And here are six samples from Caneparo's collection:

5 Nov 2020

Mazmur 42: Mazmur Jenewa

Here is the Cantate Deo Chamber Choir singing Genevan Psalm 42 in Indonesian. The boy soprano solo on the second stanza is most impressive. The young man sings easily and beautifully, enhancing the performance as a whole. The venue is the GRII Sydney, a congregation of the Reformed Evangelical Church of Indonesia, located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

27 Oct 2020

Two more psalter pages added

I have now posted a sample of my ongoing Genevan Psalter project, with a limited number of my own versified texts and some performances from my YouTube channel. This is a very incomplete version of my former website. In addition, I have posted an abbreviated version of my Niagara Psalter project, along with three YouTube performances. This largely completes my pages to accompany this blog, although I may later post my efforts to render in English the Psałterz Dawidów of Jan Kochanowski and Mikołaj Gomółka as well.

22 Oct 2020

Mazmur 25, Mazmur Jenewa

Shortly after I posted the photographs of the Indonesian Genevan Psalter this morning, someone alerted me to the video below:

Mazmur: Bahasa Indonesia

I would love to obtain a copy of this Indonesian metrical psalter. Note that the melody line is rendered in numbers, which are not difficult to figure out, rather than in conventional western musical notation. For those who love the Genevan Psalter, the tune for Psalm 89 will already be familiar.

This composite photograph was originally posted in 2018 by Frank Ezinga on Facebook.

19 Oct 2020

Another page added

I have now added a fourth page to my Genevan Psalter pages. This contains a LORD'S DAY LITURGY for Reformed Churches, slightly modified from my former website. From the introductory rubrics:

The following liturgy for the Lord's Day is adapted from the forms prescribed by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, and draws on a number of other sources, including the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services. This particular liturgy is intended to demonstrate the various uses of the Psalms, especially the Genevan Psalms, in the course of worship. In accordance with the wishes of John Calvin and the near universal practice of the church catholic in the first millennium, the ordinary weekly Lord's Day liturgy comprises both word and sacrament.

The versified Psalm texts are my own, as indicated at the bottom of the page.

12 Oct 2020

Genevan Psalter pages revised and restored

This is to let readers know that I have restored three pages from my former Genevan Psalter website, which can be found at the top of the right-hand column on this page. These include my introductory essay, bibliography, and selected annotated discography. I may add more pages, if I think it appropriate. What I have not brought back is my own project to set the Psalms to verse and to arrange their proper Genevan melodies.

5 Oct 2020

Gomółka - Nieście chwałę... Psalm 29

A performance of Psalm 29 from Kochanowski and Gomółka, Psałterz Dawidów, performed by Ars Nova, under the direction of Jacek Urbaniak, with Anna Mikołajczyk as soprano soloist.

29 Sept 2020

Sweelinck: Psalm 150

Among Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck's exquisite arrangements of the Genevan Psalms is the final one, Psalm 150, performed here by the Netherlands Chamber Choir.

9 Sept 2020

Timeless: Psalm 125

Here is a recently posted performance of Psalm 125 from the Timeless Psalter. Words and music by Marva L. Hughes. Performed by Vocal Tapestry.

26 Aug 2020

Kodály cantors curtailing COVID

Among the many choirs performing on Zoom-like platforms during the current pandemic is this one from Hungary singing Zoltán Kodály's memorable arrangement of Genevan Psalm 114. The choir is from the University of Pécs, Faculty of Arts, under the direction of Dr. Péter Hoppál. 


12 Aug 2020

Psałterz Poznański: Psalm 13

Here is the latest contribution from Psałterz Poznański: Psalm 13, sung to the Genevan tune. There are no introductory notes to translate, but this psalm puts into words what many of us are feeling right now during this protracted pandemic:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me? 
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

The psalmist does not allow himself to remain on this note, wallowing in self-pity, but closes by expressing confidence in God's promises, something that may have taken some effort on his part:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

13 Jul 2020

Cantus Christi: 2020

Last month I received in the mail a copy of Cantus Christi 2020, the latest edition of a psalter and hymnal produced by Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. The reason I was sent this is because I provided the music for their metrical text of Psalm 137. Whether it is appropriate to review a collection to which one has contributed I will leave the reader to decide. But given that I was in no way connected with the planning and editorial process, I believe I am permitted to post my impressions of the volume as a whole.

In that spirit I will indicate that this is a remarkable achievement drawing on the liturgical riches of the larger Christian tradition as well as on the gifts of the living contributors. That it was produced, not by a denomination, but by a single congregation is all the more impressive, although this makes for certain deficiencies, two of which I shall mention below. I myself worshipped at Christ Church during my visit to New Saint Andrew's College in late 2018, so I was able to make a brief acquaintance with the confessional and liturgical ethos of the congregation, which is part of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, a quite new denomination that is unusual for not having broken off from another larger Reformed denomination in the past.

23 May 2020

Psałterz Poznański: Psalm 67

They're at it again. Psałterz Poznański has now posted a lovely performance of Psalm 67. Here are the introductory remarks translated by google into English:

This beautiful Davidic psalm is at the same time thanksgiving (for the crops of the earth and other his gifts), a request for His blessing (in particular, that his ways would be known all over the Earth) and a call addressed to all nations to worship God. We invite you to listen to and sing Psalm 67 together.

The Polish lyrics and guitar chords can be found here.

17 May 2020

Sweelinck's Psalm 96

I never tire of listening to performances of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck's exquisite arrangement of Genevan Psalm 96. Not everyone does a good job of it, but Dennis Keene and the Voices of Ascension get it right.

I've not heard all of Sweelinck's arrangements of the Psalms, so I cannot say whether every one is as beautiful as this. At some point I would like to get my hands on Het Sweelinck Monument, which includes all 150 of his psalm arrangements. When and if I do, I will be sure to review it here.

14 May 2020

Central Presbyterian Church Virtual Choir singing from Psalm 19

During the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, many churches have been having online worship services and virtual choirs. Here is our church's virtual choir singing the closing verse of Psalm 19 to a setting composed by our choir director, Roger Bergs: