Two months ago in this space I recounted the story behind my longstanding interest in the biblical Psalter and its liturgical use. In the mid 1980s I came across the Genevan Psalter, with which I had previously not had much contact. My childhood church sang largely from the 1912 Psalter, with a very few Genevan melodies included, such as the ubiquitous Psalm 134, renumbered OLD HUNDREDTH in the 1650 Scottish Psalter.
It wasn’t until age 30 that I discovered the riches of the Genevan Psalms. To my surprise, I found that I had already had a copy of them in Czech which I had acquired at an antiquarian bookshop in Prague a decade earlier. Published in 1900, during the last decades of Habsburg rule, it contains the versifications of Jiří Strejc, a member of the Unitas Fratrum, the heirs of the 15th-century Hussites.
I was quite taken with the Genevan tunes, whose metrical structures are much less regular than those of the psalters used in the English-speaking world. Their rhythms are occasionally syncopated in the style of Renaissance madrigals. Although generations of Dutch Reformed Christians became accustomed to singing them in agonizingly slow even notes, they were originally sung in the spirit of dance tunes, famously leading Queen Elizabeth I to deride them as “Genevan jigs.”
25 Jun 2021
16 Jun 2021
The late William L. Holladay (1926-2016) was professor of Old Testament at Andover Newton Theological School in Boston. In 1993 he published a marvellous book, The Psalms through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses (Augsburg Fortress). I purchased this book eleven years ago, and, while I read bits and pieces of it afterwards, only now have I got round to reading it from cover to cover. Indeed it is one of the most extensive books in English about the biblical Psalms, covering everything from authorship, sources, compilation, canonization, and liturgical use by Jews and Christians over the centuries. A full review of this encyclopaedic treatment would require more space than I can give to it, but I think it worthwhile to highlight some of the more interesting elements that make it such a rich treasure of information.
6 Jun 2021
As far as I know, the 150 metrical Psalms of Jan Kochanowski and Mikołaj Gomółka have never before been rendered in English. The Psałterz Dawidow was first published in 1579 and is a beloved component of the Polish musical heritage. It is virtually unknown outside of Poland but deserves more exposure in the rest of the world. Here is my own attempt to disseminate knowledge of this psalter. The English versification is my own. English text © 2019 David T Koyzis.