Psalm 50, 11 Aug 19

Our singers are sometimes confused by my odd short-hand musical notations and cues in cantor’s sheets abbreviated to one page for convenience.

Tiironian manuscript
Psalm 50 in a 9th C. script from France. British Library MS 9046, f24v

Imagine coping with this 9th-century manuscript, in Tironian with Latin introductions (illustrated). The British Library viewer notes explain that this is:

one of a few early medieval manuscripts that contain a Psalter written entirely in Tironian notes. This is a shorthand that was attributed to Tiro (b. 94, d. 4 BC), a slave of Cicero (b. 106, d. 43 BC)… The manuscript was at Benedictine abbey of Saint-Remi at Rheims and remained there most likely until the abbey was dissolved during the French Revolutionary period.

Turning to more easily read texts, we find that Psalm 50, a song of Asaph, is one of both praise and cautionary advice. The latter includes a warning against superficial worship, recommending truth and honesty, with thanksgiving as a sacrifice rather than ritual.


The chosen setting at SWUC is No 50B or C in Psalms for all seasons. This simple refrain is from The Iona Community, a distributed movement based in Scotland whose music, often as in this case by John Bell, is easy to sing and well liked. The simple refrain is:

Let the giving of thanks be our sacrifice to God (v. 23)

50B and the next setting 50C have the same refrain but treat the verses differently. In the former, verses are chanted by cantors to a tone: the latter offers paraphrased verses in SATB to a nice tune that is quite close to one of the tones provided.

More in a previous blog here>

One thought on “Psalm 50, 11 Aug 19

  1. Hi Brendan

    I spend a lot (too much!) of time modifying midi files and/or writing karaoke for different social singing groups.  I often lament the difficulties imposed when a piece of music is played on a single staff by someone using several fingers simultaneously; it’s so difficult matching lyrics to the correct note.  HOWEVER, having now seen that 9th-century manuscript, I don’t think I’ll ever grumble again! 😀

    Keep up the good work


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.