David, in Psalm 29, uses dramatic poetry to convey his awe at the powerful voices of the creator, still ringing around creation. That voice is heard in storm and tempest, in writhing trees, roaring waves of the seas, the joyful response of mountains (‘Sirion’ or Mount Hermon), and more:
7 The voice of God flashes forth flames of fire. 8 The voice of God shakes the wilderness; God shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of God causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in the temple all say, ‘Glory!’
Some suggest that this emphasis on divine power is typical of the earliest of psalms which evolved in a mythical framework of storm gods like Baal. What happened to the still small voice of calm? Well, surprise surprise, it turns up unannounced and with a complete change of mood, in the final verse:
11 May God give strength to his people! May God bless his people with peace!
For more thoughts on this psalm and its voices, see the main page, Psalm 29: The voice of justice.
A visit to that page will also reveal more about our song choice at Woden Valley, a Taizé chorus Dona nobis pacem, Together in Song 713. This chorus picks up that coda in the last verse — a prayer for peace, balancing the fearsome power of the elements imagined in the psalm.
This short Jacques Berthier chant is deceptively simple. Its close harmonies, spiced by an unusual Esus-F6-E final cadence, are rich enough to balance any sense that nothing is happening. To be effective, these harmonies benefit immensely from accurate pitch and unified expression by the singers. (Music sheet here>)
Taizé services around the world, like those in the Taizé Community itself at the Église de la Réconciliation which are supported by these easy repetitive choruses, sustain a reverent and reflective mood.
Nevertheless, this chant is so short, and so oft repeated by the addition of the 11 verses of the psalm, that some of the narrative power of a divine voice shaking the earth may be lost. This can be remedied by the simple means of stepping off the cycle of repetition for a while. Singers may present the more dramatic verses (such as 5 to 9) with added energy and using free chanting tones in the same or contrasting chord structure.