Those denizens of the deep (Ps.148:7) pop up again after, it seems, so little time. It’s exactly a year since our last post on this effusive psalm of praise. At that time, I chose those monsters from the deep for the illustration.
Now, with a certain blockbuster movie just released worldwide, maybe I should look upward and choose the fantastic universe and all that rushes around in it:
Praise God, sun and moon … all you shining stars, highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens … you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling God’s command, wild animals … creeping things … (verses 1-10)
Yoda in mind the psalmist had not. However, cruising around way back in the 14th century Yoda was, and a French illustrator the moment captured. The British Library, who have this image somewhere safe salted away, have this to say:
The jewel in our Star Wars crown is the very Yoda-like creature [shown here], which can be found in a book of canon law now known as the Smithfield Decretals. Written probably in Toulouse, the manuscript arrived in London in the early part of the 14th century, where numerous marginal illuminations were added. When we first meet Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back, his age is given as 900 years, meaning that he would have been about 260 at the time of the illumination of the Smithfield Decretals. It is therefore entirely possible (if not probable) that this is a portrait drawn from life. (more…)
Well, enough frivolity and back to the music. My last entry on this psalm covered briefly some music options. Reviewing this scene, I am captured the the idea of an Orthodox psalm setting in the Russian style by someone called Atanas Badev (1860 – 1908) student of Rimsky-Korsakov and considered an ethnic Macedonian — you have heard of him, of course! Wikipedia advises he was:
… the composer of The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (first published in Leipzig in 1898), one of the most significant works of this genre from the end of the 19th century.
More realistically, even a few singers holding parts would enjoy interpreting PFAS 148H, a setting by George Thalben-Ball (1896 – 1987) with nice chord progressions.
Our ‘away’ services at nearby churches after Christmas do not include a sung psalm. The ‘home’ team, Singers in the South, wish all readers a harmonic holiday season until we sing again. Thanks for reading.
While on the subject of Badev, Ball and Taylor … Atanas Badev‘s The Litany of St John Chysostom is not to be confused with an earlier work with the same title by Peter I. Tchaikovsky or a later one around 1910 by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
The first Badev piece from this work that I hear is a surprise. I was anticipating the rich multi-part dark minor chords of the All Night Vigil, the ‘Rach-stack’, sometimes with that gorgeous but usually unattainable low B flat at the bottom of the stack. Instead, it’s nice but in a major key and lightly contrapuntal, more Western baroque than Eastern. We will label and pigeon-hole.
As for Ball, he was originally from Sydney but quickly established himself as concert pianist, organists, conductor and composer in England. We often hear that musicians are good at sight-reading or improvising but not both [hangs head]. Sir George, like Papa Bach, Bill Evans and in fact many others, was one of those who:
… could sight-read, transpose and improvise in any style and at any length to the highest standard without perceptible effort.
Taylor? We didn’t refer to Taylor? No but the mention in verse 8 of ‘fire and hail’ (hot and cold on the heels of those monsters of the deep) reminded me of the James Taylor 1969 song about loss:
Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus, You’ve got to help me make a stand.
You’ve just got to see me through another day.
My body’s aching and my time is at hand and I won’t make it any other way.
Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I’d see you again.