Crystal Ball, Apr-May 17

Crystal Ball

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Note: Another bulletin for South Woden members. Scroll down for weekly posts.

  • Psalm leaders are needed for this whole period.
  • Assuming leaders follow the Revised Common Lectionary and want to sing a psalm, here are weekly suggestions for April and May. 
  • Copies of PFAS in the Library, Helen has NCH, TEP available for download from And anyway, you can always make up your own verse tone and refrain!

9 Apr. Liturgies are:

  1. Palms: Psalm 118, for which The Building Block by Paul Stookey is suitable.
  2. Passion: Psalm 31. PFAS 31C is a favourite that we have sung many times.

16Apr. Depending on the chosen liturgy, Psalm 118 and that building block come up again. A handy alternative is Together in Song 74.

23 Apr. Psalm 16. At this point three years ago, PFAS 16D was sung; it would be a fine choice again. (An enthusiastic quartet could also turn their attention to the Lassus motet, Benedicam Domino, three pages of nice SATB. All quite moderate and not too demanding … until the alto has a moment:ps16-lassus-moment

30 Apr. (John S in the lead.) In Dropbox sit two settings of Psalm 116: one is the PFAS version 116D, sung at Yarralumla as a small group three years ago. (Available but not published here for copyright reasons.) The second is for male voices in Eastern Orthodox style with chanted verses, enjoying the experimentation of harmonies changing under a lead voice on a monotone. PDF file here: Ps116 Orth.)

Initial decorated capital and text of verse 1, PSalm 23 in the Rutland Bible, c 1260. British Library MS 62965

Initial decorated capital and text of verse 1, PSalm 23 in the Rutland Bible, c 1260. British Library MS 62965

7 May. Psalm 23 arises again. Recommend a reprise of Paul Kelly’s Meet me in the middle of the air. If the team are available from singing El señor es mi pastor, PFAS 23I, a month ago, why not enjoy that again? If not, there are ten other settings in PFAS and dozens elsewhere.

14 May. Over the last few years for Psalm 31 we have used an excellent refrain from Psalms for All Seasons, 31C. Written by AnnaMae Meyer Bush, its four short phrases capture much of the wisdom of the Psalter: “My times are in your hands. You strengthen me in strife. My hope is in your word. Your love preserves my life.” Additionally, it’s worth a little rehearsal to learn the second (lower) echo part which adds to the musical delight.

21 May. PFAS again offers a good choice for Psalm 66, Cry out to God in joy, PFAS 66A. In our ‘red book’ TiS 36, All you nations sing out by Lucien Deiss, is a neglected but good alternative if you have a few singers who can read or learn the verses.

28 May. Psalm 68, which is akin to the previous week’s 66 in asking nations to sing with joy, concludes this two-month period of the web-master’s absence, posts having been scheduled long ago.

  • The setting in TiS 38 requires a sight-reader for the verses and some rehearsal,
  • PFAS has a possible responsorial setting in 68B.
  • Perhaps easier is a home-grown refrain that can be sung as a round (second entry, if only two parts, is at bar 3; or every bar if bravely designating more parts), the verses being chanted to a tone of choice (there are bunches of them in NCH and PFAS). We have sung this with the children:


Crystal Ball Feb-March 2017

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Notes: (this will be a sticky post until next CB mid-March)

  • This series of Crystal Ball posts offers planning information for members of South Woden. Other followers around the world may skip this post — or think of us prayerfully.
  • Thanks to enthusiastic director Helen S and all singers who contributed so willingly and tunefully to music for the 50th Anniversary of South Woden UC, 12 February 2017.
  • South Woden warmly welcomes Gary and Mary-Anne Holdsworth who take up residence and ministry this week.

On 12 Feb we sang the first section Aleph of that longest psalm, no 119. Here are some suggestions for the weeks ahead (noting of course that Rev. Gary and other worship leaders may well choose different approaches to the psalm):

17 Feb. Induction service at Weston Creek for Rev. Gary Holdsworth. Brian, Bette and Brendan lead Psalm 118 with Paul Stookey’s The Building Block.

19 Feb. For Psalm 119e, we reprise the home-grown refrain for 119a sung so beautifully at the 50th Anniversary, refitting the tune with text from verse 33: Teach me the way of your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end.

26 Feb. I lean towards The New Century Hymnal and a short refrain for Psalm 2 by Carolyn Jennings (1994): “Happy are all who take refuge in God.”  Alternatives will be published in a post early that week. Male voices may convene for the last Sunday?

5 Mar. Gwenda leads us in a service that each year is proximate to and therefore celebrates International Women’s Day. In the past, we have recognised the day with women and girls singing songs by composers from Hildegard of Bingen to Sinead. On this occasion in 2017, instead of the psalm, Helen presents a Shaker song, Simple Gifts.

