19 Aug 2021

Genevan Psalter interview

This morning I was interviewed by the Rev. Uriesou Brito, pastor of Providence Church, Pensacola, Florida, on the subject of my recently completed Genevan Psalter project:

18 Aug 2021

Updated project page

I have now updated my page, now titled, GENEVAN PSALTER PROJECT (1985-2021), to account for the completion of my 36-year-long project to set the Psalms to verse. The link can also be found in the right sidebar.

13 Aug 2021

Genevan Psalter Project: A complete first draft

This week I completed something begun three and a half decades ago. I now have written metrical texts for all 150 Psalms set to their proper melodies in the 1562 Genevan Psalter. The work took thousands of hours to complete, most of which were scattered over the years from 1985 to this year, when a grant from the Reid Trust enabled me to accelerate my work and to complete a first draft over the past two months. A full introduction to the Genevan Psalter can be found here: THE GENEVAN PSALTER: INTRODUCTION and in the sidebar to the right. However, for this collection, which includes the tunes and texts only, I have written a far briefer introduction, which, in its current form, I post below:

Ainsworth's debt to Geneva

Within the larger communion of Reformed churches, there are two principal traditions of metrical psalmody, as we have noted before:

1. The Genevan tradition, beginning in 1539 in Strasbourg and culminating in the publication of the full Psalter in 1562. This tradition is characterized by a wide variety of metrical patterns, syncopated rhythms, and simple tunes dependent on western chant and the church modes. The Genevan tradition is associated with the continental Reformed churches, especially in the Netherlands and Hungary, but also in the churches founded by immigrants from these countries in North America, South Africa, and Australia. 

2. The Anglo-Celtic tradition, beginning with the Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter, also published in 1562, which would be carried on in the Tate & Brady (1696), the Scottish Psalter (1650), and the Bay Psalm Book (1640) in North America. The influential 1912 Psalter stands in this tradition, which is dominated by a very few regular metres, such as common metre (CM and CMD: 8 6 8 6), long metre (LM and LMD: 8 8 8 8), and short metre (SM: 6 6 8 6). The Christian Reformed Church's Psalter Hymnal stands largely in this tradition, although the various editions have included Genevan tunes as well.

4 Aug 2021

Fanfare and Psalm 35

For some reason the tune to Psalm 35 has stuck in my head since I set the text to verse last month. It almost sounds as if it could accompany a march, although the time signature, if it had one, would be 7/4, meaning one would have to begin each line with a different foot. I rather like the following anonymous fanfare succeeded by a performance of Psalm 35 sung in French. Exquisite!

3 Aug 2021

The Genevan Psalter's debt to Gregorian chant, revisited

Nearly three years ago I posted on The Genevan Psalter's debt to Gregorian chant, noting the similarities between the ancient chant Victimae paschali laudes and the Genevan tune for Psalm 80. Now a member of the Lovers of Metrical Psalmody Facebook group has alerted us to another apparent borrowing. Listen to the Conditor alme siderum below:

Now listen to Ernst Stolz's rendition of Psalm 141:

During my first two years at the University of Notre Dame, I would regularly attend the sunday evening ecumenical vespers at the Sacred Heart Church on campus. Near the beginning of the service, we would sing Creator of the Starry Night, an English translation of the Latin hymn, to a modified version of the proper melody. I had not noted the similarity to the Psalm 141 tune until now. Incidentally, Psalm 141 is also used at evening prayer, and I believe we sang this as well at Sacred Heart Church, but to a different tune.