Psalm 104b, 15 May 2015

Whales off Bribie

Denizens of the deep surface in verse 25 – and elsewhere, such as in Psalm 148

In this selection from Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, the poet’s eye sweeps appreciatively across the ‘manifold works’ of creation, made with wisdom and full of wonderful creatures:

Yonder is the great wide sea, with its living things too many to number. There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan which you made for sport. All of them look to you for food… You open your hand and they are filled with good things. (vs. 25-28)

Just one intimate word picture of one of those moments of wonder that strike us from time to time. With Mothers’ Day last Sunday (in some countries) still warm in our memories, the creative theme reinforces a female image of a nurturing God. Fourteenth century author Julian of Norwich is famous for her extended comparison of God to a mother:

… when [a child] is hurt or frightened it runs to its mother for help as fast as it can; and [God] wants us to do the same, like a humble child, saying, “My kind Mother, my gracious Mother, my dearest Mother, take pity on me.” (1)

Lofty music

Recalling some lovely works of English composer Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656), your male voice group if you have one should probably grasp with all hands and voices his motet O Lord how manifold are thy works setting for TTBB, from Musica Deo sacra (London, 1668).Ps 104 Rach vespters

And I must mention the gorgeous Russian Orthodox sounds of Blagoslovi, dushe moya, Gospodi from the wonderful Vsenoshchnoe bdenie (All-Night Vigil, Op. 37) by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Amen. Bless the Lord, my soul. Blessed are You, Lord. O Lord my God, exceedingly great are You. You are clothed with honour and majesty. On the mountains water stands. Your works are wonderful

But in Russian of course (see illustration above). (2) Treat your shell-pinks to this:

Local music

Our men will turn to Together in Song number 65, one of those antiphonal chants in this publication that offers a tone in four rather than two phrases, with a modulation section for each.(3)

This will be a good opportunity for singers to become more familiar and enjoy singing tones, that text with the mysterious dot three syllables from the end of each phrase or line (see also Notes for Singers). These chords (I-vi-iii | I-iv-V-I) are not as ‘colourful’ as one could wish — read modern, jazz-influenced harmonic structures such as Δ or 9th, 13th or tri-tone sub. (4) However, that avoids a whiff of anachronism I guess; and singers, as always, will enjoy stretching into the four-part journey of ‘psalms in tones’.

Notes: 

  1. Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love. London: Penguin 1998. Translated by Elizabeth Spearing,  p. 144. – See more at British Library>
  2. Note consecutive fifths in the bass line. These were traditionally regarded in composition theory as quite bad form. Sounds great here.
  3.  Texts in TiS is not always inclusive; and frequently the verse selections do not match the RCL. On this occasion, however, it’s close enough. Our male voice group will not sing the programmed Schubert for TTBB due to absences this Sunday — with blessings and a cheerful wave, of course, as family and travel commitments are important.
  4. Chords are abbreviated to a Roman numeral indicating the degree in the scale of the root note (I = doh). Upper and lower case numerals indicate respectively major and minor triads.

2 thoughts on “Psalm 104b, 15 May 2015

  1. Pingback: Psalm 103, 21 Aug 16 | Psalms in the South

  2. Pingback: Psalm 113, 18 Sep ’16 Alt. | Psalms in the South

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