12 Mar. And now for something different: can you handle some Beatles? Psalm 121 says: I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. (v.1) So why not sing Help by Lennon and McCartney? An excellent alternative is PFAS 121D with sumptuous chord changes.

19 Mar. Two lively options for Psalm 95 are available in ‘the red book’ (Webmaster is absent this week):

  • TiS 52 is “Let us sing to the God of salvation”
  • TiS 53 is the Calypso Carol.

26 Mar. Psalm 23 without CRIMOND? Continue the tradition of male voices convening for the last Sunday and present the lilting Spanish song El señor es  mi pastor (My shepherd is the Lord), PFAS 23I.IMG_2346.JPG

2 Apr. Sinead’s chorus Out of the depths, with paraphrased verses to fit the song, will serve us well for Psalm 130. A volunteer cantor has kindly offered.

And then …

LEADERS are required for the months of April and May 2017 while the author is far from Canberra. Please consider acting as convener for a month at a time.

A full list of suggested songs will be published shortly on a forthcoming Crystal Ball. Resources can be provided on request.

Crystal Ball, June-July 2016

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia 

Best laid plans, bare of commentary on musical options and based on the leader choosing the first reading listed in the lectionary, are as follows:

5 June: PFAS 146B, with Taizé refrain and first tone.

12 June: PFAS 5B (or 5C if the right singers are available)

19 June: Psalms 42-43, use song-sheet on Dropbox library to either the NCH refrain (if you have that book) or any other simple tune. PFAS has several suitable tunes, such as 43C.

26 June: I have not had a chance to adapt the Winter Solstice (southern hemisphere) refrain we used last year to this year’s Psalm 77. Perhaps The Emergent Psalter‘s ‘I call to mind your deeds’ would suffice. PFAS 77C looks fun for a winter’s day.

The inattentive visitor looking up at the vaulted cathedral of Siena might step on this simple but beautiful marble unawares. A wondering Mary?

3 July: Psalm 30, You turned my lament into dancing on Dropbox. A ladies’ group sang this in fine form not long ago so why not reconvene and reprise?

10 July: PFAS 82B, social justice to the fore

17 July: PFAS 52B — I am like a green olive tree (v.8)

24 July: The Betty Pulkingham tune at Together in Song 45; or PFAS 85B, another Taizé refrain (Dona nobis pacem, not the one in our book TiS which could also be used) and nice song (best for a sight-reader). See earlier post on Psalm 85 for the SW home-grown song.

There are alternatives of course, a few hymns but very few responsorial songs in Together in Song for set psalms over this period save the one mentioned. The Emergent Psalter always offers a thoughtful and singable tune, but you need to make up your own tune or tone for the verses.

South Woden singers  Continue reading

Victoria’s Requiem, 28 May 2016

Acclaimed early music performer Jordi Savall once wrote:

Culture, art, and especially music, are the foundation of an education that allows us to realize ourselves personally and at the same time, be present as a cultural entity, in an increasingly globalized world. I am deeply convinced that art is useful to society, contributing to the education of young people, and raising and strengthening the human and spiritual dimension of human beings.

He went on to urge that all Spaniards, and by extension anyone, should be able to:

… listen to live music from the sublime Cristóbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero and Tomás Luis de Victoria

Tomas-Luis-Victoria-300x300I mentioned Morales in a recent post on Psalm 18. The last named composer, however, has long been a firm favourite of your Webmaster.

Victoria wrote a huge amount of sacred work. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he wrote no secular music. His Lamentationes Ieremiah and Officium Defunctorum are particularly compelling works, transporting to the listener, thrilling to the singer.


Amongst his many works are a dozen or so psalms, including vesper psalms. Many of these are setting for alternate verses, either odd or even. The cantor would sing the other set of verses in antiphonal style, the choir responding. This call and answer style is implicit in many psalm texts (for example 136) and therefore is still widely used.

The Requiem

With a ‘masterpiece’ workshop and performance of the 1605 Requiem coming up on 28 May 2016 (hosted by The Oriana Chorale at 2 pm at RMC Duntroon, details here>), a little more on this magical work is in order.

The Requiem was written upon the death of the Dowager Empress Maria, daughter of one emperor, wife of a second, and mother of two more. As originally structured, it was preceded by a reading from Job entitled Taedet animam meus, set beautifully for four voices rather than the six of the rest of the mass. Together with a couple of other additions, the Requiem then forms the full Officium Defunctorum.

CDGIM-012Peter Phillips, director of the acclaimed group The Tallis Scholars (with whom The Oriana Chorale has sung in recent years), says in the program notes of their 1987 recording of the Requiem (

Victoria’s ‘Requiem’ Mass has for many decades and for many people typified Spanish Renaissance music. Its mystical intensity of expression, achieved by the simplest musical means, obviously sets it apart from contemporary English and Italian music, and has led to comparisons with it of the equally intense paintings of Velasquez and El Greco.

