Crystal ball, Feb-March 2018

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

This ‘sticky’ post is intended for South Woden readers. Scroll down for weekly blog posts.

Subject to the choices of worship leaders, here are ideas for the opening months of 2018.

21 Jan, Ps 62. As explained in the recent post for this week, TiS 33 offers a nice refrain “Rest in God alone”, with verses sung to a double tone. Excellent potential for four-part harmony if singers are available.

28 Jan, Ps 111. Our choice is adapted from a Marty Haugen refrain, with tone for the verses from New Century Hymnal — unashamedly replacing “the fear of God …” with: “To honour God is the beginning of wisdom”.

4 Feb, Ps 147. TiS 92 has not been sung at SWUC for some time, it seems; so, encouraged by the fact that it’s from the safe hands of John Bell, we should do it.

11 Feb, Ps 50. Psalms for All Season 50B(alt) or 50C seem to win the vote here — but subject to the plan from the Carers who lead today.

18 Feb, Ps 25 (Lent). Following an apparent trend to sing from the ‘Red Book’, we turn to TiS 14. Safe hands again, this time Christopher Willcock.

25 Feb, Ps 22. A young women’s group will lead us in TiS 727 with variations, In the presence of your people.

Psalm 51

Detail of voice entries to Psalm 51:20 by Lassus

4 Mar, Ps 19. TiS 7 is another somewhat neglected setting. Such neglect has been in a good cause, however; International Women’s Day which lands about this date has been duly and appropriately recognised with songs by women such as the inimitable Hildegard von Bingen.

11 Mar, Ps 107. Trying agin for a three-part refrain by Everett from The Emergent Psalter. We need leaders for the three parts.

18 Mar Ps 51 (or 119). The Lassus setting of this much-used and central Penitential Psalm is probably beyond our reach. The choice may be one of the many offered in PFAS.

25 Mar, Ps 118 and 31. Our young women’s group takes us back to Paul Stookey’s Building Block, assisted by stalwarts Brian and Bette.

  • * * * * *

Aspiring psalm singers from local churches or Woden valley communities are welcome to join. Apply webmaster via the email shown at left or contact page.

Psalm 62, 21 Jan ’18

The first four verses of the lectionary reading (5-12) sketch a divine presence that is strong, constant, and a safe refuge. David invites us to wait with him in silence, trusting in this ‘stronghold’. Verses 5 and 6 repeat the first two verses of the psalm, and are therefore an integral antiphon within the poem.

A call to silence entering the worship space at Taizé, France.

Translators and composers have taken various approaches to that opening verse, interpreting our accessional state as resting, being still or silent, waiting or even walking. The response in TiS 33 says:

Rest in God alone my soul.

Simple and gracious, while the first line of the verses in that setting says:

Ps62 in the Wode Psalter 1564-1625

Yet be still my soul, and wait for God.

An interesting variation, with a sense of mobility rather than stasis, appears in the Wode partbooks (see the text illustrated at right and an earlier post on Psalm 62):

Yet towards God with silence have I walked; in whome alone all health and hope I see.

The next section of the Psalm goes on to warn against the pursuit of riches, social precedence, extortion or other iniquities and inequities. The psalmist concludes with a reminder of steadfast divine love, and our consequent responsibility.

🎵

Here’s a brief list of some of the musical offerings:

  • Those looking for a traditional hymn might find an SATB setting by Schütz from 1661 (My soul is silent in my God, SWV 159) useful, if rather conservative in style and harmony. It draws on the set of Lutheran hymns in the Becker Psalter in Leipzig of 1602.
  • A small choir of sight-readers would enjoy presenting one of the two settings by Lassus of selected verses of this psalm. But wait! Closer examination reveals that one is by Orlando di Lasso senior (1532-94) and the other by his son, Ferdinand (1560-1609). Both delectable.

