This is a delightful psalm, the first of the group of five songs that conclude the Psalter. Each of these starts and ends with ‘Hallelujah’, Hebrew for ‘Praise God’.
More about the psalm and its music can be read in the main page Psalm 146, in which this resounding call — implicitly a call for action to us and our leaders — seems to spring out in force for this day and age:
God cares for the stranger, sustains the orphan and widow.’Verse 9
The offering in Together in Song 90 is the much-loved MONMOUTH by Gabriel Davis from the early 19th century. Like so many others of the era, he turned to the popular paraphrases by Isaac Watts. Like the King James Version of the Bible, these texts are dated and non-inclusive but retain a lovely turn of phrase.
At Woden Valley this week we use a Taizé refrain, one of a variety of interesting settings included in Psalms for All Seasons. Rather than chant the verses to the tone provided, we sing a paraphrased text to fit the tune of the refrain.
The music for this refrain is available from the Taizé web page. If you visit the site you will find that there are a baker’s dozen of Taizé Alleluia choruses. This one is number 7.
Several classical and modern Scandinavian compositions can be unearthed by searching Lauda anima mea dominum (Praise the Lord, O my soul), including one by Lassus.
For choristers who want a little sight-reading time, try this motet by Dieterich Buxtehude (1637 – 1707), presented by early music specialist Ton Koopman, who in 2014 finished a demanding project to record the complete works (‘Opera Omnia’) of Buxtehude:
You have not heard much of Buxtehude and his work? The name of this Danish organist must have been well known in musical circles in his day. This was the much older organist for whom the young J S Bach walked nearly 400 kilometres from Arnstadt to Lübeck in the winter of 1705, just to hear him play.
Bach went on to write many wonderful pieces including psalm settings. On this early occasion he was on his first proper gig as organist and choir director in Arnstadt (see illustration at the top of the page; the organ was brand new in 1703 when Bach was appointed at age 18).
He rather fudged his leave form. Granted four weeks off, he stayed away for four months. The experience was obviously worth the walk.
Despite his extended AWOL and other youthful infractions that upset the local authorities, the city of Arnstadt was impressed enough to install a statue in a leafy square on Unterm Markt, near what is now the Bach Church.
Wisdom in hindsight of course — Bach’s fame was established long after the faltering start of his career in Erfurt and Arnstadt, culminating in his famous and redeeming reign at St Thomas church, Leipzig. He was 20 in 1705 when he impetuously headed off for his Long March to Lübeck.
Admittedly the figure of Johann in Arnstadt imagined by the sculptor must be speculative, but he is nothing if not thoughtful, assured and confident — a message for all musicians as we approach the interpretation and presentation of the psalms.