Psalm 72, 4 Dec 16

Previous posts in 2013 and 2105 reviewed a variety of ideas for this psalm, which asks for justice and wisdom in the ruler — and in particular the sort of justice that emanates from divine sources whereby all are equal. Result: right judgment and protection for the poor (v.2).

Those previous posts mentioned Taizé, some home-grown refrains, and this motet, William Byrd’s 1610 four-part setting of just one verse (10):Ps72 Regis Tharsis

Musician and leader approach the choice of setting with slightly different priorities. The music leader might concentrate on how the music will sound, support for the words, whether there are enough singers, and whose voices suit different styles — the art of the possible each week. If sight-readers are available, this Byrd piece would be lovely. The worship leader, however, might wonder what good it is other than a nice addition to the atmosphere: it’s in Latin, not in the reading for this week, and the text is peripheral to the main message of justice:

Jars from the Rhône
Gift packaging, perhaps from Tarshish, found in the Rhône

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render [the ruler] tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

In fact, in Byrd’s original publication this theme was seen as appropriate as a Gradual or Offertory for Epiphany, which refers to the coming of the Magi bearing gifts. So it’s not completely off the mark. It invites us to follow the example.

Here is a quick summary of just some of the options showing different themes according to the verse highlighted in the refrain:

  • PFAS 72B. The hymn: Jesus shall reign where’er the sun. (v.5)
  • PFAS 72C. In his days justice will flourish … peace forevermore. (v.7)
  • PFAS 72C Alt. Every nation on earth shall adore you. (v.11)
  • PFAS 72D. (Spanish) In your hand are grace, power and grandeur.
  • Emergent Psalter. He shall deliver the poor. (v.12)
  • New Century. Give the ruler your justice. (v.1)
  • Taizé. TiS 706 Bless the Lord my soul; or 747 The Lord is my light. (Not quotes from the psalm.)
  • By Cantor. May the mountains bring peace… (v.3)
  • By Cantor (SWCC). May honour flourish and peace abound until the moon is no more. (v.7)

So much good music, so little time.

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