Psalm 108: Awake to music

‘Awake my soul. Awake, O harp and lute; I will awaken the dawn’ (1, 2)

The first psalm in Book 5 of the Psalter, 107 is included in the Revised Common Lectionary; but then 108 is the first of three consecutive ‘skips’, all songs attributed to David. (Thirteen of the 44 psalms in Book 5 are omitted.) Unsurprisingly,  relatively few musical setting appear in our regular sources.

There’s a little recycling going on here, with the opening five verses borrowed from Psalm 57:7-11 and the rest, the last eight verses, from Psalm 60:5-12.

Lute tuning pegs

First, one of those declarations beloved of cantors and musicians:

My heart is firmly fixed O God, I will sing and make melody. Wake up my spirit! Awake lute and harp; I myself will waken the dawn. (vs. 1-3)

At times like this I wish I played a lovely old lute with many strings rather than my worn old Spanish guitar. My instrument was inherited from my family and is therefore much cherished, but admittedly has a modest sound.

Finding a good responsorial setting for 108 might be problematical were it not for Everett’s refrain slipping between D minor and Bb7 (or, to be precise, a Bb7#11 — love those extensions!) Before taking up that lute, though, the eye is caught by a mysterious little tour of the political geography, :

I will parcel out Schechem … Ephraim is my helmet … Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I throw down my sandal to claim it. (vs. 7 – 9)

The nuances are largely lost on the modern reader but David’s claim for divine influence is clear enough.

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