Psalm 130, 8 August 21

You may remember that we heard this lovely inspirational song of ascents a little more than a month ago, at the end of June.

Psalm 129 called for deliverance from Israel’s enemies: Psalm 130 seeks deliverance from their own failings, and cries from the heart:

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
2     Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

Hence it is a song of penitence as well as ascent. The psalm sits well with the Lectionary Old Testament story of Elijah. Our leader for this Sunday’s worship previews his theme thus:

Exhausted, depleted, frustrated, and in utter despair, Elijah just wants God to end it all. After a deep sleep, Elijah is woken by an angel nudging him to “get up and eat.” God knew that Elijah was not finished yet, and he needed strength for his journey. 

Rev. G Holdsworth

To be quite correct, this story from 1 Kings is linked in the Lectionary to Psalm 34, rather than 130 which accompanies the moving story in 2 Samuel of the death of David’s son Absalom, subject of many equally moving motets.

However, this was surely the experience of Elijah too. 130 echoes Elijah’s ascent as he awakes from deep sleep and despair to look again to his calling.

Read more about this psalm in that recent post from 27 June, and in the page, Psalm 130: Out of the depths.


If you went down either of the rabbit-holes through the links mentioned in the previous paragraph, you will have seen a variety of musical settings, early and modern.

I kid you not, there are more than one hundred listed in CPDL including multiple settings of the complete text or various selections by Bach, Charpentier, Des Prez and Lassus (who made a huge deal of the seven Penitential Psalms).

No less than eleven settings for various voice combinations by Michael Praetorius are listed.

Tenor entry in one of many settings to Psalm 130 by Praetorius, this one for TTB.

For now, suffice to say that at Woden Valley we relish the prospect of a return appearance of a small group of ladies who present the psalm according to Sinead’s ‘Out of the depths I cry to thee O Lord’.

Their voices will again be accompanied by the light sounds of hand lute and drum.

Was this how these songs may have been heard three thousand years ago?

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