Psalm 26, 3 Oct 21: Integrity

Heinrich Schütz managed a setting of Psalm 26 amongst his over 500 pieces. He tried to retire to this house in Weißenfels, Germany, but was recalled to Dresden until he died there in 1672 at 87 years old. Image: wikipedia

Psalm 26 is a declaration of, and perhaps a prayer for, integrity. In this week’s common liturgy selection it follows the introduction of Job, about whom God avers: “He still persists in his integrity”. Such a strong word — certainly with varying meaning, messaging and impact according to hearer and moment — yet always challenging.

Reminiscent of Psalm 1’s hope to be insulated from bad people and their influence, it has been seen by commentators variously as the song of someone wrongly accused, a prayer for growth into worthy ways, and as a gradual for those entering a place of worship. The enduring value of these songs is how they speak with new voices to each reader, hearer, or singer.

Just as Joshua declared “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15), so David declares in verse 11:

As for me, I will live with integrity.

Psalm 26 thus declares the wonders of divine love and encourages personal integrity, that we might sing confidently with the psalmist:

My foot stands on level ground  (12)

🎶

All the refrains in our regular sources, including The Emergent Psalter, The New Century Hymnal and PFAS (there is no setting in Together in Song), quote verse 3: “Your love is before my eyes”. All are sweet and easy to sing.

In fact the tunes by Isaac Everett (TEP) and John W Becker (PFAS) are very similar — almost variations on the same tune. The underlying chord structures, both interesting and enjoyable, differ a little more.

All require the singers to present the verses to a tone as provided or chosen, or to a background vamp. At Woden Valley we create a ‘Tone+’ — a chanting tone which is moulded so that it follows the same notes, if not the rhythm and metre, of Becker’s refrain tune in PFAS:

Refrain from PFAS, with modified tone in which minims are the chanting notes, extended or abbreviated according to the length of each phrase.

So in the cantor’s music sheet, the first verse with pointing looks like this:

     Judge ' me O God, for I have lived with ' in-teg-ri-ty,
     	I have ' trusted in you ' and have not faltered.

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