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.