Psalm 118, Easter Sunday 2016

'Laudate Dominum'; detail from a motet by Lassus
Laudate Dominum‘; detail of one voice part from a motet by Roland de Lassus

Yes, it’s 118 again.

This is the day that the Lord hath made, that building block and several other ringing and memorable statements of hope and trust appear in this favourite. Not much new here, so a little ramble is in order.

Old farm cottage museum, MoudeyresThere are dozens of settings of this psalm, including some classical pieces by Renaissance and later composers. Lassus wrote one called Dominus mihi adjutor, starting with text from verse 6.

There’s one for 16 voices, four quartets, by German composer Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) that runs to 50 pages in one modern transcription. All parts are shown on each page so there are but four bars per page; those pages would flick by quite fast but it’s still a major work.

Praetorius (whose family name was originally Schultze, of rather less superior airs) was a German Lutheran. So, I suppose, was Martin Luther (1483-1546). Luther wrote a lot of words — poems, sermons and ideas — but also several songs, including the well-known Ein feste burg, ‘A mighty fortress’, based on (you guessed it) a psalm, in this case 48. So he was quite capable of running up a good harmony. Perhaps he spied verse 17 of this psalm from a hundred paces and was moved to write the short and sweet four-part motet, Non moriar sed vivam. No doubt the text fitted his mission perfectly:

I shall not die but live, and tell the works of the Lord.

Plaque on the rebuilt Damenhof where Luther advocated the centrality of justification by faith.
Plaque on the rebuilt Damenhof where Luther advocated the centrality of justification by faith.

While on the Lutheran track, I am reminded of calling in to the Martin Luther Church in Neukölln a while ago to chance upon an Indonesian community choir rehearsing a little cantata by another Lutheran, JS Bach. Multiculturalism at work — listen to them here>.

And another earlier post while Front Fencing: we came across the building in Augsburg in which Luther defended himself before the Papal investigation of 1518. His pleas fell on deaf ears, as we know (well, he was a bit rough on the Pope) and he went into hiding.

Get to the point

So where, precisely, is the cornerstone in this?
So where, precisely, is the cornerstone in this?

By way of contrast, in style if not underlying message, The Building Block by Paul Stookey has been our trusty companion each Easter for the last three years. If you’re on a good thing …

Our very own PPM-style trio (BBB), joined by several familiar guest singers, will present the verses and lead the rousing chorus again this year with guitar and bass.

The people respond, with joy, vigour and, of course, good harmony parts:

The building-block that was rejected became the cornerstone of a whole new world.

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