31 May 2023

The Lord is my Shepherd: Psalm 23

Then there is Howard Goodall's lovely musical rendition of the ever popular 23rd Psalm, which provided the theme music for the British television comedy series, The Vicar of Dibley. The text and music provide a stark contrast to the rather irreverent tone of the series.

30 May 2023

Codex Early Music Ensemble: Psalm 68

Here once again is the Codex Early Music Ensemble giving Psalm 68 another shot:

29 May 2023

Codex Early Music Ensemble: Psalm 62 and 47

I'm coming to like the Codex Early Music Ensemble's performances of the Hungarian Psalms. Here are 62 and 47:

26 May 2023

Psalms 81 and 68: genfi zsoltár

The Hungarians are always coming up with surprisingly different ways to sing the Psalms. Here is the Codex Early Music Ensemble singing Psalms 81 and 68 at a rather fast pace, altering the rhythm of the original melodies.

25 May 2023

Psalms 90 and 91: genfi zsoltár

This is an unusually haunting performance of Genevan Psalms 90 and 91 in Hungarian. János Pálúr is the organist, and Sára Tímár is the soloist. The recording was made on 16 June 2022 in the Fasori Reformed Church in Budapest.

24 May 2023

Psaume 97 en français

Here is a recently posted recording of Psalm 97 sung in French, which comes from an old monophonic vinyl record released in 1957.

19 May 2023

Psalm 72 (71): another coronation psalm

Our new King is descended through his late father from the modern kings of Greece of the Danish Glücksburg line. Thus it is most appropriate that Orthodox priests chanted Psalm 72 (71 by the Septuagint numbering) at his recent coronation.

Here are the opening verses in Greek:

Ὁ Θεὸς, τὸ κρίμα σου τῷ βασιλεῖ δὸς
καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην σου τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ βασιλέως
κρίνειν τὸν λαόν σου ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ
καὶ τοὺς πτωχούς σου ἐν κρίσει.

And in English:

Give the king thy justice, O God,
and thy righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge thy people with righteousness,
and thy poor with justice!
A most appropriate psalm for the inauguration of a new ruler! God save the King!

Groen sang these psalms

In February I acquired a copy of the recently republished 1729 version of the Genevan Psalter. This version was adopted by the francophone churches of the Netherlands and differs from the original French text of 1562. A few days ago a friend reminded me that Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer (1801-1876), an early leader in the Dutch anti-revolutionary movement and a predecessor of Abraham Kuyper, attended the Walloon church in The Hague, under the pastorate of Jean Charles Isaac Secrétan (1798-1875). Thus it is quite likely that this is the version of the Psalter from which he sang while worshipping with that congregation.

The Walloon Churches in the Netherlands have their origins in the religious conflicts of the 16th and 17th centuries, when French-speaking refugees from the southern Netherlands (now Belgium) and France fled persecution in their homelands and settled in the largely protestant Dutch Republic in the north. There are far fewer Walloon congregations than in the past, and the remaining few form a special classis within the reunited Protestantse Kerk in Nederland.

16 May 2023

Make a Joyful Noise: coronation anthem

For the recent coronation of King Charles III, Andrew Lloyd Webber was commissioned to compose an anthem. Here it is below: a sung version of Psalm 98 from the venerable King James version of the Bible:

11 May 2023

An 18th-century Dutch psalter

I recently spent time with a friend who brought to our meeting an old Dutch-language edition of the Genevan Psalter published in 1776. The texts are the 1773 versifications commissioned by the Estates General of the United Netherlands, so they were still quite new when this volume was produced. Here are photographs of some of the pages. Note that the outer margins of the versified texts contain the prose text of the relevant psalm according to the Statenvertaling of 1637, a translation of the Bible approved by the Estates General which is analogous to our King James Version in English. Only the melody is included and is repeated for each stanza.

8 May 2023

Singing the Reformation 2016

I've recently come across the website for the Church Service Society, an organization founded in 1865 to renew worship in the Church of Scotland. This is the description of the Society's work from the page titled, History and Purpose

The Society published Euchologion in 1867, the first corporately produced service book available to the Kirk since John Knox’s Book of Common Order, and which continued through eleven editions up to 1924, until the Church itself (the main Presbyterian denominations reunited in 1929) took on the responsibility. Since then there has been increasing provision of worship resources in the Scottish churches. It might seem as if the vision of the founders had been amply fulfilled.