Singers who would like to participate in this experience should contact the blog author or Oriana Chorale. Or just come to the performance at:

5:30 Saturday 28th May, chapel of RMC Duntroon.

Crystal Ball, August 2015

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Thanks to the Two Joans and other participants for a great Taizé gathering today. Some lovely singing by all present.

Here’s the … I was going to say “plan”, but to be honest it’s more guesswork than prediction. Thing is, while we have so many different wonderful people leading us in such interesting and inspiring ways, approaches and wishes are diverse to the point of inspired randomisation. Not a bad thing, of course, as the ideas flow freely.

So take the listing below as an invitation to participate (it won’t happen otherwise) in the unfolding drama each week. Singers needed.

  • 26 July. Psalm 14 is a little on the dark side, but is still a good reminder of life without divine love. We use the refrain in two parts from The Emergent Psalter — yum! Psalm 53’s refrain is tossed in on top! Our own Dr Roger, consummate thinker, commentator, speaker and author of some of our favourite songs, takes the bully pulpit; yours truly on the goanna again.
  • Orland di Lassus. Wikicommons

    2 Aug. This week, the great Psalm 51, which attracted great composers like ants to the Vegemite. There are more settings than you can poke a stick at: I know of 70 or so in the public domain — including some of my favourite composers like Victoria, Josquin and Lassus (on the last of whom see my effusive ramblings in a previous post here> and also here>) competing for the best version of this Penitential Psalm. There are plenty of others still under copyright, like a baker’s dozen in Psalms for all seasons. I make no predictions whatever as to what our visiting leader Rev. R might choose, but you would have to say it’s the classic Grand Opportunity for Sight-Readers-in-the-South. I await your enthusiastic calls!

  • 9 Aug. Ah, now here’s a day not to sleep in, cold though it may be. A musical extravaganza with the flimsy excuse of the annual visit of The Gospel Folk under Brian’s baton. The set psalm is 130 but in addition your regular musicians will lead a reflection on music in worship. The psalm segment, led by both mixed and male voice groups, will dip into a showcase of styles from Renaissance through multi-cultural (Orthodox and Latino) to modern folk (Sinead, Paul Kelly) and, of course, gospel. Can’t wait!
  • 16, 23 and 30 Aug. I’m exhausted already. Suffice to say that these three weeks bring us Psalms 111, 84 and 45, with such diverse ideas as ‘How lovely is your dwelling place’, ‘The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom’, and (wait for it … ) ‘All your garments are fragrant.’ We see in the glass darkly, but the suggested options are posted up on Dropbox as usual for those few who look at it.
  • September. Your web-master and Psalms-in-the-south Cantor is again away visiting families. Some choices are on Dropbox and will be accessed, as in May-June, via a ‘sticky post’ on this site.

The Last Post


An anniversary

As all Australasian readers will know, it’s the centenary of ANZAC Day on 25 April 2015. The Last Post will be played at ceremonies around the world from Tasmania to Turkey.

David will lead the Sunday service on the next day, referring to the events of a century ago and the role of faith and chaplains. The music will include the set Psalm 23 (see previous post).

The Blog

It’s also both an anniversary and a last post for some time on this blog.

  • No speed limits mentionedPsalmsinthesouth is enjoying a somewhat more cheerful centenary in having achieved 100 posts (this one is actually no. 106) since September 2013, more than one each week.
  • Psalms in song have also completed more than once around the three years of the lectionary. Despite an inevitably increasing number of revisits, there is much poetry and music in the psalmody untapped and we continue to seek new inspiration in both areas.
  • This last post is occasioned by your web-master and cantor being less available during the remainder of this year. Posts may still appear from time to time but will be more haphazard as opportunity and inspiration arises. Such posts will not be directed at SWUC arrangements unless contributed by leaders and singers.

Initiated as a focus and communication medium for South Woden members, notifying of plans, music and ideas for the coming Sundays, the site’s readership has now become much wider, averaging 300 visits per month of which only a quarter are in .au territory. This is nice, although the primary motivation remains the local rather than global audience.

The suspension of regular blog posts will not materially affect the collaborative planning process that has so effectively and fruitfully picked up and maintained the momentum of celebrations at South Woden during our interregnum without minister of the word.


Reaching up from a good base

We continue to reach for yet-undisclosed and imagined delights, especially with a musical dimension, for the longer term.

We know we have a good leg up in the musical ideas and experience brought by the many talented contributors over these last many years. Thank you all and blessings on your future endeavours.

[Bugle image: wiki commons]