Incipit to Ps. 62:8,9 for six voices by Orlando de Lasso, 1573

  • The responsorial refrain in Psalms for All Seasons is actually a Taizé setting, so the photograph above of their invitation to silence is again relevant. As usual, verses are sung to a tone by cantor or small group.
  • Everett in The Emergent Psalter produces a typically thoughtful but uncharacteristically sparse refrain (one chord, no syncopation, even notes), complete with silence. It can be sung as a two-part round.
  • Psalm 62 in TiS No. 33 has not been much sung at South Woden, mainly because it usually comes up close to Australia Day, for which we have sung music from Australian composers: these verses are used by permission from A New Zealand Prayer Book and the tone is from a ‘source unknown’. However this year it falls a week away from that not altogether comfortable date for the national anniversary; further, the selection in TiS includes verses that, rather unusually, coincide with the lectionary reading; and finally, they are [I regret that I must repeat ‘unusually’] inclusive. So it’s on the plan, while Roger and Willa lead our worship. All singers invited.

Psalm 139, 14 Jan ’18

The number 139, at first glance, is an unprepossessing, even lacklustre numerical label; what can be remarkable about 139? But wait! 139 is a prime number and (perhaps at the risk of giving undue credence to biblical numbers games) here we have a prime example of a fine psalm of primary teaching:

God you have searched me (1)
Where can I go from your Spirit? (7)
I thank you because I am wonderfully and fearfully made (14)

Such gems are accompanied by fine poetic imagery  entirely characteristic of the Psalter:

If I climb up to heaven you are there; … if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast. (8-10)

Climbing to the heavens with the wings of the morning in far-flung places might too readily leap out of the page for this former pilot. Many verses however, such as those which refer to God’s hand in the development of the unborn child, will have universal impact. Wonderfully and fearfully made indeed.

An earlier post reflected at greater length on this psalm, matters of transparency, deceptive appearances and some music associated with Psalm 139. The comment was made there that regardless of your image of God — a dark remote benevolent idea somewhere out there on the face of the waters, or a personal spirit who numbers hairs and counts sparrows — the psalms seem to cater for all. Here, whether as a result of an active if belated conscience or as an expression of belief, David sees the divine spirit as all-seeing, discerning.

🎵

A home-grown antiphon with verses ad lib to a similar tune is available:

However, music choice locally this Sunday is Michael Card’s Search me, with a refrain inserted into the original form catering for both high and low voices:

Psalm 29, 7 Jan 2018

These days, voices frequently heard are those of political arrogance, religious friction, the rich getting richer, vigorous and exclusive nationalism and faint calls for assistance to the suppressed. While such evidence seems to support the ‘God is dead’ theory, much of it is the bad news, unbalanced if not fake, served up by commercial interests to a readership hungry for the sensational.

Image by Libby O’Loghlin, Switzerland

Where is the voice of God in all this? At the personal, local and community level, optimism and inspiration are still alive, as many readers will attest. The psalmist, said to be David in this Psalm 29, is in no doubt that a sovereign creator, a dominant eternal divine influence, reigns supreme and glorious across the world. In the previous psalm, David lamented the press of wickedness that we hear about abundantly today. Here, however, God’s powerful voice speaks through a vibrant, energetic, beautiful environment.

When you tire of the bad news, turn up Psalm 29 and refresh your sense of a creation and a human race that is designed, according to Psalm 99 and many others, for love and justice. Sing David’s final verse:

May God give strength to the people. May God bless the people with peace. (11)

🎵

Together in song 17 offers an easy refrain, with verses sung to a double tone, by Christopher Willcock — safe hands. For more on this psalm and music, please turn to a previous post twelve months ago here>>

Psalm 148, NYE ’17

The poetry and music of the psalms are great catalysts to imaginative interpretations, lateral thinking, flights of fancy, aspirations and yes, hopes for the coming year —  maybe even a New Year’s resolution or two.

You would have to admit that a psalm that can invoke comments about Tchaikovsky, Yoda, John Bell, whales and James Taylor supports the view that, for the year ahead, ‘Anything goes’ as the Cole Porter song would have it. Well, read all about it in the post on Psalm 148 at the very beginning of this year, 01/01/17.