24 Apr 2023

CICW grant: completing the work of decades

I have some great news to share with respect to my ongoing Genevan Psalter project. But first a bit of background.

In 2021 and 2022 I received two back-to-back grants from the Stanford Reid Trust here in Canada to work on my project of setting the Psalms to verse to be sung to the proper Genevan tunes of the 16th century. The first grant enabled me to complete the versification of all 150 Psalms in August of two years ago. The second grant allowed me to pay Michael Owens, a professional musician and piano tuner in Denver, Pennsylvania, to format seventy of my texts to the excellent 20th-century arrangements of Jacques Pierre Bekkers and Jacob Kort. As the second grant was not sufficient to cover the cost of formatting all 150, I applied to the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship (CICW) for a Teacher-Scholar Grant to cover the remainder. Unfortunately, I received word that my project did not fit the parameters of this programme.

However, I am pleased to report that the publications team at CICW has offered to provide the full amount I had requested to complete the formatting for my English-language Genevan Psalter. This will enable Owens to format the remainder of the Psalms, which brings the collection a step closer to publication. I am grateful to God for his grace in giving me the time and resources to work on this project in my retirement. I am grateful to Owens for his enthusiasm for my work and his technical skills. And, of course, I am grateful to both the Reid Trust and the CICW for their financial support for my work.

I will keep readers informed of further developments as they occur. I would appreciate your prayers for the project's completion. Thanks so much!

13 Apr 2023

Kodály's Psalm 150 - 2022

This performance of Zoltán Kodály's arrangement of Psalm 150 took place in July 2022 and was posted last October:

22 Mar 2023

Lewis and Laurence on the imprecatory psalms

At The Gospel Coalition Trevin Wax has written on What C. S. Lewis Got Wrong About the Cursing Psalms. While Lewis's writings carry insights appreciated by generations of Christians, he nevertheless questioned the propriety of using the imprecatory psalms:

Lewis thought these psalms “devilish,” naive, “diabolical,” given to “pettiness” and “vulgarity.” He believed their “vindictive hatred” to be contemptible—full of “festering, gloating, undisguised” passions that can in no way be “condoned or approved.”

 As a corrective to Lewis, Wax recommends Trevor Laurence's new book, Cursing with God: The Imprecatory Psalms and the Ethics of Christian Prayer, published last November by Baylor University Press:

21 Mar 2023

Psalm 150: Sweelinck

Who could possibly tire of listening to Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck's choral arrangement of Psalm 150?

20 Mar 2023

Martha and the psalms of lament

Everyone remembers Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead as recounted in John 11. Although this episode is found in the New Testament, the dialogue between Jesus and Martha reflects the structure of the psalms of lament. This is the thesis of the late biblical scholar Gail R. O'Day in a remarkable article to which my wife alerted me last week, Martha: Seeing the Glory of God. (If you set up a free account, you can "borrow" this ebook for one hour.)

13 Mar 2023

Psalms of Grace

As more and more evangelical protestants are discovering the liturgical riches of the Psalms, new collections of sung psalmody are constantly being produced, sometimes by denominations and sometimes by single congregations. Psalms of Grace falls into the latter category, having been created by Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, a neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Grace Community Church is an independent megachurch with more than 8,000 members and an expansive campus including a Spanish-language congregation, a seminary, a bookstore, and a production company. Its longtime pastor, John MacArthur, has had an enduring radio ministry called Grace to You. The congregation has recently produced two liturgical collections, Hymns of Grace and Psalms of Grace

As I've observed before, it is unusual for a single congregation to produce its own hymnal and highly unusual for one to produce a metrical psalter. The resources needed for such projects are generally beyond what a congregation can manage on its own. By contrast, a denomination can pool the resources of multiple congregations to compile hymnals and psalters. The successive Psalter Hymnals of the Christian Reformed Church are probably the best known examples, as is the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, which was put together by two co-operating denominations. Two years ago I reviewed New Psalter: Psalms for the Church, the work of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Florida. Now it's time to evaluate Psalms of Grace.

