Psalm 80, 22Dec13

Still waters
Still waters

Psalm 80 is a cry for restoration by the ‘Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock’.

As strife continues all around, the singer seeks a more peaceable zone, perhaps by the still waters and safe pastures of other familiar psalms.

The psalmist invokes the Creator’s strength and justice to intervene and bring safety to the people.

The choice of an antiphon is easy: verses 3, 7 and 19 form a recurring prayer of supplication:

Restore us O God; let your face shine upon us and we shall be saved.

A promise of faithful obedience (verse 18) concludes the song before the final repetition in verse 19.

We draw upon Psalms for All Seasons again this week, using this verse in the responsorial setting 80A.

As usual, singers are invited to assist in leading the antiphon and verses as you are inclined. A small group will enhance the singing immeasurably, as this antiphon lends itself to division between two groups of voices in call and reply.

Contact the cantor for music if you can join in. The words are here>

For more incidental thoughts on two-voice settings, read on…

We already have two parts in those of the cantor(s) and people’s response. But what about two parts in the choir? After introducing the idea of antiphon within antiphon, I feel I must refer to the St Mark’s 11th century church in Venice, recently visited by some of our members.

StMark's VeniceThe early choirmasters at St Mark’s in the 16th century took warmly to the idea of double choir works, writing in 8 parts or more.

Masters like Willaert and Schütz, encouraged by the independent nature of Venice as the second most important city in Italy, as well as by the presence of two organs and two choir lofts, were innovative and free in their exploration of the form and wrote many rich masses and anthems in that style.

Under Giovanni Gabrieli, according to A history of Western music (Grout and Palisca, Norton, p. 300),

… the performance forces grew to unheard-of proportions.

The choirs may sing alternate repeated phrases, sometimes overlapping, sometimes echoing, sometimes developing to a new theme, sometimes coming together at a dramatic moment or an important part of the text.

Reminds me of my post about the Tallis composition of 8 choirs of 5 voices each here>

This week’s antiphon from PfAS is a much simpler affair. Still, separate phrases suggested below could be allocated to good effect to small groups, solo voices and the congregation:

A: Restore us again (instrumental bar follows)

B: O Lord God of hosts, (instrumental bar follows)

C: and show us the light of your face and your grace,

All voices: and we shall be saved.

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