This song of praise is a suitable way to wrap up the year and, accompanied by angels, sun moon and stars, monsters, fire and hail, young men and maidens — you name it — we rejoice in the creation and a creator who established an intended system of love and justice which “shall not pass away”.(6)

Psalms for Christmas 2017

Christmas Eve this year falls on a Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Advent in Year B. The set psalm is 89, which starts:

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

Christmas Eve is also the starting point for the series of three psalms for the Nativity liturgies (‘Propers’), 96 to 98. To add to the list, the canticle sung on the third Sunday of Advent, The Magnificat, is also listed as an alternative. So our worship leaders have sets of readings with at least five songs to choose from.

Psalm 89 

The final song in book III is a long one, stretching to 52 verses. Themes therefore shift from praise for divine love and creativity through to an iteration of a covenant protection then finally a lament that time is short; how long must the singer wait for mercy? The strong theme of justice frequently emerging throughout the Psalter appears again in this psalm: ‘Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne; love and truth go before you.’ (14)

The first of those themes mentioned at the outset is celebrated in the refrain in both NCH, and PFAS in 89B. For those groups using TiS, the Australian hymn book, No 46 by Christopher Willcock is definitely the choice of the moment. As usual from this source, the verses offered may not coincide with the readings.

Psalms 96 to 98

These three psalms are songs of praise. Ps. 97 celebrating the reign of divine love is sandwiched between poems that call us to sing a new song in thanks for this ultimate supremacy of justice and goodness in the universe. For a review of these psalms and some of the associated music, please refer to the relevant post a year ago here>.

And while in the cross-reference mode, recall that The Magnificat was discussed last week (the post for 17 Dec, see sidebar at right).

And for South Woden readers,  Continue reading

Magnificat, 17 Dec ’17

A marble on the Siena Duomo floor. A wondering Mary?

The Song of Mary, her joyful response to the angels’ declaration that she would bear a special child (are they not all?), is timely and most appropriate in the Advent season. The Magnificat, as it is known from the first words of the song in Latin, has frequently been sung by women and girls during Advent.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.

The song is used much more widely than in the festive season, appearing regularly in vespers or evensong services as well as in many other liturgical situations, particularly in faith communities with a strong Marian tradition.

Detail of the Magnificat, followed by an antiphon and the Nunc Dimittis, in the Howard Psalter, http://www.bl.uk. These canticles were often listed together in Psalters and books of hours.

The text, reminiscent of the Song of Hannah mother of Samuel, has been identified for centuries as one of the key liturgical canticles. It’s part of the great Marian tradition of course, but is also appropriate during Advent and the story of the coming of the baby Jesus. You can feel the thrill springing up in her heart — to be the mother of the promised one. The subject of this outpouring of joy is not just personal, although that surely would be enough for several songs. She quickly broadens the focus to recognise divine benevolence to all the faithful, bringing mercy, justice and equality, which are of course also recurring themes of the psalms:

God’s mercy is for believers from generation to generation. God has shown strength by deeds, scattering the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, bringing down the powerful from their thrones, and lifting up the lowly. (50-52 alt.)

🎵

The popularity of the song, which is found in Luke 1:46b-55, has ensured that many varied settings exist. CPDL has a list of a hundred or so, including music for full worship services like Matins and Vespers.  Settings range from an early Latin hymn after the Gregorian chant tradition to the paraphrased Canticle of the turning sung to a traditional folk tune.

In Together in song there are seven tunes that are either settings of or references to this lovely paean of thankful wonder. No 161 Tell out my soul is a favourite as a hymn. No 172 My soul gives glory, much less frequently sung, presents a nice approach with an early American melody and more inclusive references to God. The text lends itself to participation by all – but verses 1 and 2 particularly invite the pure sounds of female voices.

Psalms for all seasons offers four settings, including Holy is your name set to the Irish traditional tune ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. A more traditional chant and response style, using a simple three-note tone or chant tune may also be found (PFAS pages 1020-22).