21 Feb 2023

The Tennents' Seedbed Psalter

During my visit to Trinity School for Ministry last week, the Very Rev. Dr. Henry L. "Laurie" Thompson III, was kind enough to present me with a bound copy of the Seedbed Psalter, a metrical psalter compiled by Julie and Timothy Tennent. Thompson is retired Dean President of Trinity and associate professor of liturgical studies. Nearly two years ago I reviewed the Seedbed Psalter. It is an online open-source metrical psalter containing multiple helps to enable congregations to sing the Psalms to familiar hymn tunes. Julie Tennent is a keyboard musician and composer who did the bulk of the work on it. Her husband Timothy is president of Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, the largest Wesleyan seminary in North America.

Incidentally, neighbouring Asbury University has been in the news due to a revival amongst the students in the form of a 24-hour worship service that has been going on for nearly two weeks and is set to end in a few days.

20 Feb 2023

Metrical psalmody in Pennsylvania

Last week I was privileged to speak at two educational institutions in the Pittsburgh area, Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge and Geneva College in Beaver Falls. Trinity is an independent Anglican seminary that serves the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), along with overseas Anglican provinces. On wednesday, 15 February, I spoke twice at Trinity. During the morning I spoke on "Ideology and Idolatry," the topic of my first book. In the evening, I turned to my work with the Psalms, speaking on "Geneva in England: Singing the Psalms in Metre." My talk covered some of the same material on which I spoke last May at Calvin University, but this time I focussed more on the Sternhold & Hopkins Psalter of 1562 and the Tate & Brady "New Version" Psalter of 1696. These, of course, were used in public worship in the Church of England until the end of the 18th century. Most contemporary Anglicans are unaware that their forebears ever sang metrical psalmody.

7 Feb 2023

Le Psautier de Genève 1729

In recent months I have made the acquaintance of Philippe Lacombe, a Frenchman who maintains a blog devoted to the Genevan Psalter, along with an associated Twitter account. He recently published a hard-bound edition of the 1729 French version of the Genevan Psalter, a copy of which I have just obtained. It contains a preface by Lacombe, an index of the Psalms, an index of Psalms using the same tunes, and the 150 Psalms themselves. This is from the preface, which I have translated into English:

Put to rhyme by the poet Clément Marot and the reformer Theodore Beza between 1539 and 1562, the 150 Psalms of the Bible were made available to the Reformed churches for liturgical singing in protestant worship. The definitive version of the psalter was published in 1587.

18 Jan 2023

An English version of the Dorz/Moldoveanu Psalter?

Having recently received a copy of the Dorz/Modoveanu Psalter from my friend Eugen Tămaș, who is visiting the United States from his native Romania, I am quite taken with a collection that came into existence through the fires of persecution. Cântările Psalmilor has just come out in a second expanded edition and appears poised to spread the liturgical practice of psalm-singing amongst the evangelical Christians in that country. I myself have come up with three English-language versifications to fit the melodies of Nicolae Moldoveanu, the centenary of whose birth was observed last year. 

Nevertheless, there are obstacles in the way of rendering a metrical psalter from one language into another, as I discovered in my own work with the Genevan Psalter. Let me give you an example. Here is Psalm 23 from Cântările Psalmilor:

17 Jan 2023

A gift of God born of suffering: Cântările Psalmilor

Shortly before Christmas, I received in the mail the new and expanded edition of the Romanian-language metrical psalter, Cântările Psalmilor (Songs of the Psalms). This was a gift from Eugen Tămaș, who has spearheaded this project. During one of our online conversations, he asked me to review the collection, which I am taking up now. But before I do so, I must confess to having little knowledge of the Romanian language, aside from picking out familiar words that are cognates with such other romance languages as French, Spanish, and Portuguese, all of which I have studied at one time or another. Nevertheless, although I may not be the best person to post a detailed review, I can tell you about what is in the volume, and what makes it distinctive.

10 Jan 2023

Psałterz Poznański: Psalm 124

I love the work that the good people behind Psałterz Poznański are doing to render the Psalms in singable form. Their latest offering is Genevan Psalm 124, as sung by Agata Polaszek in a style reminiscent of the Canadian-American popular singer Joni Mitchell. Below the recording you will find links to four pdf documents: the music and guitar chords in the key of C, the Polish text with guitar chords in C, the music and guitar chords in the key of D, and the text with chords in D.

Psałterz Poznański does not post a new psalm performance all that often, but when they do, it's always worth hearing. Niech Bóg rozwija swoje królestwo w Polsce poprzez śpiewanie psalmów! May God advance his kingdom in Poland through singing the Psalms!