Next up in the skip and jump series is 6, the first of the so-called penitential psalms. The author is suffering, weak and weary, seeking healing and freedom. Near the end of the song, the author declares relief; “God accepts my prayer” (v.9). Recall a line sung by our male voice quartet recently:
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy’ (Psalm 126:5)
He wrote an extended piece for each of the seven psalms, one in each of the eight modes in use in early times. An eighth piece was a combination of two psalms of praise (148 and 150) to complete the set. Each verse of each psalm receives a separate short motet, making in all 136 pieces that could be sung separately. In Psalm 6, illustrated, he set verse 3 for three voices, verse 4 for four voices and then five voices thereafter.
As with the key penitential Psalm 51, Lassus, Byrd and Schütz all wrote several settings for this psalm or selected verses.
At a more practical level, there are several other sources of easier refrains if it comes up outside the lectionary series. Understandably, Psalm 6 does not make it into Together in song, but Psalms for all seasons has a nice one at 6B (spoken verses), the feature catching my eye being the chord progressions Cm-Bb-Ab-Fm. Another picks up the phrase ‘how long’ that appears in many psalms, including 3, 6 and 13.